Since Audi launched its A1, it’s been a runaway success in the UK: last year 18,506 A1s left Audi showrooms across the country. That’s a success in any language, and so far the A1 has only been available in three-door form. Say ‘hello’ then to the new five-door, the A1 Sportback.
Though it doesn’t officially go on sale until the Spring, the Sportback is bigger and delivers better all-round versatility than the three-door. It’s also, naturally, more expensive: there’s a £560 premium over the equivalent three-door model.
Is it money worth spending? I’d say so.
When the three-door burst on to the scene, it significantly raised the bar for premium superminis. The Sportback continues that elevation.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Audi predicts the five-door will attract more female buyers than men. Why? Well, with going down the sexist route, quite clearly it will appeal to mums and young families with children.
Essentially the Sportback is identical to the three-door — the additional two doors apart, obviously — but it does stand 6mm taller and is also 6mm wider.
And while it sits on the same wheelbase, the Sportback also delivers 11mm more rear head-room and 13mm greater rear shoulder-room.
Luggage space remains, again, the same as the three-door: 270 litres with the split/folding rear seats in place or 920 litres with them folded.
Initially there will be four engine options: a 1.2 petrol, two 1.4 petrols and a 1.6 diesel. All the cars are free from road tax in the first year — apart from the most powerful 182bhp petrol model — and the 1.6TDI even dips below 100g/km of CO2.
Without question, the most interesting engine is the 1.4TFSI with Cylinder on Demand technology: though it doesn’t arrive in the UK until the summer.
And while we’ll have to wait till closer to its launch before we discover how much it will cost, we do know the mid-range 120bhp 1.4TFSI Sport, with its six-speed manual ’box, will cost from £16,230
The turbocharged 1.4 petrol unit in the Cylinder on Demand (CoD) is focused first and foremost on economy. Sure it’s no slouch — it’ll cover the 0-62mph sprint in 8.1sec — but thanks to its ability to shut the engine down to two cylinders whenever possible, it’ll return an enviable 60.1mpg, and CO2 emissions of just 109g/km.
Sure the 1.6TDI turbodiesel betters that with 74.3mpg and 99g/km, but the CoD is a very clever compromise for those who prefer to stick with petrol-power.
And such is the refinement of the CoD that when the transition between four-cylinders and two takes place, the switch is barely perceptible while driving.
In fact, more often than not, if it wasn’t for the indicator on the trip computer telling you the switch had occurred, you’d probably never notice.
Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox — you can also opt to have Audi’s seven-speed S tronic transmission — the Sportback is a nippy little thing. It’s also a very refined powerplant, which results in a relaxed atmosphere in the cabin.
The interior is pure Audi: classy, solid and ergonomically near perfect. The front doors on the Sportback are slightly smaller than the three-door, which makes opening them in tight spaces a lot easier, and reduces the chance of infuriatingly damaging the paint on the door edges.
Access to the rear is, naturally, a lot easier, and there’s ample room even for adults. Strangely though, unlike the bulk of the rest of Europe, Audi has decided to go for the three-in-the-back arrangement rather than the two-seat format.
Ok, it makes the rear perfect for carrying three kids: but three adults? Hmmm, certainly not for anything longer than a very short journey.
But that’s to nit-pick. Given the overwhelming success of the initial A1, and the burgeoning sales and presence of Audi across the UK in general, there’s no question the new A1 Sportback will merely fuel further joy for the men from Ingolstadt.