Although the new Audi A1 Sportback doesn’t have a direct competitor per se, it’s probably easier to place it between the odd-shaped MINI Clubman and the 4 metre MINI Countryman. But don’t take our word for it. Saunter on to your nearest Audi dealership to have a look (and drive), because it’s now available to the Mzansi public.
The most obvious aspect of the A1 Sportback is that it has two extra doors, compared to the A1 hatch. That makes it a very practical car indeed. And a spacious one too. Curiously, it’s 6 millimetres wider and taller than the hatch, but wheelbase and length are exactly the same. Audi can do that, because the A1 shares its fundamental underpinnings with the 5-door Volkswagen Polo. They do this to save costs; cut up different-shaped cars out of the same block and you pocket massively.
While the interior cannot be compared to that of the A3 Sportback in terms of airiness, it does accommodate well. Here we can talk a little bit about the rear seats because they are unique. A1 Sportback is a strict 2+2 seater, meaning two passengers up front, and only two at the rear. In Mzansi it will come standard with a “bench” type rear seat though.
Unsurprisingly the A1 Sportback is a feature hub, as I discovered during a brief stint behind the wheel in Jozi. On the menu are things like a 16.5cm retractable, centre-mounted LCD colour screen that displays all sorts of information about the car, using the MMI drive. Control knobs for the MMI are on the dashboard itself, instead of the mid-centre console like in the A4, A6 and other bigger Audis. So this frees up more space to store little items like cell phones, cans and mugs for instance. The MMI infotainment system plays radio, CDs and MP3s through CDs or SD cards. Still no USB port from Audi I’m afraid. I was able to quickly pair up my mobile phone with the car through its Bluetooth system, and so I could hear my incoming calls through its speakers.
Engines, thankfully, reflect those found in the 3-door A1 hatch. What that means is that a 1.2-litre, 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre TDI are on the list. The 1.2-litre TFSI turbo is nice for 63kW at 4800rpm, and 160Nm between 1500rpm and 3500rpm. It’s a front-wheel-drive with a 5-speed manual gearbox, 6Jx15” steel wheels, 185/60 R15 tyres, a claimed 0 – 100km/h sprint of 11.9 seconds, and a fuel average of 5.1 litres per 100km.
Next up is the 1.4 TFSI, also with a turbo spinning it around and around. It comes in two guises. The one produces 90kW at 5000rpm, and 200Nm of torque between 1500rpm and 4000rpm. The direct injection motor is mated to either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed S tronic double clutch transmission. Audi says it can go from standstill to 100km/h in 9 seconds and average 5.4 litres per 100km in fuel consumption. While it’s not the most potent of the range, the 1.4 TFSI is probably going to be the most popular of the range, and in Gauteng it breathes quite well, showing no signs of altitude asthma.
The dynamite model is also equipped with a 1.4 TFSI, except that it releases a much greater number of horses that the other two. At 136kW made at a rather high 6200rpm, and peak torque of 250Nm between 2000rpm and 4500rpm, this car is such a sweet sensation you wonder how an RS 1 will be justified. But then again, nobody really needs a Lamborghini Aventador and its 515kW, but there it is anyway. I enjoyed this car’s response on the go, its mixture with the 7-speed S tronic (the only gearbox available for it), and the blipping noises it makes as it changes down gears.
Last engine on the list is the 1.6 TDI worth its weight in gold. Its 77kW and 250Nm are among the best in the class, and it realises 3.8 litres per 100km, according to Audi.
With the new A1 Sportback being quite the spacious catch, the current BMW 1 Series selling well and Mercedes-Benz bringing the sporty A-Class in 2013, Audi’s upcoming new modestly-designed A3 will have a hard time convincing buyers it’s still worth its salt. Those looking to trade in their current A3s will seriously consider the A1 Sportback. And when they do decide to buy it, they’ll wonder why they would consider anything else.
Audi A1 Sportback pricing
A1 1.2 TFSI Attraction manual (R227 400)
A1 1.4 TFSI Attraction manual (R242 500)
A1 1.4 TFSI Attraction S tronic (R260 000)
A1 1.4 TFSI Ambition manual (R260 500)
A1 1.6 TDI Ambition manual (R254 500)
A1 1.4 TFSI Ambition S tronic (R278 000)
A1 1.4 TFSI S Line S tronic 136kW (R319 500)