heycar editorial team
- Light and compact to drive in and around town with excellent visibility for the driver
- Rear doors make the Sportback the practical A1 choice
- Efficient, perky engines that are cheap to fuel and run
Not so great
- Rear headroom is limited for adults
- Prices are higher for A1 than equivalents from the opposition
- Ride is too crashy and firm in S Line models
On the inside
How much does it cost to run
Prices, versions and specification
Overall verdict on the Audi A1 Sportback (2012-2018)
"To broaden the A1's appeal and to take on the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo head-on, Audi added the five-door Sportback version in late 2011. The extra pair of doors greatly improved the A1’s practicality as it was now a whole load easier for rear seat occupants to get in and out. For a car that is often used to carry kids, this is a big bonus and it also made it simpler when fitting or removing a child seat."
Another plus point was the Sportback rear bench offered seating for three rather than the two people the three-door model could accommodate.
The same high class approach as the three-door was applied to the A1 Sportback’s equipment levels, which were generous even in the entry-point SE model. It has alloy wheels, air conditioning, a stereo with MP3 connectivity and plenty of safety equipment. There is also a natty 6.5-inch infotainment screen that set the A1 apart from its competition at launch.
Sport and S Line models rounded out the model range at launch. The Sport added, firmer suspension, a Bluetooth connection and Driver’s Information System, while the S Line gained larger alloy wheels, even stiffer suspension and half-leather upholstery. During its life, the A1 gained Black, Contrast and Style Edition versions.
The most common engines from the Sportback’s launch are the 1.2- and 1.4-litre TFSI turbo petrols offered from launch. Both come with claimed fuel economy in the mid-50s and carbon dioxide emissions low enough to make road tax a non-issue. Each could be had with a manual gearbox or you could opt for the seven-speed S tronic with the larger petrol motor.
Audi also offered the 1.4-litre engine with cylinder-on-demand technology in 140 and later 150PS forms. These engines only provided fuel to half of the cylinders in light driving conditions to save fuel. Or, you could choose the twincharger super- and turbocharged 185PS 1.4 as the quickest model that could cover 0-62mph in 7.0 seconds flat.
A 1.0-litre TFSI engine was added in early 2015 with 95PS and this smaller engine feels very peppy and delivers 99g/km Co2 emissions and around 60mpg.
On the diesel front, the A1 started with a 105PS 1.6-litre unit with claimed figures of 70.6mpg combined economy and 105g/km CO2. A 143PS 2.0-litre turbodiesel became part of the line-up in 2011, while in late 2014 an improved 1.6 diesel was credited with 80.7mpg and 92g/km CO2 output.
All A1s are nimble to drive in town and are stable on the motorway. However, beware of the S Line’s harsher suspension as it brings an unwelcome crashiness to the A1’s ride without making it handle any better.
However, you will find the A1 offers more cabin and boot space than a MINI, making it a very strong contender in the small hatch stakes.
If you're looking for the newer version, you need our Audi A1 (2018-) review.
Comfort and design: Audi A1 Sportback (2012-2018) interior
"The design of the A1 Sportback’s cabin is near identical to the three-door’s. This means it’s a simple and stylish affair, helped by neat design touches such as the round air vents with coloured surrounds to lift the ambience of the interior."
The clear dash display will be familiar to anyone who has sat in the driver’s seat of any Audi built during the same period as the A1. So, it’s easy to read with two main dials to provide speed and engine rev info. Between this pair nestles a digital display for the expected onboard data such as fuel economy and miles until the tank is empty.
Worthy of note is the steering wheel, which feels that bit smaller in diameter and sportier than most of its rivals’. It really underlines the special feeling of the A1’s cabin and the wheel adjusts for height and reach to help fine tune the driving position.
Speaking of which, the driver enjoys a supportive seat with plenty of movement for height, legroom and back angle to get comfortable. Once you’re sitting where you want, the all-round vision in the A1 is better than many smaller hatchbacks, especially the MINI that has thick rear pillars that limit the view when parking or checking over your shoulder to change lanes.
The centre console is topped by the pop-up 6.5-inch infotainment screen common to all A1 models. As for the stereo and heating controls, they are all as intuitive and easy to use as in any other Audi. The gear lever in manual cars is light to shift and the pedals all feel in harmony as your feet work them.
Handling and ride quality: What is the Audi A1 Sportback (2012-2018) like to drive?
"Audi makes it simple when it comes to choosing how cushy you want the Sportback’s suspension to be. The SE has the softest set-up and is ideal for coping with more heavily dimpled roads in town and elsewhere. The pay-off for this is the SE doesn’t feel as agile as you might hope for in an Audi small hatch."
This is where the Sport model comes in and, as the name suggests, it has a suspension more focused on delivering driver excitement. It does this by reducing the amount of body lean in corners, which also improves the feel through the steering wheel. Even so, the A1 is not in the same league as a Ford Fiesta when it comes to the sort of feedback it sends to the driver but it’s still fun on zigzagging roads.
For the most sporting arrangement in the A1 range, you need to choose the S Line. While some might think this is the more luxury-oriented model, its suspension is the firmest of the lot and too brittle in our view for most conditions. This is amplified by the S Line’s larger standard alloy wheels. We prefer the balance struck by the Sport.
If that lot doesn’t present you with enough choices to make before committing to an A1, there is the further complication that S Line models could be ordered with the more supple Sport suspension. This offers a better compromise for those wanting the creature comforts of the S Line without the pounding your spine will take from the suspension.
With that lot cleared up, the rest of the Sportback’s driving ability is well controlled thanks to good grip and poise in corners. The brakes are strong and have ABS anti-locking as standard, and the A1 feels very stable on the motorway where other small hatch can begin to feel intimidated next to larger vehicles.
MPG and fuel costs: What does an Audi A1 Sportback (2012-2018) cost to run?
"If you want the most economical Audi A1, you need the 140PS 1.4-litre TFSI petrol or 116PS 1.6 TDI diesel, and both need a manual gearbox to be at their most efficient."
Choose the diesel and you’ll see a combined average of 58.5mpg using Real MPG figures, which is 77% of the claimed figure. Go down the petrol route and the 1.4 TFSI offers a real world 52.0mpg to deliver a very creditable 88% of its official figure prior to WLTP testing.
In both cases, this means around 500 miles on a single fill of the 45-litre fuel tank is possible.
How much should you be paying for a used Audi A1 Sportback (2012-2018)?
"Audi A1 Sportback prices on the used market start at around the £5000 mark, though this will be for higher mileage models and about £1000 more than for an equivalent three-door A1. Nothing to fear here if the car has a full service record and been cared for."
Petrol models start at around £500 more than the diesel, while an average mileage car from early in the A1’s life will cost you about £6500 in our favourite Sport trim.
Step forward to a 2015 model and a 1.0 TFSI Sport with 60,000 miles comes in at £8500, which is more than you’ll pay for an equivalent Ford Fiesta but on a par with a MINI.
Choose one of the last first generation A1s from 2017 and you’ll be looking at a spend of around £11,500 for a car with 25,000 miles on the clock.
Is the Audi A1 Sportback (2012-2018) right for you?
The A1 Sportback encapsulates all that’s best about Audi in a compact, well equipped and good looking five-door small hatch. Every surface that you come into contact with has a solidly hewn appearance and feel, making the A1 seem very substantial even though it’s actually quite a light car by class standards thanks to using aluminium for some of its exterior panels.
This lightness makes the A1 easy to drive through town and there’s the option of the seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox with some engines. Those engines deliver decent pep in all but the base 1.2 petrol version, which is best limited to urban use.
Practicality is augmented in the Sportback thanks to its five-doors that make life easier for loading kids into the back than with the three-door version. Taller adults will find it a little restricted back here, but the A1 makes up for this with a large boot for a small hatch and split/fold rear seat. If you don't need five doors, the three-door Audi A1 is more common.
What’s the best Audi A1 Sportback (2012-2018) to choose?
The decision to choose the Sportback over the Audi A1 three-door will likely come down to you needing the extra versatility of the extra doors. It’s no hardship being practical as the Sportback is just as able as the hatch in every conceivable way.
While the S Line trim holds much appeal with its half-leather upholstery and larger alloy wheels to give it the edge in the style stakes, we’d opt for the Sport trim. Despite its name, it has slightly softer-set suspension than the S Line while still being more athletic through corners than the SE.
If you can afford to look for a later version of the A1, the 1.0 TFSI turbo petrol is the pick of the bunch. It may not have the outright power of the 1.4 petrol, but it’s keen as mustard when you want to get a move on yet delivers impressive economy and wallet-pleasing emissions.
What other cars are similar to the Audi A1 Sportback (2012-2018)?
The MINI five-door hatch is the clear rival to the Audi A1 Sportback. While the MINI undoubtedly has an advantage on handling and many are fans of its style, the A1 is the more rounded overall package.
Others to consider are the Alfa Romeo MiTo and DS3 if you want to go down a more sporting route, though neither is as well finished as the Audi and they only come with three doors. Don’t discount the Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo as both are superb to drive and offer a huge selection of trim and engine choices.
Quality and finish
Compare the Audi A1 Sportback to any other car in the small hatchback class and its rivals are going to come off second best when it comes to quality. It’s not just the perceived superiority of construction that sets the Sportback apart, it really is made from plastics that are more substantial.
Add in the fact Audi is a past-master at fit and finish, so there are no exposed screws or rough edges to any of the door pockets or cupholders. It’s all very finessed and makes the A1 a truly pleasant place to while away journeys.
If you stick with the SE and Sport models, the upholstery is cloth, though there were plenty of options for buyers to personalise these fabrics. Some finishes can be more eye-catching than others, so be sure to choose one that fits with your taste.
The S Line model gained half-leather upholstery for an even more premium feel. There were also Black, Contrast and Style Edition models offered with their own interior trims, though most of their upgrades are on the outside. However, the Contrast Edition did benefit from an improved Audi Sound System stereo as part of its package.
Infotainment: touchscreen, USB, nav and stereo in the Audi A1 Sportback (2012-2018)
Audi was among the first to offer an integrated infotainment screen in the small hatch sector in the A1. The 6.5-inch display rotates into position when the car is started and is easy to see from it’s position in the centre of the dash top.
In the SE model, it can be used to display music choices from DAB radio or an MP3 player, but you have to opt for the Sport to get standard Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port for your smartphone. If you want the Audi Multi Media Interface (MMI) with satellite navigation and iPod connection, you need to find an A1 that had this installed as an optional extra.
The MMI is easy to use too and our only criticism is the sat-nav screen now looks dated and is not as easy to read at a glance as more modern versions.
Between the main dials in the dash binnacle is a simple digital display the driver can scroll through for information on fuel economy, speed, time and radio channel using the steering wheel-mounted controls.
Space and practicality: Audi A1 Sportback (2012-2018) boot space
The main attraction of the Sportback over its A1 hatch sister are the rear doors. They are a big boon for anyone who routinely carries more than one passenger as it makes accessing the rear seats much easier.
As well as being simple to get in and out of the Sportback’s rear quarters, the bench has seating for three and comes with a trio of three-point belts. This is in contrast to the hatch’s two-seat rear bench with central cupholder.
There are two Isofix child seat mounts as standard and the front passenger airbag can be switched off to allow a rear-facing child seat to be used. Even so, the Sportback offers no more rear headroom for adults than the hatch, so anyone of average height or above will find it cramped.
The Audi A1 has the clever knack of making its front occupants feel like they are in any of Audi’s other models. It does this not only with the appearance and quality of the cabin but also the generous space given to the driver and front passenger.
A decent 270-litre boot capacity in the Audi is well ahead of a MINI’s but nowhere near as good as its cousin, the SEAT Ibiza. Extending the boot capacity is simple thanks to a 60/40 split and tip rear seat. It folds down to leave an almost flat floor and up to 920-litres of load space.
Some of this space is freed up because the Sportback does without a spare wheel in any of its models. Instead, you get a get-you-home tyre repair kit to fix a puncture that sits in a dedicated spot under the boot floor.
What engines and gearboxes are available in the Audi A1 Sportback (2012-2018)?
Audi launched the A1 Sportback with three petrol engines and a single diesel motor. The turbocharged 86PS 1.2-litre has a five-speed manual gearbox and was offered across all trim levels. The 122PS 1.4 TFSI turbo petrol was available in the upper two trim specs with either a six-speed manual or seven-speeder S tronic auto ’box. Audi offered the 1.4 TFSI with 140- and then 150PS outputs, and there was also a twincharger 185PS 1.4 that used super and turbocharging.
All three trims were offered with the 105PS 1.6 turbodiesel which is coupled to a five-speed manual transmission. A 2.0-litre turbodiesel arrived in 2012 with 143PS. It’s hard to justify this unit over the smaller diesel unless you spend a lot of miles on the motorway.
The 1.0-litre TFSI with 95PS pitched up in 2015 and is the pick of the engine range thanks to its pert performance and free-revving nature. It may be small in capacity, but it feels like a bigger engine and comes with a distinctive three-cylinder engine hum. In town, it’s all you ever need, but if you drive plenty on the motorway the 1.4 petrol is the motor to choose.
Whichever engine suits your requirements in the A1, they all come with a start-stop function as standard to save fuel when the car would otherwise be idling in traffic. There’s also energy recuperation to charge up the battery as the car slows down, and each version has an electronic differential that prevents the wheels from spinning to aid cornering and stability.
Refinement and noise levels
Like its hatch sibling, the A1 Sportback is notable for its superb refinement in the small hatch class. Whether you’re nipping through town, joining the dots down back lanes or cruising along the motorway, the A1 does an impressive job of filtering out road, wind and engine noises.
Even on the firmer suspensions of the Sport and S Line models, there is none of the crash and thump din that can be heard in some others in this class. You may feel those potholes, but you won’t hear the suspension working its way across them. It makes the Sportback a great smaller hatchback for those who spend plenty of time in their car or use them for long trips as you’ll feel fresher at the end in the Audi than any other small hatch.
To get the best performance from the engines, petrol or diesel, they need to be hustled further up the rev range. However, this doesn’t upset the interior harmony of the A1, especially with the petrol motors that are impressively quiet. Even the three-cylinder 1.0-litre barely stirs up anything more than a pleasing growl when worked hard.
Safety equipment: How safe is the Audi A1 Sportback (2012-2018)?
Audi’s A1 Sportback scores highly for safety and earned a full five-star rating from Euro NCAP for adult occupant safety. Assisting here were the standard twin front, side and curtain airbags, as well as adjustable rear seat head restraints.
Every A1 has ESP stability and traction control fitted, along with ABS anti-lock brakes and an electronic differential that prevents the front wheels from spinning during cornering.
The front passenger airbag can be switched off to allow a rear-facing child seat to be installed. In the back, there are two Isofix kiddy seat mounts, as well as a trio of three-point belts. As a result, the A1 scored a strong 79% rating from Euro NCAP for child occupant safety.
It’s not quite such good news for pedestrians as the Audi ranked at 49% for their safety, though this is better than many other small hatches.
Audi did not fit a space saver or full-size spare wheel to any A1 model. This was largely to save weight for fuel efficiency and maximise boot space. Instead, what you get is a tyre repair kit that will see you off the motorway or back home in the event of a puncture.
Insurance groups and costs
Younger drivers will be drawn the Audi A1 Sportback 1.2 TFSI SE for its group 9 insurance rating that makes it the cheapest model in the range to get cover for.
Our preferred 1.0 TFSI Sport with S tronic automatic gearbox comes in at group 15 for insurance. As a consequence, it will still be easily affordable for most drivers to insure even if its premiums are not quite as cheap as those for a Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo.
Helping the Audi’s insurance ratings are an immobiliser and Thatcham Category 1 standard alarm fitted as standard to all models.
VED car tax: What is the annual road tax on an Audi A1 Sportback (2012-2018)?
The majority of the petrol engines in the Audi A1 fall into Band C for road tax, so you won’t need to raid the piggy bank to afford this. However, the 185PS 1.4 petrol falls into Band E, which means a significantly higher rate of tax to pay for its added performance.
The less powerful 105PS 1.6 TDI engine resides in Band A, while its more potent 116 version and the 2.0-litre diesel fall into Band B.
Trim levels and standard equipment
The SE is the opening gambit in the Audi A1 Sportback range and comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, electric door mirrors and colour-coded covers for these items. Inside, you get a 6.5-inch infotainment screen with voice control, aux-in socket, and CD stereo with MP3 connectivity. Air conditioning is also included, along with electric front windows and a height adjustable driver’s seat.
The Sport adds firmer suspension and 16-inch alloy wheels, as well as more figure-hugging sports front seats. A leather-bound steering wheel and handbrake lever add to the ambience, while a Driver Information System offers more data. Outside, the Sport has front fog lights and a polished exhaust tip.
S Line customers get 17-inch alloy wheels and even further firmed-up suspension, a bespoke body styling kit, rear spoiler and S Line badging. Half-leather upholstery covers the seats and there’s a black headlining and aluminium door sill covers.
The S Line Style Edition was finished with metallic or pearl-effect paint, gloss black roof, 17-inch alloys and rear privacy glass. Inside, they benefitted from an uprated Concert CD stereo system and colour-coded dash inserts around the transmission tunnel and air vents.
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