Five into one does go with the Audi

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Developing a car such as the A1 Sportback isn’t easy. It needs to offer a properly upmarket feel without pricing itself out of contention.

The asking price and the target market then need to be subtly tuned to that perfect pitch whereby the car contributes significantly to the manufacturer’s bottom line but doesn’t do so at the expense of badge equity or future residual values. It therefore takes a manufacturer with maturity and keen brand awareness to make such a car a success and you can count the car makers who could pull this off on one hand.

Although the silhouette isn’t quite as pure as that of the three-door A1, this Sportback model is still a handsome thing with the rear set of doors well integrated into its compact wheelbase. It’s six millimetres taller and six millimetres wider, and inside offers a smidgeon more head and shoulder room as a result. It also makes provision for an third passenger in the back although it’s a squeeze for adults. Starting at a squeak under £14,000, the A1 Sportback isn’t cheap but then nor would its customers either want or expect it to be. It carries a £560 premium over its three-door sibling, a markup which is just on the right side of predatory.

In order to be finished as well as it is and for it to be sufficiently expensive to retain a certain cachet amongst owners, Audi has had to walk a delicate line and I think they’ve pitched it just right. Too dear and it becomes a real specialist product, too cheap and it becomes a mass market commodity.

The Sportback carries a £560 premium over its three-door sibling, a markup which is just on the right side of predatory. Standard equipment includes two front airbags, side airbags and curtain head bags. Isofix child seat fixings, seatbelt tensioners and integral headrests round out the safety provision. There’s also xenon headlights with LED running lights, interior lights and tail lamps, light and rain sensors, panoramic sunroof, two navigation systems and a thumping 465-watt Bose surround sound stereo with no fewer than 14 speakers. There’s a choice of manual or automatic air conditioning systems and heated front seats are an option.

The Bluetooth online car phone is interesting. It brings ‘Audi connect’ online services to the A1 Sportback. These include navigation with images from Google Earth, news, weather and travel information, web radio and voice-controlled points of interest search. At a later date it will also incorporate Google Street View images. A WLAN hotspot connects mobile devices on board to the Internet but do check the terms and conditions of your service provider’s data coverage. I wouldn’t want you experiencing financial ruin when your next mobile bill arrives.

It’s a well engineered car and one that makes the owner feel good about his or her purchase. There are enough big car cues, especially if you’re willing to fork out for some of the more esoteric optional extras, to prevent a feeling of slumming it. Downsizing might be the trend but Audi thinks more in terms of rightsizing. The A1 Sportback ? Right on the money.

CAR: Audi A1 1.4 Sportback

PRICE: £13,980 - £21,270

INSURANCE GROUP: 9-28

CO2 EMISSIONS: 99-139g/km

PERFORMANCE: [1.4 TFSI 185] 0-60mph 6.9s / top speed 141mph

FUEL CONSUMPTION: ([1.4 TFSI 185] combined) 48.7mpg

STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: ESP, ABS, twin front , curtain and side airbags

WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: length/width/heightmm 3954/1746/1422