2020 Audi A1 Sportback 40 TFSI review (video)

Mark Davis

PerformanceDrive loves to get its teeth stuck into a hearty hot hatch. When we heard about the new 2020 Audi A1 Sportback pocket rocket in 40 TFSI S Line guise, we couldn’t wait to try it. Released at the end of 2019, the second-gen A1 is slightly bigger, more advanced than before, and possesses a striking design that inherits plenty of influence from the wider Audi design language.

The new A1 lineup begins with the 30 TFSI that uses a 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder engine. It produces 85kW and 200Nm, and kicks off the price range from $32,350. Next off the rank is the 35 TFSI with a 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol that outputs 110kW and 250Nm. Its starting price is $35,290.

At the top is the 40 TFSI S Line, which is what we’re giving a whirl here. It belts out 147kW and 320Nm from an impressive 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder. The price jumps to $46,450 for this privilege (all excluding on-road costs).

2020 Audi A1 Sportback 40 TFSI – THE SPECS

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]Engine: 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder
Output: 147kW@6000rpm / 320Nm@1500-4400rpm
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch auto
Drive type: Front-wheel drive, locking differential
Wheels: F & R: 18×7.5, 215/40
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 1330kg
Power-to-weight: 9.05:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 6.4L/100km
Economy during test: 6.6L/100km[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Fuel capacity/Type: 40L/95 RON
Power efficiency: 22.96kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 3.26 seconds*
0-100km/h: 6.42 seconds*
60-110km/h: 4.18 seconds*
1/4 mile: 14.66 seconds at 158.9km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.791g*
100-0km/h braking: 2.96 seconds at 37.81 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.301g*
Decibel at idle: 43*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 87*
Priced from: $46,450[/column][end_columns]

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2020 Audi A1 Sportback 40 TFSI – THE PACKAGE

No matter which Audi A1 you sit in, you’ll find low- and high-speed forward collision warning and mitigation, pedestrian avoidance and braking control, front and rear parking sensors, daytime running lights, and all of the usual acronyms that are required for a full five-star ANCAP safety rating across the board. As you can see, Audi has really amped up the safety tech for the latest model.

A fully digital instrument cluster that completely takes over all of the instrument panel is also standard. It is configurable so you can display a big map or simply revert to a more conventional gauge profile with trip information. The graphics are extra-sharp and the colour combination and layout makes it easy to interpret, even with a quick glance. It is, in our opinion, the best in the class.

Gratefully, when you opt for the 40 TFSI you gain dual-zone climate control, remote proximity key with keyless push-button start, courtesy puddle lamps, and a large 10.1-inch touch-screen multimedia system (the base models come with an 8.8-inch screen). It’s a stunning interface and blends in perfectly with the dash, and comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as 3D sat-nav and Google Earth maps, along with internet connectivity via SIM.

However, we think it’s a bit of a rort that you need to pay extra for the Premium Plus Package ($2990) to score adaptive cruise control, park assist, leather seating, a Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, LED colour interior lighting, and heated front seats. Most other manufacturers supply these features (or equivalent) by default when you choose a top-spec variant.

Luckily, the A1 has its strikingly good looks to win us over. It’s sharper, and more angular and aggressive than the previous generation’s rounded shape. The 40 TFSI also comes standard with the full S line package that includes 18-inch alloy wheels (optional 18in Audi Sport wheels fitted here), with red-painted brakes and a tidy aero kit.

This example also features the optional Turbo Blue colour with a contrast black roof, extending to the A-pillars. Overall, we think it is sharpest-dressed hatch in the class. We particularly like the thin vent just below the bonnet, inspired by the Audi Quattro of yesteryear.

The interior mirrors the modern and sophisticated design of the exterior. You’re confronted with a high-quality digital instrument cluster and centre screen that is slightly tilted towards you. The gear lever has been brought into the 21st century, now looking much nicer than the previous gen. Buttons look and feel high in quality, as do the materials around the cabin and seats.

As stated, you don’t get leather seats in this top-spec variant, but that’s really no loss as the micro-suede material looks and feels better against your skin on a hot day or on a cold morning compared with leather. Navigating through the cabin will take a little longer before it becomes familiar compared to your basic Toyota, but once it is second nature, it’s very practical and cosy.

We weren’t sure whether it was specific to our test car only but we found the air-conditioning system wasn’t very cold, despite fiddling around with all settings and applying maximum low – see if your test drive demonstrator feels the same.

Space-wise, the A1 is based on the same platform that underpins the Volkswagen Polo. It is a very versatile and accommodating package, and an improvement over the previous model which was already quite useable. For a small car, it’s a surprisingly comfortable place to be for four adults in the front and back. Headroom and legroom are both quite decent for this class.

The boot size is even bigger than the Polo’s thanks to slightly more body overhang at the rear. It measures 335 litres, or 30 litres up on the Polo. Though, it has kind of cheated with no spare tyre. Instead, an inflator kit is provided.

2020 Audi A1 Sportback 40 TFSI – THE DRIVE

There is no Audi S1 Sportback successor in the pipeline at this stage, which would have been the ultimate hot hatch offering in the lineup. So, the A1 40 TFSI S Line is as powerful as you can buy in the compact class from the German brand. But, no fear. It bridges the gap quite well. With a huge 320Nm of torque on tap, there’s a seemingly endless amount of pulling power available.

It’s a pity it all goes to the front wheels instead of through Audi’s renowned quattro all-wheel drive system, because a fair amount of wheelspin can occur, even with the safety systems left on – it chirps going into second gear on dry tarmac. This is fun, no doubt, but perhaps not what Audi buyers have come to expect. For us, we think it’s great to see a bit of action and mischief from the otherwise conservative brand.

Nevertheless, feeling it surge through the gears with the dual-clutch’s speedy ratio changes and the aggressive growl from the exhaust (in dynamic driving mode) is an exhilarating experience. 147kW makes it one of the most powerful hatches in the class, too. On a private road we timed a best 0-100km/h in just 6.42 seconds – some full-cream hot hatches can’t even match that.

The A1 exhibits perfectly tight steering to give it a confident and focused feel. It’s also super planted, both through tight bends and through big sweeping corners. It’s almost like driving a more serious German sedan. As a consequence, particularly with its short wheelbase, it means the ride is firm. We think it is a good balance between comfort and stiffness for this sort of vehicle and this variant, with a bias towards the latter, but some luxury car buyers mightn’t agree.

There are a number of driving modes to choose from, with Dynamic at the top for the more eager drivers. In this mode the six-speed dual-clutch auto provides ultra-fast gear changes, and the engine revs are held so it’s always ready to pounce. In standard mode, like with most dual-clutch autos, it can be a little jerky and delayed. Especially under slow start/stop traffic conditions. The 40 TFSI would gain 100 points if a manual was available, but, as with market trends, Audi is obviously supplying what is in demand.

All this talk of performance might raise an alert for fuel consumption. Surprisingly, it’s quite frugal for its athleticism. And our tests weren’t too far from the official average of 6.4L/100km – we averaged 6.6L/100km. It does require a minimum of 95 RON petrol, and the tank volume is 40L so the theoretical average range is 625km.

2020 Audi A1 Sportback 40 TFSI – THE VIDEO

2020 Audi A1 Sportback 40 TFSI – THE VERDICT

The second-gen A1 Sportback has lots going for it, given it has spawned from the same parts catalogue as the VW Polo GTI. At near-enough to $47k, it is a high starting price for this class, especially when you’re asked to pay more for some features you’d expect to be standard on a flagship premium vehicle. In saying that, the interior and exterior design is a real standout for us and we guess that’s where a lot of your money is going. We also love the engine’s credentials and genuine sporty elements of the 40 TFSI and its S line package.

Audi offers a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with three years free roadside assistance. Servicing intervals are required at the average intervals for a hatch, at every 15,000km or 12 months.

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]PROS:
– Lively and willing engine with a subtle exhaust note to match
– Sharp, sophisticated and sporty design
– Official 6.4L/100km consumption is attainable in the real world (we averaged 6.6)
– Spacious interior and commendable boot for this market segment
– High-end touch-screen, digital instrument cluster
[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]CONS:
– Dual-clutch auto is laggy when driven softly, but works well when driven hard
– Adaptive cruise control, park assist, leather seats optional despite flagship model
– Button placement not conventional for some of the functions[/column][end_columns]

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

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