Generically, the term A1 has become a sign of excellence. And when it is applied to automobile nomenclature, in one instance, this is a more-than fair fit.

The new A1 Sportback from the German maker Audi has landed Down Under with a range of upgrades and new petrol engines, including a three-cylinder 1-litre TFSI producing fuel efficiencies with peppy performance.

Power output ranges from 70kW to 141kW, with seven-speed S tronic transmission available for all engines. A stop/start system is standard, and it all adds up to a Euro 6 emission rating across the board. 

The electro-mechanical power steering is new and is linked to vehicle speed, and can be varied by the new Audi drive select system. Wheels come in sizes from 15 to 18 inches.

Fresh materials and colours are on offer, as is optional MMI navigation plus and Bose surround sound system, while a swag of packages, colours, upholstery options and kits offer further customisation.

A modern exterior makes use of wraparound features to shoulder line, bonnet and tailgate with the option of contrasting roof colours. A single-frame radiator grille is flanked by wider and flatter headlights giving the car a planted stance.

Rear lights incorporate new graphics and the lightweight, high strength body offers outstanding rigidity and hence safety.

The entry-level 1.0 TFSI is the perfect introduction to the A1 Sportback, offering the six-speed S tronic automatic transmission aimed at getting the best out of the highly fuel efficient engine. The $26,900 manufacturer’s list price seals the deal.

For a fraction more ($30,100 MLP) the 1.4 TFSI Sport the A1 moves with agility through Audi drive select and the dynamic suspension, backed up by three-spoke leather trimmed sport steering wheel. 

With the most powerful engine, the 1.8 TFSI ($39,900 MLP) combines the new Sport line with exclusive features such as a modified front bumper with a colour contrasting blade and standard xenon plus headlights, while 17-inch alloys complete the picture.

Black tailpipe trim of the exhaust, LED tail lights and high gloss black diffuser further emphasise the sporty nature of the top engine.

Black dominates the interior. A Milano leather option is available, including in a mix with Alcantara. The sport line offers steel grey, laser blue and black. The 1.8 TFSI S line sport package comes in black and rotor Grey. Fine Nappa leather is available on upholstery. 

The roof on the A1 Sportback can be painted in the contrasting colours of brilliant black, floret silver, metallic or Daytona grey pearl.

With 70kW and 160Nm, the 1.0 TFSI Sportback moves from zero to 100km/h in 11.1 seconds with the standard seven-speed S tronic transmission. Top speed is 186km/h, combined fuel consumption 4.4L/100km.

The powerful 1.4 TFSI generates 92kW and 200Nm, the latter available between 1400 and 4000 rpm. With the seven-speed S tronic, 100km/h comes up in 8.9 seconds and top speed is 204km/h. Combined fuel consumption of just 4.9L/100km produces 112g/km of carbon dioxide.

The most powerful engine, the new 1.8 TFSI punches out 141kW and 250Nm of torque over the range 1250 to 5300 rpm. With the seven-speed S tronic as standard. The sprint from zero to 100km/h is over in 6.9 seconds on the way to a top speed of 234km/h. Combined fuel consumption is put at 5.6L/100km, equivalent to CO2 emissions of 129g/km.

The 1.0 TFSI engine, receives a standard five-speed transmission, and there is a six-speed for the 1.4 TFSI engines with 92kW. The most powerful TFSI gets a standard seven-speed S tronic, which is optional for the other engines. The driver can operate the dual clutch S tronic transmission from either the selector lever or steering wheel paddles.

The automatic D mode is set up for maximum fuel economy; the gear shift points are sportier in the S mode. Hill hold assist is a standard feature.

A new feature in the A1 Sportback is speed-sensitive electromechanical steering, which showed its stuff during a launch drive through the tight twists and turns of the south-east Queensland hinterland. With its electric motor mounted on the steering column, it has a sporty, direct steering ratio of 14.8:1 and offered precise feedback from the road.

The system is lightweight, and consumes less energy than the previous electro-hydraulic system. Turning circle is a reasonable 10.6 metres.

The Audi drive select dynamic handling system is a standard feature for the sport line. The driver can use it to vary the characteristics of the accelerator pedal and steering assist, as well as the standard climate control system (optional on 1.0 TFSI) and cruise control system, between the modes efficiency, auto and dynamic. Engine sound is added with the 1.8 TFSI.

In all versions, Electronic Stability Control has been further developed. For the first time it can be deactivated over two levels. It adds a revised Sport mode, and it can be deactivated, though not entirely.

A more agile driving style is enabled by the Sport mode, together with torque vectoring added assistance in cornering hard. When ESC is completely deactivated, torque vectoring and the Electronic Differential Lock remains active for optimal traction.

The control strategy for torque vectoring was extended and now takes all road friction values into account. Before understeer sets in, finely metered brake torque is applied to the wheels at the inside of a curve.

When power is applied, the excess torque flows to the outer wheel, making the car steer into bends and corners precisely. The tendency to understeer is thus minimised.

All A1 Sportback versions consistently handled the varied road conditions well, even when stretched

Another ESC function is standard multi-collision brake assist, which in the event of a crash prevents continued uncontrolled rolling of the car and a possible secondary bump.

All A1 Sportback versions consistently handled the varied road conditions well, even when stretched. An added bonus was the absence of harsh noise and vibration in the cabin, while total comfort, as would be expected, was in proportion to the price paid for the vehicle. 

Audi Australia expects A1 Sportback buyers will be technology focused, two-thirds female and many of those conquests.