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First drive: 2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0. Image by Audi.

First drive: 2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0
Audi overhauls its premium city hatchback, debuting the first three-cylinder engine for the brand in the A1 1.0 TFSI ultra.

   



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2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Another day, another Audi that seems to have very few chinks in its armour. A very, very, very subtle redesign inside and out for the A1's midlife model facelift hides the bigger news under the bonnet, where a three-cylinder petrol engine makes its debut for the brand. Unsurprisingly, it's a cracking motor.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI ultra S tronic Sport
Pricing: A1 range from 14,315; car as tested from 18,450 (1,975 for Sport trim, 1,540 for S tronic, 620 for Sportback)
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, optional seven-speed S tronic automatic (five-speed manual as standard)
Body style: five-door hatchback (three-door A1 available)
CO2 emissions: 99g/km (VED Band A, 0 per year)
Combined economy: 64.2mpg S tronic (65.7mpg manual)
Top speed: 116mph
0-62mph: 10.9 seconds
Power: 95hp at 5,000- to 6,000rpm
Torque: 160Nm at 1,500- to 3,000rpm

What's this?

Audi's excellent A1 city hatch, redesigned for 2014 as part of the model's midlife facelift. And yes, in case you're wondering, it is indeed extremely hard to note the changes, because Audi has decided that - with 500,000 sold worldwide since the model's debut in 2010 - there's little point fixing something that ain't broke. For the record, the updates amount to some new alloy wheel designs and fresh paint colours, plus physical alterations to the front end that incorporate a slightly reshaped 'singleframe' grille, LED daytime running lights that now form a C-shape across the tops and sides of the headlamp clusters, squared-off front fog lights and four upright slats in the very lowest centre opening of the bumper. There are some mild revisions at the back and splashes of chrome trim inside, and that's about your lot when it comes to visual amendments.

We'll initially have three engine options in the UK (excluding the S1 models), with the first versions being the 1.4 TFSI (available in 125hp normal format and 150hp 'Cylinder-on-Demand' trim) and the 116hp 1.6 TDI, this latter engine mildly revised to drop CO2 from 99- to 92g/km and increase fuel economy from 74.3- to 80.7mpg. Such improvements are achieved through the use of lower friction internals, better thermal efficiency and the addition of electromechanical power steering. These three engine variants are on sale now, with first deliveries expected in quarter one of 2015.

The big news, though, is a new family of three-cylinder engines, the first time Audi has ever offered such a number of combustion chambers in one of its cars. There's a 1.4-litre TDI, which we won't get (yet...) in the UK, and a 1.0-litre TFSI petrol, which we will. This will follow the 'launch' A1s in mid-2015 and it's this car in five-door Sportback format that we've driven here. Further options are the availability of the seven-speed S tronic gearbox on all UK models and three trim lines: SE, Sport and S line - although it's worth noting that S line will not be available on 1.0-litre cars in the UK.

How does it drive?

In a word, brilliantly. The A1 is actually one of Audi's better chassis efforts, managing to team creamy ride quality with moderately entertaining dynamics, considering both its compact size and the fact that the car's target buyer is hardly ever likely to drive it in anger. The revised steering is precise and accurate, if still at times possessing that strangely sticky feeling that Audi's variable assistance racks have; the front end has plenty of bite with understeer only appearing when you severely provoke the A1; and there's no faulting the S tronic transmission. But is it really worth having an automatic gearbox with a 95hp 1.0 engine? Probably not, although the good news here is that you can save fifteen-hundred quid and stick with a manual five-speeder that has a pleasant, light action.

The TFSI unit is the real jewel in the A1's crown. It may mean the end of the also-superb 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine, which sees service in all manner of other Volkswagen Group products; we hope it can continue alongside the 1.0. If it doesn't, it won't be too much of a hardship as this three-pot is great - we've no idea why but Audi has made the A1's engine note suitably raucous; the only three-pot we can think of that sounds better is the one in the BMW i8 and that's artificially augmented. The raspy thrum the TFSI emits under only moderate throttle openings is fabulous and makes the car sound a lot faster than it really is.

A low kerb weight of little more than a tonne means that it's not deathly slow either, albeit you need to work it a bit to keep it boiling along. This is fine as the 1.0 remains silky at all revs and is happy to go to its 6,000rpm redline, which is nice, but of course this sort of driving means you're never likely to see the official 64.2mpg combined economy figure. To that end, if you're absolutely focused on economy, and you hate diesel with a passion, then the 1.4 C-o-D might be the better bet, as it can make acceptable progress without having to be caned to within an inch of its life. Still, overall we love the new 1.0 TFSI. It's yet another fantastic three-cylinder turbocharged petrol in a marketplace that is now brimming with the things.

Verdict

Classy looks, plenty of personalisation options, a cabin that beats anything in its sector hands down and the addition of a raft of cleaner, more frugal engines - including this hugely charismatic three-cylinder powerplant - means the revised Audi A1 remains the comfortable leader of its class in our eyes. Yes, it's relatively expensive, but it's a more appealing car than a MINI or Alfa MiTo. The A1 represents an excellent entry route into Audi ownership.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 10 Dec 2014



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2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.

2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.



2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.
 

2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.
 

2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.
 

2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.
 

2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.
 

2015 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport. Image by Audi.
 






 

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