The A1 Sportback is one of those solid performers that is probably mistaken for its bigger brother, in this case the A3. With the recent of addition of the rear doors and a base model 1.0-litre, the 1.4 is now the middle child in the A1 line-up.

It is, however, probably the best of the lot with its efficient turbo, Mini-baiting pricing and finely judged specs to lift it above the rest of the shopping-trolley hatchback pack.

The 1.4 TFSI Sportback starts at $29,900 for the six-speed manual, with a mere $200 more landing you in the Sport seven-speed dual clutch. As if you wouldn’t unless you’re a dead-keen self-shifter.

The extra $2400 over the entry-level three-cylinder turbo buys you 16-inch wheels, an-eight speaker stereo with Bluetooth and special Audi cable phone connection, remote central locking, cruise control, selectable driving modes, floor mats, gear shift paddles, auto headlights and wipers, colour screen in the dash, upgraded cloth-and-fake-leather trim, leather steering wheel, power windows and mirrors and tyre pressures sensors.

Our car had the premium paint with contrasting black roof ($1690), the $1990 Style package which adds Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and very cool 17-inch wheels with wider tyres (215 mm). There was also the $2490 Technik package which boosts the speaker count to ten speakers and adds sat-nav, bringing the price to a somewhat sobering $36,270.


The A1 does look rather like the A3 – we noticed a lot of double-takes from passing punters and great fun can be had watching the people in the car behind you trying to work out why “that A3 looks so small.”

If you whipped the badges off, it would still be instantly recognisable as hailing from Ingolstadt – big grille, cool lighting and that crease down the side all conspire to make you feel that everyone knows you’ve spent a bit extra on your city car.

Inside the Sport has shapely front seats with fake leather inserts (that get really hot in the sun), leather steering wheel and a dash that takes its cues from the new A3 and TT with the circular air-con vents.

The rear bench is quite upright, with the squab up off the floor meaning that a six-footer can get in without grazing their knees on the driver’s seat (providing another six-footer is in front and doesn’t drive straight-armed like Stirling Moss).
Our test car’s alloys worked well with the dark colour and black roof.


The A1’s five ANCAP stars come courtesy of six airbags, ABS, brake assist, traction and stability controls.

Audi’s MMI is mounted on the dash rather than the console owing to a lack of space (and mechanical handbrake). Like the Q3 it’s not in the best spot, but it does the job with a rotary dial, four context buttons that map to on-screen options and shortcut buttons for major functions.

All this is displayed and fold-down screen that sits in the middle of the dash. It’s probably a bit small for anything other than 20-20 vision but does the job, with a good sat-nav that is only let down by slightly jagged graphics.

Audi’s 1.4 litre TFSI engine does duty in the sharp-looking nose, generating 92 kW (22 kW more than the 1.0-litre three-cylinder) and 200 Nm (up 40 Nm).
With the seven-speed transmission, the 1.4 hits 100 km/h from rest in a very reasonable 8.9 seconds, while having a claimed 6.2 litres per 100 km. Expect to see well over 7.0 L/100km in real life.

With the bigger engine comes a bit more weight over the 1.0 litre base model – 50 kg – but the power-to-weight ratio is improved and with selectable driving modes, there’s a bit more performance to unlock.

The 1.4 is a relaxing drive, with a good balance of torque, thrift and comfort. Despite the car’s tiny size, the ride is pretty good for front seat passengers, with just big bumps upsetting those in the second row.

While it isn’t a particularly lively performer, there’s plenty to work with on a country road, with well-weighted steering and grip from the 215 tyres making corner-carving plenty of fun.

Of course, it’s really meant for the city and it’s as good as any car in its natural habitat. If you’re in Dynamic mode, it’s a good point-and-shooter in traffic and is a doddle to park, partly because it’s barely longer than you are.

The 1.4 is definitely the sweet spot of the new A1 range – not much more expensive than the base model, it comes with a bit of extra mumbo and a more casual demeanour. Of course, ours was loaded up a bit, but you could go without a a pack and nip and tuck a few costs to keep it under $35,000 and for that you’ll have on the best small cars on the road.

LIKES: Funky looks, decent interior space, good ride
DISLIKES: MMI screen too small, accelerator not compatible with small feet (no, really!), options a bit pricey

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