For just under twenty grand you can get on the Audi ladder with a five-door supermini that is both good looking and more practical than the three-door.
Those precious four chrome rings positioned on the grille and tailgate mark out the little front-wheel drive A1 from the crowd. Launched originally as a youthful three-door A1 has been a slow burner but the five-door is a more interesting proposition for the Irish market.
Outside A1 Sportback is very cute and distinctive and not just a lazy day at the office for the Audi design team. A1 Sportback is not just an A3 that has shrunk in the wash. The shorter front doors look better proportioned on the five-door and the side-on view with the addition of rear doors is well balanced.
Inside the cabin has a high quality feel. The points of contact are impressive and the dash and switchgear are well executed. One glaring omission in my test car was bluetooth connectivity – here Audi is shamed by many mainstream supermini makers.
The boot is large enough to squirrel away a reasonable amount of shopping and rear passengers space, while tight, is adequate for three kids. Up front the driving position is good too. A1 possibly has the smallest rearview mirror of any car I’ve tested. Generally parking, turning and reversing are effortless. A1 Sportback’s ‘B’ pillar is positioned more forward than with the three-door and this does make entry a little more challenging for the larger person. On the road the ride is firm and on smooth surfaces good fun.
Petrol and diesel versions are available in the range but for higher mileage users TDi is the way to go. My TDi test car has plenty of torque delivered through a five-speed manual gearbox but the engine can be quite noisy. When you press on and drive enthusiastically the little A1 while entertaining is not as involving as a MINI or rear-wheel drive BMW 1 Series. The real downside to the A1 driving experience is the level of cabin noise, which should be lower in what is a premium supermini.
My test car came fitted with gorgeous big alloys and while they added to the car’s good looks they also took away from the whole experience due to the excessive amount of road noise they produced – especially when combined with the engine noise. For short journeys this isn’t really an issue but on longer trips I’d expect a much quieter cabin from the premium brand. Audi has fitted a good stop/start system that should help reduce fuel bills when town driving.
Is A1 Sportback the ultimate supermini? No, too many mainstream superminis out there are more affordable and better equipped. A1 however is an Audi and as such basks in the halo effect of the German carmaker’s entire range of premium machines.
Ireland loves the Audi brand and ultimately owning an Audi sounds more impressive than a KIA - even if the KIA Rio supermini is the current Irish Motoring Writers Association’s Continental Irish Car of the Year!