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