MATT CAMPBELL June 28, 2012
German brand’s new five-door A1 Sportback city car adds doors and slashes price of entry into the brand’s lineup to lowest level in more than 25 years.
Audi’s has just launched the cheapest luxury car on the market.
The new A1 Sportback five-door runabout starts at $26,500 plus on-road costs – making it the least expensive luxury model on sale, and the cheapest brand new Audi since the 1986 Audi 80 CC model (which cost $26,595).
Audi Australia managing director Uwe Hagen says the increased practicality of having five doors rather than the three of the existing A1 – and the sharpest pricing for a quarter of a century – is bound to increase its appeal among a mix of buyers.
“The A1 has introduced an entirely new group of customers to the Audi brand,” Hagen says. “The Audi A1 range represents important volume potential for Audi in Australia.”
The new base model manages to be priced so low because it gets a less powerful engine which is available with a manual transmission only. Officially known as a 1.2 TFSI Attraction, it’s powered by a 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 63kW of power and 160Nm of torque, with fuel use rated at 5.1 litres per 100km – the most efficient of any petrol A1.
It doesn’t offer blinding acceleration, but we’d suggest it offers enough performance to suit most city car buyers’ needs. Pulling power builds nicely from low in the rev-range, with a nice little amount of push from 1500-3500rpm. The five-speed manual gearshift is smooth and the clutch is light.
The ride is smooth and comfortable though the optional oversized wheels on our test car did make it feel a bit firm over bumpy surfaces. The steering is nice and light for parking and the like, and builds to a good amount of weight as speeds rise.
Standard goodies for the base model include 15-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and automatic headlights and wipers. The base model we drove was fitted with a trove of optional extras including 17-inch alloy wheels and a “Technik” pack which includes reversing sensors, xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and automatic airconditioning.
Inside, it certainly feels more luxurious than the price-tag suggests it should. There are nicely finished soft-touch plastics on the dash and a neat pop-up media screen that can be pushed down into the dash and out of sight. Each of the doors features a big storage pocket, but there’s no central covered storage or arm rest for the front passengers (a $250 option).
Obviously there are rear doors now, so getting in and out of the back far easier than clambering over the front seats. The front doors are several centimetres shorter on the five-door, too, which makes it easier to get out, especially in tighter parking spaces.
You will need to think carefully before choosing who you will subject to being your backseat passenger – taller folk will be uncomfortable, as both knee- and head-room is very cramped for anyone taller than about 170cm.
As well as that, if you fork out for the optional panoramic sunroof ($2090), you’ll only get two seats in the back rather than three due to head-room constraints.
The next model in the A1 Sportback family tree is the $29,900 1.4 TFSI Attraction. It gets a more powerful 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 90kW and 200Nm.
It’s decidedly perkier than the 1.2 and the engine offers an excellent linear power delivery when teamed to the seven-speed dual-clutch auto (which adds $2350 to the price tag). It also drives respectably well, with city friendly steering and a decent ride. The front tyres do spin easily, though.
Priced identically to it is the most frugal A1 of the lot – the 1.6 TDI Attraction. It’s powered by a 1.6-litre turbo diesel engine producing 66kW and 230Nm. Its fuel consumption is a miserly 3.8L/100km for the five-speed manual version, and 4.2L/100km for the dual-clutch auto – which is the only A1 Sportback that misses out on fuel-saving stop-start technology.
There is some turbo lag from takeoff – as the turbo spins to its operating speed - but once it starts to build momentum it proves a smooth runner, particularly with the seven-speed dual-clutch auto. It is a little noisy at idle, however.
For more enthusiastic drivers, the $42,500 range-topping 1.4 TFSI Sport is the pick. Its turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine is good for a healthy output of 136kW and 250Nm, and is only available with the dual-clutch auto.
The engine is a corker, with oodles of oomph through the rev range, and lightning fast gear changes that can make even average drivers look pretty clever. The front tyres can have trouble getting the power to the ground, and the sportier suspension is quite hard over bumps.
The steering is weighty and communicative, and it hunkers down nicely through tight twists. Its big wheels and wraparound body kit give it plenty of street cred, too, as does the exhaust note and the back-firing chortle when the transmission changes gears.
Inside it gets very supportive sports seats and LED interior lighting which gives it an even more technical feel than the rest of the range.
Which would we pick? The heart says the Sport, but the head – and the hip pocket – can’t ignore the new base model.
And if you don't want the five-door model, the existing three-door A1 is now better value across the range, with pricing matching each of the Sportback versions but adding bigger wheels, reversing sensors and automatic airconditioning.
Nuts and bolts: Audi A1 Sportback
Price: from $26,500-$42,500 plus on-road costs
Engine: 1.2-litre turbo 4-cyl; 1.4-litre turbo; 1.4-litre twincharged (Sport); 1.6-litre turbo diesel
Transmission: 5-spd man; 6-spd man or 7-spd dual-clutch auto
Power: 63kw/160Nm (1.2); 90kW/200Nm (1.4); 136kW/250Nm (1.4 Sport); 66kW/230Nm (1.6)
Consumption: 5.1L/100km (1.2); 5.3L/100km (1.4 a); 5.4L/100km (1.4 m); 5.9L/100km (1.4 Sport); 3.8L/100km (1.6 m); 4.2L/100km (1.6 a)