From £13,420
The A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI with Cylinder on Demand offers an attractive compromise between performance and economy, although the technology comes at a cost.

Our Verdict

The A1 is a stylish, high quality and competent supermini, if a little expensive, it has the cabin quality and powertrain refinement that we’ve come to expect from an Audi.

17 January 2012

What is it?

The Audi A1 Sportback is the new five-door version of the Ingolstadt manufacturer’s sub-compact hatchback, the three-door variant of which set a new quality benchmark for premium superminis when it burst into the competitive market sector in 2010.

A five-door was always part of the Audi masterplan for the A1, which has proved popular in the UK with 18,506 three-doors sold in 2011. This version is expected to attract more female buyers than male, and Audi expects to particularly appeal to young families with children, where the practicality of an extra set of doors could come in useful.

Despite the extra set of doors, the new car’s key dimensions remain similar and the cosmetic changes are small. The A1 Sportback is 6mm taller and 6mm wider than its three-door sister, and offers 11mm more rear head-room and 13mm greater rear shoulder-room on the inside.

Externally, the C pillar has been shifted backwards and the rear screen is at a steeper angle. Luggage space is the same as the three-door version, at 270 litres with the split/folding rear seats in place or 920 litres with the seats down. The kerb weight of each version is about 25kgs greater than the equivalent 3dr.

Four engine variants will be initially available: a 1.2 petrol, two 1.4 petrols and a 1.6 diesel. Apart from the most powerful 182bhp and 184lb ft petrol variant, all the cars are free from road tax in the first year, and the 1.6 TDI dips below 100g/km of CO2.

The 1.4 TFSI with cylinder on demand technology we tested here will follow in the summer, but is one of the most interesting cars from the range. Based around a newly developed 1.4 TFSI engine with 138bhp and 184lb ft, the fuel-saving cylinder on demand system uses technology previously seen on Audi’s S range of saloons.

What’s it like?

Dynamically it feels little different from the three-door version. Despite the small changes, the wheelbase remains the same, as does the suspension set-up, with MacPherson strut at the front and a torsion beam rear end.

Combined with a six-speed manual gearbox – Audi’s seven-speed S tronic transmission is also available on this model – this iteration of the new 1.4 TFSI engine is zesty and responsive, and covers 0-62mph in approximately 8.1sec, which makes it second only to the 182bhp petrol A1 Sportback in terms of performance.

The engine is also incredibly refined, which can be misleading: even when you plant your right foot flat to the floor, the lack of a rorty engine note can give you the impression that progress is more sedate than it actually is.

The steering is crisp and increases in weight at higher speeds, and the A1 Sportback is versatile enough to be nimble in town, adept and relatively hushed at motorway cruising, sure-footed and compliant on winding country roads.

However, it’s possible to feel slightly disassociated from the sensation of driving it, perhaps as a by-product of its effortless capability in all areas. Even in this fairly spritely version, the A1 Sportback’s appeal is more intelligent than emotional; grown-up rather than playful. Although you can make swift, efficient progress from A to B, it is not necessarily going to be a journey that elicits a broad grin on your face.

Part of that grown-up appeal is the array of technology on offer, not least the new cylinder on demand system. Activation of the system is pretty much seamless: it shuts down the second and third cylinders of the four-pot engine under low and intermediate loads and when coasting. Activation occurs at between 1400-4000rpm.

When you press the throttle hard, all four cylinders start singing again within the blink of an eye. Two-cylinder operation is also discontinued if you brake.

You can sense a slight change in the engine’s note, and there’s an indication on the dashboard display’s MPG readout when only two cylinders are working, but you’d be hard pressed to sense it during the hustle and bustle of an average town journey.

According to Audi’s figures, the system can save up to 0.4 litres per 100km, so this A1 Sportback will return an impressive 60.1mpg and 109g/km of CO2, compared to the 53.3mpg and 122g/km of the less-powerful 1.4 TFSI without COD technology.

The mature feel of this small Audi continues with quality of the external and interior finishes. Everything in the well-ordered cabin feels fine to the touch and you’re left in no doubt that the A1 Sportback is at the premium (and therefore more expensive, of course) end of the small car market.

About that extra set of rear doors and the five-seat set-up: although our test car featured a four-seat layout, UK cars will come with the middle rear seat as standard. If the rear passengers are children being shuttled on a school run, then the A1 Sportback is fine for the task. But in our opinion, to expect three grown adults to make a long journey in the rear would be optimistic, bordering on masochistic…

Should I buy one?

You’ll have to wait until the summer for this particular variant of the Audi A1 Sportback, although two other versions of the 1.4 TFSI powerplant are available in the initial A1 Sportback range, both without the cylinder on demand technology.

If you can be patient, however, you’ll find this variant offers a very attractive compromise between performance and economy. Allied with Audi’s consistently high standard of fit and finish, it’s a compelling petrol-powered package.

Will the premium price tag push it beyond the means of the young families it is targeted at? If the sales health of the 3dr version is anything to go buy, the answer’s no. A UK price has yet to be finalised for this version, but as a comparison the less-powerful 120bhp 1.4 TFSI with a six-speed manual ’box and mid-range Sport trim costs from £16,230.

Audi A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI with Cylinder on Demand

Price: TBC; Top speed: 132mph; 0-62mph: 8.1sec; Economy: 60.1mpg; Co2: 109g/km; Kerbweight: 1125kg (est); Engine type, cc: 4 cylinder, inline, 1390cc; Power: 138bhp at 4500-6000rpm; Torque: 184lb ft at 1500-4000rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
47

289

17 January 2012

According to Audi’s figures, the system can save up to 0.4 litres per 100km, so this A1 Sportback will return an impressive 60.1mpg and 109g/km of CO2, compared to the 53.3mpg and 122g/km of the less-powerful 1.4 TFSI without COD technology.

...clever though this technology clearly is, I cant help thinking this is a step too far.

Probably wearing my motor trade hat I can see this is going to be a nightmare when it is out of warranty and playing-up...all this to save 7mpg, as if 53mpg isnt good enough in the first place!

I have already heard rumblings about the twin charger VW system in terms of reliability clever though that was to extract high horsepower from a small capacity engine.

The new MOT standards are going to hammer people with complex cars making many quite young vehicles non-viable to repair - so extra complexity is not what's needed long term, otherwise simple vehicles such as Dacia will inherit the earth used car wise for vehicles over 5 years old!

17 January 2012

[quote 289]The new MOT standards are going to hammer people with complex cars making many quite young vehicles non-viable to repair - so extra complexity is not what's needed long term, otherwise simple vehicles such as Dacia will inherit the earth used car wise for vehicles over 5 years old[/quote]

I've had this fear for quite a while now - cars are becoming disposable items.

Give it another couple of years and I hope there will be a back lash and companies such as Dacia will become more popular.

As for the COD system - yes very clever and probably the most interesting thing about this strangely sterile little car.

Personally though, to say it is aimed at young families I think is a stretch. If they are part of a very affluent 1% of the British population, may be but not for the majority. No, this car will probably sell to middle aged / older women who lunch and want to run their friends to the local bistro and back.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

289

17 January 2012

[quote TegTypeR]

I've had this fear for quite a while now - cars are becoming disposable items.

Give it another couple of years and I hope there will be a back lash and companies such as Dacia will become more popular.

[/quote]

...we are on the same page there Teg!

17 January 2012

An impressive development for the petrol engine this COD technology and a welcome alternative to the hybrid. However, surely it would make more sense to apply it to large capacity engines where the low emmisions / higher mpg would be more relevent. It seems a strange choice to apply it to your most econimical, least polluting (and least expensive) range !!

17 January 2012

The technology looks impressive, but expensive. And the general package doesn't appeal to me whatsoever. I agree with Teg and 289. The fact that you could pay several grand less for a more reliable car makes this car somewhat of an irrelevance to me. Although the much cheaper car might have slightly worse consumption, the premium that you would pay for the Audi means that the driver of the more simple car would have another few grand in his pocket.

DKW

17 January 2012

Adverts showing cars driving through deserted cities with roads devoid of any other traffic are beginning to look daft. Does anybody live in a city like this? Were all the people killed by a neutron bomb, leaving the buildings standing? They did a good job of cleaning the bodies and abandoned/parked cars away.

17 January 2012

It was debuted on the the V8 in the A8 and the new bentley.

It uses technology similiar to variable vavle timing so I think it should be quite reliable

17 January 2012

[quote DKW]Adverts showing cars driving through deserted cities with roads devoid of any other traffic are beginning to look daft. Does anybody live in a city like this? Were all the people killed by a neutron bomb, leaving the buildings standing?[/quote]

Adverts showing the dream,

ahhh, for an empty road on a sunny day - the empty road is a lot more appealing to me than the pic of the car on it.

289

17 January 2012

[quote enda1]It was debuted on the the V8 in the A8 and the new bentley. [/quote]

it was also on V12 BMW's and M-B's nearly 20 years ago...tech may have changed but the principle of idling cylinders was the same.

17 January 2012

[quote 289]it was also on V12 BMW's and M-B's nearly 20 years ago...tech may have changed but the principle of idling cylinders was the same.[/quote]

Cadillac: 1981

Mitsubishi: 1982

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron UK review
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka