When Audi launched its A1 three-door hatchback locally in 2011, it was the first genuine competitor to the premium-priced Mini Cooper. The A1 three-door was, and still is, an expensive compact hatchback that you don’t buy for practicality, but rather for design and technology. Dive into the options list and the total amount for the car of your dreams is likely to be far higher than you’d expect. Has any of this changed with the launch of the five-door A1 Sportback?
The main difference is, as the Sportback name suggests, the addition of two doors. But, exactly how much space is there in the back? Not a lot, unfortunately. At 1,87 metres, I couldn’t sit up straight. The result is that there is enough space for only two medium-sized adults.
This is also the case up front. I love small cars. I love the feeling of a car being wrapped around you. If you share this feeling, you will appreciate the driving position. Space is rather limited, but all the controls and buttons are within easy reach and feel truly premium. The layered facia is one of the interior’s main, and very inviting, drawcards.
Apart from not being finished in piano-black glossy plastic, the stalks are shared with the flagship Audi A8 range. The multifunction steering wheel, clear instrument cluster and optional MMI navigation system (yours for R24 700) give this hatch a first-class ambience. This system includes music storage and external playback, Bluetooth and voice control.
Don’t be confused by the five-door layout; the luggage and utility space is the same as the three-door’s: 136 dm3 with the seats in place and 656 dm3 when folded flat.
As with the three-door (and any other Audi), options are expensive. The larger 17-inch wheels on our test unit costs an additional R12 900, while the silver roof will set you back R4 500.
On the road
The 1,4-litre petrol engine is shared with the Volkswagen Polo GTI, although here it features only a turbo and not a turbo and a supercharger. Pick one of your favourite routes with slow- and medium-speed corners and this Audi A1 will surprise you with its sure-footedness.
It is not as stiffly sprung as a Mini and so rides much better. The S tronic transmission allows you to relax in traffic and, if you feel like playing, you can always pull the paddles that are attached to the back of the steering wheel.
During our performance testing, the A1 did quite well. The average braking time from 100 km/h to zero of 2,85 seconds gives it an excellent rating on our scale, and the 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 9,5 seconds is only 0,6 seconds slower than Audi’s claimed time of 8,9 seconds. As with most of our test cars, this A1 was taken on our predetermined fuel run and returned an economical 6,0 L/100 km.
With limited boot and rear space, and high pricing, the A1 caters for style-conscious buyers. The car offers a premium feel, it’s fun to drive and, dare I say it, some people might even find it … cute. It also has a frugal but willing engine. It isn’t a logical buy but it brings exclusivity to this end of the market.
Model: Audi A1 1,4T FSI Sportback
Engine: 1,4-litre, four-cylinder turbopetrol
Power: 90 kW at 5 000 r/min
Torque: 200 N.m from 1 500 r/min
Fuel consumption: 5,2 L/100 km
CO2: 119 g/km
Top speed: 203 km/h
Price: R270 500
Maintenance plan: 5 years/100 000 km
Service intervals: By onboard computer
0-40 km/h: 2,5 seconds
0-100 km/h: 9,5 seconds
100-120 km/h: 4,4 seconds
120-140 km/h: 5,6 seconds
100-0 km/h: 2,85 seconds (average of 10 braking tests)
CAR fuel index: 6,24 L/100 km
CAR fuel run: 6,0 L/100 km
*Claimed by manufacturer