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Audi A1 Sportback Review

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Overall

For

The Audi A1 Sportback has a high-quality interior, a range of good engines and is great to drive and own.

Against

As you progress up the trim hierarchy, you get firmer suspension, bigger wheels and a firmer ride. List prices aren’t cheap and other five-door superminis are roomier in the back.

Summary

The Audi A1 Sportback is the classiest of superminis and proves you don't have to scrimp on quality when buying a small car. More useable than the three-door, but still not a match for the best five-door superminis on practicality

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Performance

Audi offers a range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines. The 1.2 petrol is best as a town car, but the 1.4s petrols are fast and flexible. Our favourite is the 120bhp version, which offers the best balance between price, power and economy. The 104bhp 1.6 diesel is best avoided, because it feels flat and inflexible.

Ride & Handling

There are three trim levels, each one bringing firmer suspension as you step up the range. The standard car is firm-ish, and while Sport models are edgier, they’re still comfortable. S line models take it a little far, though. Whichever, version you go for, don’t be tempted to add bigger wheels as an option – they really ruin the ride quality. True, the A1 isn’t as alert in corners as a Mini, but it's still great fun.

Refinement

In petrol form, the A1 is the quietest premium supermini there is. The engines are smooth and quiet, and you’re well isolated from road and wind noise at higher speeds. The engine stop-start system works smoothly and unobtrusively, too. The 138bhp petrol shuts down two of its cylinders when cruising to save fuel, but it happens so smoothly you would be hard pressed to notice. The diesel isn’t so impressive - it always sounds rough and rattly, even when idling.

Buying & Owning

The price of the entry-level car is attractive, and although the prices increase steeply as you progress up the range, resale values will be super-strong. A standard engine stop-start system helps towards excellent fuel consumption figures and CO2 emissions, which keep running costs low. A fixed-price servicing plan helps manage running costs, too.

Quality & Reliability

This may be a cheap Audi, but it's no poor relation. There are squishy plastics in all the right areas, and the more durable stuff is largely out of sight. Even the switches and dials have an expensive look and feel. According to our latest reliability survey with Warranty Direct, though, Audi reliability doesn't always live up to the brand’s prestige image.

Safety & Security

Audi has a terrific record for theft prevention, winning our security award four years running up to 2009. In terms of safety, the three-door A1 has a five-star Euro NCAP rating and we'd expect the Sportback to get the same. It also has stability control to help you safely round corners if you enter a bit too quickly, while daytime running lights and automatic beam adjustment are among the options.

Behind The Wheel

Firm, supportive seats, lots of adjustment and an orderly dash with big, clear instruments – yes, this is a pure Audi. The windows aren’t very deep, but there's still plenty of glass area giving a good view out. A central control unit and screen give access to many of the car's functions, and it's easy to get used to.

Space & Practicality

Unlike the three-door A1, the A1 Sportback has room for two adults to sit comfortably in the back, but six-footers will find their hair brushing the ceiling. While there are seatbelts for three in the back, limited shoulder room means the Sportback is still best used as a four-seater. The centre seat is very narrow, too. The boot is fine, on par with a Mini Clubman's. However, the rear seats don’t go flat when you fold them down.

Equipment

There are SE, Sport and S line trim packages offering not only different levels of equipment, but also firmer suspension and bigger wheels as you progress up through the range, so you need to order carefully. There are plenty of personalisation options - the contrasting roof should be top of your list - and you can even have the latest navigation and infotainment system that’s also available on the A8 flagship.