Taking an Audi A1 Sportback to the loading dock at the southern hemisphere’s largest Ikea store feels a bit like taking a novelty ice cream truck to the starting grid at annual burnout competition Summernats.
Never before will you feel so intimidated by SUV owners, who seem to congregrate in great numbers around this great yellow and blue temple with serious intent on what I thought was a lazy Sunday afternoon. Facsimiles of high-riding wagon will reverse into the dock of the bay, waiting for their owners to emerge from the great homewares hedge-maze to then swallow large brown boxes with wood, metal and an allen key inside.
Clearly much good comes for many from all this furniture shopping, namely a modern and nice-looking home. Considering our terrace was built in the 1970s and has a lounge and dining table of the same era, perhaps that’s why flatmate Erin had dragged us to Ikea in the first place. Other housemate Luke, like me, likes a fridge that works, if you get my drift.
Erin had realised all three of us were in a rare state of not being hungover on the weekend’s tail end. I needed to fly out of Sydney to get to a car launch that evening, and Ikea happened to be right next to airport, so the deal was that if I joined the running of the bulls through the department store aisles in the quest to help our supremely tolerant housemate get some new bedroom furniture, I would be dropped off at Sydney airport.
Fast forward to the loading dock, and in addition to Erin’s new desk, chair and wardrobe, I’d found a pretty new rug and a great big painting of the New York City skyline for the lounge room, while Luke stumbled into 12 picture frames to recycle pictures from last year’s arty calendar. I’d just been to the Hunter Valley wine region, so needed a new wine rack. Oh, and some bathroom accessories simply fell into our trolley, we swear.
The net result as I backed up the A1 into the loading dock, and Luke and Erin emerged with a Godzilla trolley, was a whole lot of laughter. Literally, SUV owners were laughing at us.
But I didn’t flinch. Promptly, the A1’s 60:40 split-fold backrest was dropped to expand its little 270-litre boot to a more substantial 920L. But the backrest doesn’t fold completely flat, and reclining the passenger seat over it creates a mountain so high you could barely fit anything in. Feeling around the rear seat base, however, we realised that it can be unclipped and removed, and doing so means the front passenger backrest can go all the way down and the rear backrest drop over it. It created an almost perfectly flat floor from dashboard to tailgate.
Feeding through all the long boxes, things were looking promising. Just as I began to taunt the CR-V and Grand Carnival owners beside me, that great picture of NYC was stuck. When I chose it, both housemates warned me that it wouldn’t fit in the A1. Generally, I’m completely and utterly hopeless with spacial awareness, and this proved the point.
Determined, all the boxes came back out, because only then could the painting fit on an angle through the rear hatch. We then had to hold it against the roof, while feeding the other boxes in beneath it. We also had to power down the passenger window and remove the driver’s headrest if it wasn’t to decapitate the driver – and at this point, there was only a single seat remaining with three of us standing in the loading dock.
Unfortunately, I also made a rookie error – I told Erin that I had the chance to take home the giant school hall that is the Odyssey for the weekend, but implored that it wouldn’t have been as much of a challenge and reward as what we’d just completed in the A1. Erin, the coolest housemate in the world, did not think my reasoning was very cool, a fact that was made very clear as we both walked away from Ikea towards the taxi rank, her home-bound, me to the airport.
Fact is, though, we won against the SUV herd. The Audi A1 Sportback not only fit a ridiculous amount of flat-pack furniture inside it, but its cargo cover also clipped neatly back into place with everything on board. (Okay, the rear seat base was thrown on top of the painting…)
In other news, this month also saw the A1’s odometer tick past 6000km. Having collected it with just 140km on the clock, the little Audi has truly felt a part of my life for the past four months.
I’ve been meticulously recording its fuel consumption, and over the 1389km travelled this month it slurped 111.48 litres of premium unleaded for a combined reading of 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres – not bad for purely urban grind.
Its trip computer has also proven spot-on for the three tanks of fuel used this month, reading 7.4L/100km, 8.5L/100km and 8.2L/100km.
Going from other press cars back to the A1 provides a great sense of perspective, too. After spending time away from it during our medium SUV mega-test, I returned to discover that out of the 10 models tested, the only one that rivals it as a satisfying urban runabout is the Mazda CX-5.
Beyond city limits, though, the A1 hasn’t been my ultimate, do-it-all long-termer. When I headed to the Hunter with friends, I took a Skoda Octavia RS wagon because the Audi was too small. Likewise in choosing a Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4MATIC for a trip to the New South Wales ski fields.
Then, for CarAdvice’s Bastille Day celebrations, I drove the Peugeot 2008 manual and found a little SUV that came alive, riding more plushly than the A1 and handling with greater verve, yet also being roomier. In my heart of hearts it is more fun to drive than the Audi, even at urban pace. Conversely, the German hatch has a far more premium interior, superior ergonomics and much better drivetrain.
Maybe nobody will cross-shop an Audi A1 Sportback with a Peugeot 2008 manual, but for ultimate sweetness for less than $30,000 they are the two models currently playing out a showdown in my head.
Audi A1 Sportback Attraction
Date acquired: March 2014
Odometer reading: 6183km
Travel this month: 1389km
Consumption this month: 8.0L/100km