Audi A1 Sportback review
The Audi A1 Sportback is a posh small car that is comfortable and practical. It’s easy to drive and has a good range of petrol engines but there aren’t any super-economical diesel units.
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If you’re looking for a small, easy-to-drive car but don’t want to compromise on quality, the Audi A1 Sportback is well worth a look. It’s a bit like Fabergé egg, because it’s small and looks and feels expensive, but does cost a fair whack to buy in the first place, even if it’s pretty cheap to run after that.
It’s actually the most upmarket small car around, although cars like the Volkswagen Polo run it close, while the Seat Ibiza and Ford Fiesta Vignale aren’t too far behind.
The A1 is a striking thing to look at. Take that intake-ridden front end, for example. Sure, a lot of the black plastic grilles don’t actually lead anywhere, but at least they make the Audi A1 Sportback look far sportier than a MINI hatchback or VW Polo. It looks even better if you plump for a top-spec car with huge alloy wheels and an eye-catching two-tone paint job.
That’s not to say you have to fork out for a range-topping car to get your Audi A1 Sportback with a nice interior. Every car gets a dual-screen infotainment system and a good number of posh-feeling plastics dotted about the place to make it feel more upmarket than most small hatchbacks. There are a couple of trims, notably on the doors, that let the side down a touch, though.
The Audi A1 Sportback is also a good deal more spacious than your average small family runabout. There’s loads of headroom in the front, plenty of seat adjustment to help you get comfy and there’s enough space in the back for two more adults to come for a ride without them feeling too hemmed-in. The boot’s pretty roomy compared with alternatives’ too, so you can squeeze in some suitcases or even a set of golf clubs without too much hassle and there’s space for a bike if you flip the seats down.
Hollywood might not have produced a movie called ‘Honey I Shrunk the Audi’ but, if it had, the Audi A1 Sportback would be its headline act.
Chances are that you won’t be using your Audi A1 Sportback for lugging heavy loads to and from the tip, though. More likely you’ll be nipping to and from town at rush hour where the A1’s small size, light controls and decent visibility make it a doddle to squeeze through gaps in traffic.
If you spend a lot of time in town, the three-cylinder 20 TFSI petrol model is the engine to go for. That said, there’s a selection of increasingly more powerful 30, 35 and 40 four-cylinder models which are better suited for longer journeys and long motorway trips. They’re all pretty smooth and fairly economical, but it’s a shame you can’t get the Audi A1 Sportback with a fuel-sipping diesel engine for long cross-country slogs.
On the subject of long drives, the Audi A1 Sportback’s optional automatic gearbox helps the edge of long stints behind the wheel but it can be a bit jerky at slow speeds. The standard manual gearboxes are easy to use but, even with the slickest six-speed unit fitted, the Audi A1 Sportback isn’t as much fun to blast down a quiet country road as the more involving Ford Fiesta or MINI hatchback.
Still, if you’re looking for an upmarket small car with a spacious cabin and loads of standard kit, few cars do quite as good a job as the Audi A1 Sportback.
Why not see how much you can save by checking out the latest Audi A1 Sportback deals or read on for our detailed interior and specifications review sections.
The Audi A1 Sportback has room for four tall adults, a well-designed boot and lots of smaller storage spaces. Only your fifth passenger will complain about a lack of space.
The Audi A1 Sportback is the smallest car in Audi’s range but it has enough room for you and three other tall friends.
Getting comfortable behind the A1’s steering wheel isn’t an issue because you’ll find both it and the driver’s seat have a wide range of adjustment as standard. You can crank up the driver’s seat to get a great view out or lower it closer to the floor for a sportier feel. However, you’ll need to go for a Sport model if your passenger wants to do this as well.
Besides the most affordable SE models, every Audi A1 Sportback comes with lumbar adjustment for both front seats to give your lower back a little more support on long journeys.
Unlike some small cars, the Audi A1 Sportback comes with front and rear doors as standard, so you don’t have to get out to let passengers climb into the back. Once they’re onboard, tall passengers will find there’s plenty of headroom and enough knee room to be comfortable, even if another tall person is sitting in the front.
The middle seat isn’t quite so good. Its cushions feel harder than the outer two seats, there’s less headroom to go round and legroom takes a hit because the indents in the backs of the front seats no longer line up with your knees. You can also expect elbow room to feel pretty tight if you try and carry three adults in the back at once. Even if there are only two people in the rear, there’s no central armrest for them to lean on.
It’s relatively easy to fit a child seat in the back of the Audi A1 Sportback, but you have to remove some plastic covers before you can access the Isofix anchor points. You’ll have to bend down some way to strap in a child if you’re tall too, thanks to the A1’s fairly low roof.
The big car feel of the Audi A1 Sportback carries through to its smaller storage compartments. You can fit large bottles of water in all the door pockets, you get a glovebox that’s a decent size and there’s a trio of cupholders between the front seats.
There’s also a handy sunken tray with a USB plug in front of the gearstick that’ll stop your phone sliding about when you go around corners and the front seats come with aeroplane-style seat-back pockets with a soft lining that won’t scratch an iPad screen.
The new Audi A1 Sportback has 335 litres of boot space – that’s almost 25% more than you got in the old model. In real terms, that means you can carry an extra small suitcase when you’re packing for the trip to the airport.
Aside from just its size, the Audi’s big boot opening and the square shape of the load area makes it easy to load and there’s no lip to worry about because you get an adjustable boot floor. There’s even enough space under here to store the parcel shelf if you need to remove it.
Factor in various hooks and tethers for hanging shopping and tying down luggage and the A1 has one of the most practical boots of any small car. If you need to carry bulkier luggage, you can fold the Audi’s back seats down in a two-way split to open up a 1,090-litre load bay. That’s big enough to carry a bike with its wheels attached but slightly smaller than the VW Polo’s 1,125-litre boot.
There isn’t an annoying step behind the back seats either, so you can slide heavy boxes right up behind the front seats without a great deal of effort.
The Audi A1 Sportback has light controls, is very comfortable for a small car and has plenty of grip in bends but it isn’t quite as good fun as some other small cars
You can get the Audi A1 Sportback with four petrol engines – called the 25, 30, 35 and 40. With no diesel engine available, the A1 can’t offer the spectacularly low running costs of some alternatives, but it’s still pretty economical.
The 30 TFSI, for example – which is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine – should return 50mpg easily enough (Audi quotes 58.9mpg). With 116hp, it accelerates from 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds, so it feels sprightly in town and quick enough on the motorway, too. Its engine can be a little thrummy under acceleration but its six-speed gearbox helps it settle to a quiet cruise.
If you do a lot of motorway driving, then you’ll be better off with the four-cylinder 150hp 35 TFSI. It feels pretty quick, is smoother and quieter than the 30 and shouldn’t cost much more to run.
Both the 30 and the 35 are available with a seven-speed automatic gearbox that can be a little jerky when you move off but is otherwise it’s very good. Oddly, the top-of-the-range 40 TFSI gets a six-speed automatic as standard.
With a 200hp, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, the 40 TFSI has a proper turn of speed, but if you’re looking for a car to put a smile on your face then you’ll get many more smiles-per-mile from a Ford Fiesta ST.
You’ll be impressed by how well the Audi A1 Sportback deals with a variety of different roads.
On the motorway, the Audi is quiet for a small car and comes with a lane-departure warning system to help keep it in lane. A speed limiter is also standard – so you don’t have to worry about getting snapped by a camera – and you get automatic emergency braking as standard that’ll limit the severity of a collision or prevent it entirely. It can detect cars, but also pedestrians and cyclists.
Active cruise control is an option you should consider if you do lots of motorway driving. It can brake and accelerate the A1 Sportback automatically – slowing the Audi to match the speed of the car in front before returning to your preset cruising speed when the way’s clear.
Head off the motorway and into town and you’ll find the Audi A1’s light controls and small size make it ideal for nipping down tight streets and squeezing into parking spaces.
Sport and S line models come as standard with rear parking sensors, but you can pay extra for a reversing camera with guidelines that help you aim the car into its space. Another option is auto park which can choose a space big enough for the car and steer it into position while you operate the accelerator and brake, then steer you out of your space, too.
And once you’re outside the city and on faster country roads you’ll find the A1 Sportback has plenty of grip and doesn’t lean much in bends. It’s more comfortable than a Ford Fiesta, too, but ultimately doesn’t have the Ford’s agility and fun-factor.
The Audi A1 Sportback’s interior is available with colourful trims that make it look vibrant and its huge infotainment screens dwarf those in most other small cars. Cheap plastics spoil it a little, though
Audi A1 Sportback colours
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