From £13,420
Like the normal Audi A1, but with rear doors. Diesel is still the least likeable of the range.

Our Verdict

Audi A1

The A1 is a stylish, high quality and competent supermini, if a little expensive, but does it have the edge over the Mini hatch, Seat Ibiza and the Ford Fiesta?

What is it?

It's the new five-door Audi A1. Or if you're Audi marketing personnel, it's the A1 Sportback.

Beyond the inclusion of the rear doors, the differences between the Sportback and the standard A1 are fairly subtle. The C-pillar is at a steeper angle, there's over 10mm more elbow and head room in the back and the rear bench now accommodates three rather than two passengers. There's no increase in seat-up boot capacity, so that remains at 270-litres.

For all the extra usefulness, Audi will charge you around £500 more over the three-door. From launch the Sportback is available with the core engines – 1.6 TDI, 1.2 TSI and 1.4 TSI (120 and 182bhp). A 2.0 TDI and the cylinder on-demand 1.4 TSI will go on sale later in 2012. We're testing the 1.6 TDI in Sport trim (which accounts for around 60 per cent of all A1s sold).

The diesel is only available with a five-speed manual 'box and will be one of the biggest sellers thanks to its headline figures of 99g/km and 74.3mpg combined.

What’s it like?

In its own way, it's exceptionally good. We're very familiar with the 104bhp 1.6 TDI motor, and it is still our least favourite powertrain in the A1. Whilst perfectly acceptable, the slightly lethargic response and gruff soundtrack is at odds with the otherwise encouraging dynamics. It's very fit for use, it just lacks the vivacious delivery of the petrols.

Still, refinement is good and the space in the rear is marginally improved. It's comfortable for two average-sized adults. The occasional third seat is one of those things that sounds trivial but is likely to be highly valued by the small families that Audi expects to be the A1 Sportback's key audience.

We tried two diesel test cars, one with the standard sport suspension that comes with Sport, and one with Dynamic suspension – a no-cost option on Sport models that brings a slightly softer set-up, both on optional 17-inch alloys.

In truth the difference we felt over all manner of UK roads was quite minimal. Both are noticeably firm by most supermini standards, but the sport set-up had a sharper secondary ride and was particularly unsettled over higher frequency intrusions like eroded tarmac and small creases. We’d opt for 'dynamic', since the compromise it brings in terms of body roll is virtually undetectable and yet it does provide slightly more forgiving bump absorption. If comfort is a top priority, we’d strongly suggest going for the standard 16-inch wheels.

Should I buy one?

Yes, though we’d recommend any of the petrols over the rather dull-feeling 1.6 TDI unless you are expecting to cover many motorway miles. The Audi interior still falls short of the blatant style overload that is the Mini, but for those who value ergonomics that will be no bad thing.

In many ways, the Sportback actually makes more sense than the three-door A1. If you don’t count VW under the same 'premium' umbrella, the Sportback has no direct premium rivals but for the less practical Mini Clubman, and the added utilitarian value doesn’t corrupt the looks (too much) or the general likeability of the car.

Audi clearly believes the same, given that it expects two thirds of A1 buyers to opt for the five-door. If you’re intending to be one of them, you won’t be disappointed.

Audi A1 Sportback 1.6 TDI Sport

Price: £16,880; Top speed: 118mph; 0-62mph: 10.7sec; Economy: 74.3mpg; CO2: 99g/km; Kerb weight: 1165kg; Engine type, cc: 1598cc, 4cyl in-line, turbodiesel; Power: 104bhp at 4400rpm; Torque: 184lb ft at 1500-2500rpm; Gearbox: 5-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
32

20 March 2012

look horrible- end of story....

looks good as a 3 door- not as a 5 door

how many 5 door hatchbacks look anything like as good as the 3 door- I can only think of the Seat Ibiza

20 March 2012

I can't believe how expensive this is!

20 March 2012

[quote Fidji]

I can't believe how expensive this is!

[/quote]

£17k for a 5 door supermini. Ridiculous!

SDR

20 March 2012

Looks pretty good to me, and immensely more appealing for the added practicality - I would never buy a 3 door hatch but would certainly consider this one.

For those whinging about the price - an 'equivalent' Fiesta is very little cheaper, yet when you come to sell it will be worth a fraction of the A1. As a total cost of ownership proposition the A1 is compelling - it's absurd to say it's expensive for a supermini. Compared with the Mini the A1's price is competitive, and compared with non-premium superminis the purchase price is a very poor comparison point.

One criticism though - in a 'premium' product costing 17 grand I expect SIX speeds, not five. Shipping this with a 5 speed box is unacceptable and would put me off reaching for my wallet.

20 March 2012

The article mentions the 'style overload' of the MINI interior, and its effect on ergonomics, but in my experience the MINI interior doesn't actually cause any problems in this respect. The Audi, however, does. The centre console in the A1 is very wide, with the result that my left foot jams between the console and the clutch pedal, when you bring it up from the clutch rest. Yes, I do have large feet, but the related Polo, Ibiza and Fabia don't suffer in this way. The Audi salesman says they made the centre console wider so that it gave the appearance of the whole of the interior being wider, which seems like form over function to me. You only really read about this lack of left foot room in owners reviews of the A1, rather than these press reviews, but for me its a big problem.

20 March 2012

[quote SDR] I expect SIX speeds, not five. [/quote]

try before you decide. I've just spent 15 days with this same engine and gearbox in a hire car and it made me wonder why 6 are needed. Saves cog-swapping and worked just fine. I agree with the gruff engine note and unresponsive nature though

20 March 2012

[quote Autocar]The Audi interior still falls short of the blatant style overload that is the Mini, but for those who value ergonomics that will be no bad thing.[/quote] That sounds like the reviewer thinks style is more important than ergonomics. Style over substance is a bad thing.

20 March 2012

Will sell like hot cakes and deservedly so in my view.

What it is actually ideal for is the older punter who no longer wants a big car but still wants (and can easily afford) a small 5dr car that feels every bit as nicely made, premium and grown-up as what they are used to without being patronised with cutesy styling flourishes.

Exhibit A: my mother, who is firmly of the view that an A1 Sportback would be the perfect replacement for her 7yr old A3 Sportback. She was looking at the Polo but I can tell she finds the A1 just that crucial bit less "economy pensioner pram" than the Polo.

20 March 2012

I will not try to convince anyone that this is a brilliant engine, but as an owner of the same engine gearbox combo (seat ibiza). I think the reviewer is just a little to down on it. I was also disapointed at there being no 6th gear, but now I do wonder where they would fit all the other gears in underneath. 5th is already long legged enough 2000rpm = 70mph and would not want 3rd changed (30-90mph). The reasons for it are they say that no one would make use of the 6 gears properly and greater economy is normally achieved from a 5 speed box. With the 184lbs/ft torque available between 1500 - 2500rpm it makes for a very easy drive.

Also I have always found VAG engines really tight, I am at 22500m with mine and it is still settling in (although it has to be said I am a relaxed driver, I readily achieve 60-65mpg). The engine pulls quite strongly/cleanly from 1300rpm once run in. If you use one of the high performance fuels (V power etc) it is very happy to visit the red line and beyond (yes I know I said I was a relaxed driver but just now and then...).

20 March 2012

Embarrassing is what I call it. Much nose-turned-up-at Hyundai can produce for the same money a 1.6 diesel car that is considerably bigger, bit more powerful, is cleaner and more economical a better ride and a longer warranty. Just a smidge slower.

So this cars USP (unique selling point) is....... on a postcard?

yes a badge and a (subjectively debatable) slightly posher dashboard. Audi are taking the pee and the more they do it the more we lap it up.

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