The Audi A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI Sport is, as you'd hope with a badge that features the word 'Sport' not once but twice, the sportiest version of the German brand's smallest car. It’s also the most expensive, costing from $42,500, though as a typical premium small car there are still numerous ways to expand your final bill.
Following the trend set by the likes of the Mini hatch and Fiat 500, the Audi A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI Sport is packed with options and design alterations covering both interior and exterior, giving individuals control over how their A1 will look - provided they're willing to pay for it.
From contrasting roof colours and different wheels, to S line tweaks applied inside and out, there’s no shortage of decisions when purchasing this flagship of the four-metre-long Audi. Our Misano red test car wore a Brilliant black roof ($720) and part polished 17-inch alloy wheels ($400), but missed out on paddle shifters – an additional $200. You’ll have to pay much more, though, for sat-nav ($3600 for the MMI navigation plus package) and $490 for an auto-dimming rear vision mirror that might also be expected to be on the standard features list.
Open the driver’s door and nestle into the supportive, and well bucketed, sports seat, though and you’ll find an interior that does ‘premium’ better than any of its rivals, including the BMW-owned Mini. The high-end Audi look and feel the German brand has become so synonymous for is right there.
Top-notch materials used throughout the four-seater cabin combine with logical controls and a high-quality display to make occupants feel more than a little special. The Audi A1 Sportback is every bit an Audi, on par with many of its far more expensive relatives and closely related in quality and design to the company’s A8 flagship.
The leather multi-function sports steering wheel is one of the best in the business – an absolute delight to hold and use – and is joined in the cabin by ever-so-slightly-transparent gloss black air vent surrounds that meld cleanly into the impressively soft-touch dash contrasted by brushed aluminium rings encasing the black air vents.
The pricing of the Audi A1 Sport 1.4 TFSI does take it into the realm of bigger hatches, and those of the hot variety – including the Volkswagen Golf GTI (from $40,490 in five-door form) and Renault Megane RS265 (from $42,640). But the sportiest Audi A1 Sportback also weighs only 1215kg – two blokes less than a Golf GTI – allowing its terrific twin-charged engine to deliver just-as-strong performance and better fuel economy.
Audi’s A1 1.4 TSI features the same twin-charged 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine found in the $27,790 Volkswagen Polo GTI. With 136kW at 6200rpm and 250Nm from as low as 2000rpm, the punchy and flexible engine is just as happy playing shopping cart or tearing through the mountains.
One of the key party tricks of employing both a supercharger for low-down surge and a turbocharger for mid-range boost are stats of 0-100km/h in seven seconds (a bit slower than a GTI but slightly quicker than an auto Cooper S) and a combined fuel consumption figure of 5.9 litres per 100km (more economical than both a GTI and Cooper S). We averaged 7.9L/100km, according to the car's trip computer, but saw as low as 5.4L/100km.
The Audi A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI Sport's ride is firm but manages the tricky balance between stiffness and compliance well, never getting unsettled over bumps and making for a confidence-inspiring drive. While road joins can jar, the A1 is nowhere near as rigid as a Mini Cooper.
Sharp, direct and communicative steering is one of the best on an Audi – with a purity and consistency frequently missing from more expensive Audis, including even some RS models. The brakes, too, are terrific, providing consistent feel and a solid, dependable pedal even after repeated heavy stops.
The dual-clutch gearbox can be a source of frustration, regularly changing from fourth or fifth gear down into third mid-corner, even when in manual mode, and an odd clunky shift can occur at times. Cogs are swapped rapidly, though, and in more relaxed driving with reasonable fluidity. As with the twin Polo GTI, there’s no manual alternative.
With an opening price that sees it squared up against some of the current era’s best hot-hatches with more space and more power, the Audi A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI is not going to appeal to buyers searching for a bargain. But for those looking for a car featuring the four-ring badge at a more attainable price, the Audi A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI Sport is a tiny, mighty, luxurious little package that’s proper fun.