A1 Sportback -- the little car with a big personality

Philip Hedderman

ALL is not as it would seem and it's a tad disturbing. Is there a little trickery afoot or perhaps an automotive sleight of hand?

Now, what you see before you is indeed a small city car. A quick walk around the new Audi A1 Sportback confirms this.

Yes, it has four doors and a boot but it is still quite tinchy, poky even ... until you climb inside.

The tardis-like cabin is unnervingly spacious and what's even more unsettling is the illusion that you are actually driving something a lot more substantial.

That optical illusion is so vivid one would suspect that the great maestro himself, David Blaine, is doing odd jobs in the ergonomics department within Vorsprung Durch Technik.

Yes, Audi have achieved with their smallest offering what its competitors couldn't do in their flagship vehicles.

Sinking into the cabin of the A1, that familiar feeling comes flowing over you. The soft leather, three spoke multi-function steering wheel is the exact one used in the A4, A5, and the beastly A6.


The same build quality and excellence are evident to the touch as is the clear, fuss-free layout of the dash which surrounds the 7 inch MMI colour monitor controlling everything from the radio to 3D Google Earth navigation.

But it is the drive where that illusion comes to life and is sure to seal the deal for most.

Powered by a mix of nippy engines ranging from 85 to 185bhp, we had the pleasure of driving what will be the most popular -- the 1.2TFSi petrol and the 1.6 TDi diesel.

Both reside in Tax Band A, meaning annual road tax of just €160 and excellent economy.

Poke-wise there is not a whole lot between the two (5bhp) but because the emissions are so low (99g/km) on the diesel she's returning an unbeatable 74mpg.

Drive-wise the little A1 is punching well above its weight and is as comfortable cruising as it is on country boreens although we'd have liked a six speed box in both and cruise control in the petrol.

The extra weight of the diesel gives it a sturdier ride while the handling is clean and crisp and the petrol has a throaty rasp the never fails to put a smile on your face while bringing out the hooligan in you.

Both come with Stop/Start, 15 inch alloys, air con, electric windows, sport steering wheel and EPS as standard.

Beware of the extras list as individually they can be really expensive so look for the package incorporating a range of options.

Being a city car, rear legroom suffers when the driver's seat is adjusted to the max and sitting in the middle is not the best pew.

Up front though, you'll have no complaints and you'll find yourself buying into the illusion that this, the runt of the litter, believes that it's actually an A3.

Prices for the A1 Sportback start at €20,510 with the TDi starting at €22,040.