Test Drives

2020 Audi A1 Sportback Review: Size Matters Not



The Compact Audi hatchback could be exactly the kind of car you want for zipping through urban Singapore’s tight streets


Photos: Lionel Kong

SINGAPORE

Audi’s original little A1 hatchback from 2010, in its original three-door form, was more of a fashion accessory than an actual practical vehicle for four adults. A five-door version was launched later in the model life for better practicality, and while they were built to the usual high Audi standards, they always looked slightly softer than the usual muscular teutonic lines we’ve come to expect from the four-ringed brand.   

They did drive with an astonishing amount of handling precision though, which a character that the new, second generation Audi A1 Sportback has retained. Boasting a neatly packaged, roomy and sportier looking cabin, along with a more muscular body design, the new car is powered by a zippy 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder turbo engine that puts out 116 horsepower.

Driving the front wheels through a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission, the car was never designed to be exceptionally quick but there’s a cheerfully direct feel about which the car goes about getting around. There’s a nicely analog feel about the way the steering communicates with the driver, and the engine will also gleefully race to the 6,000rpm redline without complaint. 

The engine is a smooth and rev-happy unit, so much that it is fun to occasionally shift through the gears with the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters than to leave it in auto. 

The car can be smooth and compliant on the expressway, but it also exhibits plenty of road feel that the driving enthusiast will appreciate. Something about the seating position in relation to the positions of the car’s axles also make it feel like the car is rotating around your hips, and the result is a real sense of connectedness through tight and fast corners. 

It’s also easy to drive in tight spots, meaning that it is an easy car to get in and out of those ridiculous multi-story car parks with unbelievably badly designed entry and exit ramps.

Interior space is well packaged, and all-round visibility is good. The wing mirrors could have done with glass that offer up a slightly wider field of view though, which would have been helpful when reverse parking.

The roof does feel a little low from inside the car, but the cockpit-like dashboard and centre console are real design highlights. There’s also an actual handbrake lever between the seats, which is a nice touch in these days of electronic parking brakes. 

As with all current-gen Audis, the instrument panel is an LED screen and the centre console display is touch-screen enabled.

It’s not the quietest car around though, and tyre rumble does come through into the cabin at cruising speeds. Or perhaps we’ve just gotten so used to Audis being nicely quiet in the cabin that the A1’s cheerful character is well, out of character for Audi.

Another curious point we noted is that the seats feature a different type of leather that seem to retain heat for longer than usual. Which can get uncomfortable if you leave the car parked out under the sun for long periods.  

Also, the car featured here is the A1 Sportback Advanced, which is currently being superseded by the A1 Sportback S-Line. Audi Singapore assures us that the variants are mechanically identical, and the difference is that the S-Line gets sportier looking bumpers and accessories, along with a small price bump of slightly over $2,000. 

The obvious competitors to the A1 Sportback are the Mini One, currently listing for $112,888 with COE and the Volkswagen Polo, going for a much cheaper $92,900 with COE.

What’s of interest here is that both the Volkswagen Polo and Audi A1 are built on the VW Group’s MQB platform and share the same three-cylinder turbo engine. 

On paper at least, the Audi is the priciest of the trio while the Mini is usually described as the trendiest. The VW Polo still has the power to surprise though, as it’s mechanically identical to the Audi A1 and in theory offers better value for money. 

Except for minor issues with tyre noise at speed and a curiously warm leather seat material, the A1 Sportback is pretty nicely packaged and engineered. The way it manages to extract so much interior and luggage space from a car that’s just four metres long is a testament to good design. 

 

Audi A1 Sportback

Engine

999cc, inline-3, turbocharged

Power

116hp at 5000-5500rpm

Torque

200Nm at 2000-3500rpm

Gearbox

7-speed dual clutch

0-100km/h

9.4 seconds

Top Speed

203km/h

Fuel Efficiency

6.3L/100km

VES Band / CO2

B / 125g/km

Agent

Premium Automobiles

Price

S$131,055 with COE (as tested)

Availability

Now

Verdict

Dynamic and agile little car that is fun to drive but could do with more noise insulation

about the author

avatar
Lionel Kong
An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.