The Audi A1 Sportback has always been a curious little compact hatchback.
While it is certainly the most affordable entry into the world of Audi luxury, the first-generation model’s petite size and three-door body style meant that it was never really a popular choice among buyers (a five-door variant was later added).
After all, you don’t really associate Audi with superminis.
Now, the second generation A1 Sportback has arrived. Does it deserve your consideration?
ISN’T THIS A FANCY VOLKSWAGEN POLO?
Is it simply a rebodied Polo, though? Well, not technically. The modular nature of the platform means that this car’s wheelbase is only exactly the same as the Ibiza.
And, of course, the styling sets it apart. It’s purposely aggressive, with all manner of sporty flourishes like the wide, low-placed Singleframe grille, and the three flat slits under the bonnet that pays homage to the Ur-quattro.
The car is generally quite pleasing to look at, but all the Ur-quattro homage touches feel superfluous.
It’s a curious hodgepodge inside – you get high-tech equipment like the Virtual Cockpit, a pleasing 10.1-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay connectivity and 30 ambient lighting colour choices.
But at the same time there are also curiously low-tech components, such as the manually adjusted seats and manual handbrake. Surprisingly, even the ignition is a manual affair, too.
There are utilitarian buttons and controls on the centre console, but also funky door handles and bright yellow accents around the driver-side air-con vents. The sleek digital surfaces are flanked by tacky-feeling plastics.
All that adds up to a confusing, sort-of-luxurious cabin. Its mix of sensible styling and quirky detailing won’t be for everyone. But thankfully, it’s all put together with German precision.
The Audi A1 Sportback does deliver surprising practicality, though. With a longer wheelbase and overall length than before, there’s more space for occupants and luggage.
The rear will fit two adults comfortably (three at a squeeze), and the 335-litre boot is quite generous for a supermini.
IS IT FUN TO DRIVE?
One aspect about the A1 Sportback that impresses is the way it drives. The car is certainly light on its feet. With just 1125kg to haul, the car’s turbocharged 1-litre engine never feels really short on power. It’s an easy-going and cheerful little car that is still capable of a burst of speed when you need.
The gearbox leans towards efficiency, so it’s sometimes reluctant to drop to a lower gear when you want to accelerate. This does dull the sensation of performance slightly.
Of course, this is easily resolved by flicking the gearbox into S or manually choosing gears using the paddle shifters. You can only just choose Dynamic mode in the Drive Select menu.
Do that, and the car is plenty quick. It accelerates eagerly, allowing you to overtake other vehicles with ease.
Handling is good, if unspectacular. Steering is precise, direction changes sharp and agile, and driving the car hard is rewarding. Is it more fun to drive than a MINI? No, it’s not.
Where it is definitely better than a MINI is the way it settles down. It’s comfortable over long drives, and never feels nervous. The light steering also makes it effortlessly easy to navigate small carparks or tight lanes, and well as to negotiate CBD traffic.
A CITY SLICKSTER?
The new Audi A1 Sportback is a functionally good supermini. It looks good, drives well, delivers more practicality than you’d think, and delivers enough premium touches to approximate a luxury experience.
If you needed an easy to drive and simple to use everyday luxury supermini, the Audi A1 Sportback fits the bill. But there is one major problem with the new Audi A1 Sportback – the price.
At $131,055 for this Advanced variant, it’s a tad too expensive. Consider this – the bigger (but admittedly older) A3 Sportback costs just a few grand more.
The car also doesn’t feel significantly more premium or special compared to its Group brethren to warrant the significant price difference (the base Polo is under $90k, or around 30% cheaper).
You can also buy a MINI Cooper 5-Door for basically the same money. In our opinion, the MINI is more premium and high quality, and delivers a greater feel-good factor. Outright performance? A Skoda Octavia RS 245, which will set you back $129,900.
So, the second generation Audi A1 Sportback once again finds itself in a difficult position. While there’s no denying the inherent appeal of the Audi A1 Sportback, its pricing and keen competition make it a tough sell within the supermini segment.
Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 (A)
ENGINE 999cc, 12-valves, inline-3, turbocharged
MAX POWER 114hp (85kW) at 5000-5500rpm
MAX TORQUE 200Nm at 2000-3500rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 101.3hp per tonne
GEARBOX 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 9.4 seconds
TOP SPEED 203km/h
CONSUMPTION 18.5km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE From $131,055 (no VES rebate/surcharge)
AGENT Premium Automobiles