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Audi A1 Sportback targets Mini market

Supermini grows in size and style to attract younger buyers

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Audi has unveiled the all-new A1 Sportback – a second generation and completely rethought version of the A1 with the aim of putting a bigger dent in sales of the Mini.

Since its launch in 2010, the A1 has proven a strong seller for Audi and has become its third most popular model in the UK. But it only attracts around half the customers that the Mini does, and Audi wants a much bigger slice of that market – particularly younger buyers.

So the new A1 – available to order from September and on the roads in November – is a completely new design from the ground up. For a start, it comes solely in Sportback form – which is Audi speak for having five doors.

As a result, the body has grown in length by just over 5cm, the car now a tad more than four metres long. Combined with unchanged width and height of 1.7 and 1.4 metres, the result is a low-slung profile.

Just as important in Audi’s eyes is a more sporty exterior look, again seeking that younger, fashion-led audience. So the single-frame grille is wide and placed as low as possible, while the three flat slits in the bonnet are said to recall the iconic Sport quattro rally car of 1984.

The car boasts a contrasting and dark roof finish, this ending above the rear screen pillar and helping to emphasise the low look – in fact, all of the side styling is designed to draw the eye downwards.

Audi’s familiar SE, Sport and S Line trim options will be offered on the A1 Sportback and the S line models will include styling elements to further emphasise the sporty image, among them larger air inlets, additional trim on the sills, a long slit between the grille and bonnet and a larger rear wing.

Inside has seen a major rethink too – gone has gone the ‘signature Audi’ dash layout, in its place a fascia full of sharp angles and with the major screens angled towards the driver. All but entry-level A1s will include an MMI touchscreen, which depending on model can range up to ten inches in size and include the features of Audi’s much-admired Virtual Cockpit.

At launch, the A1 Sportback will be offered with three engine options, all petrol. The 30 TFSI will employ a 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit with 116hp, there will be a 1.5-litre 150hp offering in the 35 TFSI, and a range-topping 2.0-litre unit with 200hp. This will come with a six-speed automatic transmission as standard, while the other two will offer a choice between a manual six-speed or seven-speed auto.

Shortly after launch, a new entry-level model will join the A1 Sportback range – this will be powered by the 25 TFSI engine with 95hp. An S1 version is also in Audi’s plans with 250hp. There has been no mention of any diesel engine options.

Prices for the A1 Sportback are yet to be announced – industry observers suggest they will rise closer to the £16,605 starting price of the MINI. Two ‘Launch Edition’ versions will also be available at launch – we are told they will be offered “in a range of vivid colours” with one having a design-led styling treatment and the other more sporty.

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.