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First Drive: 2012 Audi A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI Review by Henny Hemmes +VIDEO

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2012 Audi A1 Sportback

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2012 Audi A1 Sportback

LLORET DE MAR, Spain - February 13, 2012: When Audi brought out the A1 model in the summer of 2010, expectations about sales numbers were not published. But with a worldwide sales figure of some 118,000 units since the introduction date, you may say the small Audi is pretty successful. The main market is Germany with 26 per cent of the total A1 sales, followed by Great-Britain and France.

   • SEE ALSO: Get Ready for the New Audi A1 - 7 Part Video Series

Audi is not bringing the A1 to North America as small three door models remain unpopular, even though Mini - its main competitor in the premium part of the segment - does very well.

The arrival of the A1 Sportback model has not changed this strategy, yet. The 5-door version with the same length (155.5 inches) and wheel base( in.) as the 3-door model offers more versatility with a 4.3 inches elongated and 0.24 in. raised roof line. Also the width has been increased with as little as 0.23 in. in. This enlarges the interior space for passengers in the back and makes the Sportback more versatile than the 3-door model. Securing children in the child seats in the rear is much easier, while the smaller front doors make it also much easier to get in and out of the car when parked in the cramped European parking spaces.

Sure, you have the impression of a larger feel, but in the back it will suit adults for short rides in the city, or children for a longer haul.

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Since the European countries are influencing in one way or the other their car markets by offering incentives for low CO2-emissions, the segment grew and Audi expects it to grow further. Customers can choose between three petrol (85, 122 and 185 hp) and two diesel engines (90 and 105 hp), just like the 3-door model. In mid August, Audi will introduce a brand new 4-cylinder gasoline power plant in the Sportback: the 1.4 TFSI COD motor with 140 hp and 339 lb-ft of torque. COD stands for Cylinder on Demand. Such technology had been announced last year for the 4-liter V-8 engine in the S8 and in the S6 and S7. COD is a technology that in low load driving situations deactivates the two cylinders in the middle of the 4-cylinder by closing their valves.

Although no data are available since the engine has not yet been homologated, Audi expects to reach a fuel economy with the small COD-engine of 4.7 l/100 km or 50.05 mpg in the U.S. cycle. On the flat roads of The Netherlands, the new engine will probably perform at its best.

The 7-speed S tronic will be available for the new engine and for the top model, the 1.4 TFSI with 185 hp, that is normally teamed to a six speed manual. The two diesel engines work together with a 5- or 6 speed respectively. The 1.2 TRFS base model has a 5-speed manual.

You feel easily at home in the good looking interior of the A1 Sportback where fresh materials and colors are used within the same basic design as the 3-door model that we’ve known for some time. Dynamically the Sportback is identical to the three-door, which means that the drive is comfortable, but there is no sharp response. The steering feel is a bit vague, but it does not mean you can drive the A1 Sportback in an active way.

You also don’t notice the COD-system ‘taking over’ when driving on the Spanish roads. But in the display of the trip computer in the middle of the instrument panel, you can see when the 2 cylinders are not working: the indicators read 4 cyl. or 2-cyl. mode and from the passenger seat you can see how quick it changes.

People who are in the market for a comfortable, well executed and luxury city car will love the A1 Sportback, but dynamic drivers will be looking elsewhere. The base price (in The Netherlands) will be 29,770 euros (approx. $39,286) for the 1.2 TFSI 63 kW/86 ps. With two trim levels and many possibilities with colors and wheels, there is enough to customize the A1 and that also applies to the Sportback.