New car review: Audi A1 Sportback 35TFSI

Baby Audi is small but perfectly formed.

Eight years after the original Audi A1 Sportback launched here, the second generation of Audi’s smallest and most affordable model has arrived in Australia with a fresh new look, expanded dimensions and new infotainment systems and driver assistance features.  

Pitched as a premium compact, the little Audi’s dimensions have been expanded to the point where the German car maker claims it’s now almost a size larger than its predecessor, and larger inside even than the first-generation A3 hatch.

The new model’s overall length has increased by 56mm, while the wheelbase is now 94mm longer, with the extra space allocated to expanded interior and load space. 

An extra 65L of load capacity takes boot space to 335L, which is practical enough for a compact hatch. 

And while the increased interior space is evident and welcome, adult rear seat passengers may still feel pressed for leg room, especially behind a taller driver.

Audi A1 Sportback 35TFSI

Safety systems now include Audi pre-sense autonomous emergency braking (AEB), which is capable of detecting pedestrians and cyclists as well as other vehicles in front.

Other safety features include lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, and six airbags.

Front and rear parking sensors, plus a high-resolution reversing camera add to the A1’s city-friendly nature and are appreciated when squeezing into tight parking spots.

An automatic parking system, bundled with other creature comforts, is available to buyers of the sportier range-topping 40 TFSI S Line, provided they tick the $2990 Premium Plus pack option.

There are three core models in the new range, all with turbocharged petrol engines, starting with the 1.0-litre A1 30 TFSI ($32,350), rising to the 1.5-litre A1 35 TFSI ($35,290), and topping out with the 2.0-litre A1 40 TFSI S Line ($46,450). 

Audi A1 Sportback 35TFSI

The 35 TFSI Sportback middle child tested here exhibits talents that make venturing beyond the urban sprawl rewarding for the driver.

Small in displacement it may be, but the gutsy little 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine (110kW/250Nm) delivers surprisingly zesty performance. 

The engine is mated to a seven-speed S tronic dual clutch transmission and proves both impressively refined and reasonably frugal.

A cylinder de-activation system drops two of the four cylinders out of the combustion cycle when cruising, to help deliver an official combined-cycle figure of 5.8L/100km – but only while sipping 95 RON fuel or better.  

Audi A1 Sportback 35TFSI

The little Audi delivers nimble and confident handling through the corners and curves, with steering that’s light and responsive and a chassis that’s eager to change direction. 

Our test car rode on optional 18-inch wheels in lieu of the standard 17s, with the result that its ride felt too terse, picking up too many road imperfections, something particularly noticeable at low speeds.

The stylish and well-appointed interior features DAB+ radio, Apple Car Play, Android Auto, wireless phone charge pad, an 8.8-inch central touchscreen, and a crisp 10.25-inch digital dash display. 

There’s the usual quality look and feel to the overall fit and finish that we’ve come to expect from Audi, although close inspection reveals some hard-looking cabin plastics and other trim items that affirm the A1’s entry-level status. 

Key stats:

MLP: $35,290 (as tested $39,770)
ENGINE: 1.5-litre, TFSI turbo-petrol 4 cylinder
ANCAP CRASH RATING:  5 stars (2019)
TAILPIPE CO2 (g/km): 132 

For

Gutsy turbo engine, nimble dynamics, strong safety package, expanded accommodation and luggage space. 

Against

Terse ride, tyre and road noise, rear seats still a bit tight.