If Audi has got its figures right, we should be seeing quite an increase in the number of A1s on the road over the next few months. The introduction, earlier this year, of the five-door Sportback to what was previously an exclusively three-door range should, according to the forecasts, boost the A1's appeal considerably, with twice as many people opting for the new body style as for the old.
Adding two doors to a car is a vastly more complicated process that simply cutting a couple of extra holes and covering them up again, but the end result may not be dramatic. In the case of the A1, it amounts to easier access to the rear seat, for which benefit you are asked to pay - in the case of the 1.6 TDI Sport tested here, though the amount is different elsewhere in the range - an extra £560.
Apart from the fact that the roof is longer than in the three-door, the Sportback is almost exactly the same size. That means the back is still cramped, and the luggage capacity remains at 270 litres when the rear seat is in place and 920 litres when it's folded.
The only other change of consequence is that, thanks to a redesign of the C pillars, rear visibility is noticeable worse than it is in the three-door. Pity.
Some interesting new engine choices will be added to the A1 range before 2012 is out, but even after this has happened there will be good reason to opt for the 1.6 TDI diesel. For a start, it is, and will probably remain, the only unit to give the A1 a CO2 rating of 99g/km. Under the current tax structure, therefore, the 1.6 TDI is exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty, and you won't have to pay the London congestion charge either.
Whether or not the car actually coughs out 99 grams of CO2 for every kilometre travelled is another thing. I'm inclined to doubt it, because the closely-related official fuel economy figure of 74.3mpg seems well out of reach. In 600 miles of very varied driving I averaged 56mpg, which is about what I would have hoped for.
The maximum power output of 104bhp may seem feeble, but it suits the A1 well and balances the handling, which I'd say is above average for a supermini. I would not, however, do what Audi did with the test car and replace the Sport's 16" wheels with optional 17s. They're fitted with low-profile 215/40 rubber splendidly referred to by my colleague Tom Stewart on the Sportback media launch as "the tyres that make life horrid" on account of the fearful damage they do to the ride quality. Certainly, the A1 looks better on 17s than on 16s, but I'd trade looks for a decent driving experience any day.
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