| Week at the Wheel | Audi A5 Sportback |
Inside & Out:
The A5 Sportback's sloping rear end and extra doors conspire to make the car appear awkwardly long in profile - compared to the A5 Coupé. However, it's aggressively low and wide from all other angles, very coupé-like.
And if you like the looks, then the hatchback and rear doors make it a win-win situation. Legroom and headroom in the back are limited, but the accessibility of the doors, the big boot, massive hatchback and associated flexibility will make perfect sense to the executive with familial responsibility. And with it being an Audi, there are no unpleasant surprises from the driver's seat. Pick your clichés when it comes to build quality and cabin neatness.
Engine & Transmission:
We spent a week with the engine and spec that the majority of UK buyers will opt for: 2.0-litre TDI. There's a 141bhp version, but this 168bhp engine - ubiquitous across the VW Group brands - is the better of the two in terms of feeling strong while being gentle with the fuel. Its clatter is really well suppressed, and even though it has a relatively modest 258lb.ft of torque (modest in the world of big executive hatchbacks), in all gears it pulls convincingly.
And it's nice to sample a bread-and-butter Audi (i.e. a non-S or RS model) with a manual gearbox, because there's much to like about the smooth, short throw of an Audi change. That said, the pedals are just weird, offset to the right.
Ride & Handling:
The Sportback occupies ground somewhere between comfortable and sporty. Sadly, especially in S Line trim with stiffer suspension and bigger wheels, it camps too close to the latter without actually feeling anything like a sportscar; there's no hiding its bulk.
What you get is a ride that's unsettled at low speeds, but largely without the involvement you'd want. Refined it is, with very little road, wind or engine noise to complain about, but it just gets too easily flustered by potholes and things. The steering is accurate enough, and there's plenty of grip, even without quattro four-wheel drive, but it's really another case of Audi seemingly forgetting (possibly deliberately) that it can actually do proper steering feel.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money:
For all its smoothness, refinement and pull, 54.3mpg and 137g/km aren't bad numbers at all. It's deeply impressive that this is the same engine found grumbling under the bonnet of warm SEAT hatchbacks, for example.
Rumour has it that the A5 Sportback started life as the A4 hatchback; it was, apparently, to be a slightly cheaper, more practical car badged A4 until someone clever in marketing went 'hang on a minute...'
That may or may not be true, but we don't think the £1,000 or so premium over an equivalent A4 is extortion. The extra practicality and prestige of the A5 badge seems worth it. Mind, add your satnav, metallic paint and S-Tronic gearbox, and you're into big money regardless of engine choice.
The Sportback isn't quite as striking as the A5 Coupé, nor its design as well resolved as the A4 saloon's. It's not that involving to drive, nor the last word in comfort. Yet for many it will be just the Audi they're looking for. It has all the presence, prestige and quality that makes people buy Audis, and adds a very useful hatchback to proceedings. On that basis, it's easy to recommend.