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Audi ups the ante with A1 Sportback; ROADTEST.

Byline: STEWART SMITH

AUDI is well known for the number of new models it introduces and the latest is the stylish five-door version of its big-selling A1 hatchback.

On sale in March, the stylish A1 Sportback offers the convenience of an extra seat and added doors, but not at the expense of good looks.

Although it retains the same wheelbase and dimensions as the three-door A1 it is slightly taller and wider and the added space is good news for rear seat passengers. It offers more head and shoulder room for tall passengers.

And if you don't want the additional rear seat it can be ordered as a four-seater.

Luggage space remains the same as the three-door offering 270 litres or 920 litres with the split-folding rear seats down.

The Sportback looks great with the usual aggressive Audi grille up front, racy side lines and sporty alloys.

It comes in SE, Sport and S line specifications and all models include alloys, remote central locking, air conditioning, electric front and rear windows and mirrors, a CD Concert audio system and a 6.5-inch retractable display.

Sport models have larger 16-inch wheels, sports suspension, sports seats, Bluetooth mobile phone and a driver's information system.

The S line adds 17-inch alloys, S line sports suspension and leather and cloth upholstery.

There will be four engines to choose from at launch, three petrol and one diesel.

Petrols are 1.2 TFSI (86bhp), 1.4 (122bhp) and 1.4 (185bhp). The oilburner is the 1.6 TDI (105bhp). If it's frugal fuel use you're looking for the TDI is the obvious choice. Audi claims it can return 74.3mpg on a combined run and produces just 99g/ km emissions.

All except the 185bhp TFSE come with a stop/start fuel saving system as standard.

In the summer the engine line-up will be joined by a new 1.4-litre TFSI with Cylinder on Demand Technology. When cruising or at lower speeds, two of the four cylinders idle, saving fuel.

Audi says this 140bhp unit will power the A1 Sportback to 62mph in just 8.1 seconds but give around 60mpg.

As you'd expect, the A1 Sportback is fun to drive. I drove three versions and each was impressive, even the least powerful 1.2 petrol.

It's a comfortable driver's car I found all the controls easy to reach and understand. Seating is firm and there is good all-round vision.

The A1 is light and weight distribution is even and combined with short overhangs it makes handling pin sharp.

Steering is positive and the braking system gives you confidence.

On severe mountain bends near Girona in Spain the A1 handled the twists and turns with ease and on A roads and motorways it glided along giving me the impression I was driving a much larger premium motor. Only down point was the noise the windscreen wipers made, but maybe this was just a glitch on one particular A1. Otherwise the new Audi was very quiet with little road, engine or wind noise on the move.

The biggest seller in the UK will probably be the 1.4 TFSI closely followed by the 1.6 TDI with around 60 per cent of buyers opting for the Sport specification.

Prices for the new A1 Sportback will be just pounds 560 more than the threedoor A1 Hatchback model for model. The entry level 1.2 TFSI SE will cost pounds 13,980, the 1.4 TFSI six-speed manual starts at pounds 16,230 for the Sport, and the top range 1.4 TFSI 185bhp seven-speed S tronic in S line specifi-cation comes in at pounds 21,270.

Since its launch in 2010 Audi has already sold 118,000 A1s and the new Sportback version can only boost that success. It is a quality product which will suit those who prefer the practicality and added seats of a fivedoor car.
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Title Annotation:Features; Front Page
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 29, 2012
Words:649
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