Clean Living (Audi A1 Sportback long term test month four)

I WOULDN’T go as far as to say I’m a religious person, but I am a born-again motorist. In a good way, I might add. The combination of wanting to better previous fuel consumption figures and the need to be extremely well behaved after the intervention of Her Majesty’s Constabulary meant that rather than dashing across the country as quickly as (ahem) legally possible, I’ve been cruising, pootling and maintaining a general mood of steadiness over the last 1,000 miles or so.

That might sound like a recipe for middle-lane snoozing, but in actual fact I’ve been arriving at my destinations far more unstressed than before and often only a few minutes later than if I’d been trying a lot harder. And although this A1 wears the Sport tag that delivers stiffer suspension as well as bigger wheels, it’s been more than happy to play along. The S tronic gearbox gives a lovely tall seventh gear, and although a motorway incline tackled with just a sniff of throttle usually means a single downshift for the most part it will hum along with around 2,000rpm on the rev counter at the legal limit. If there’s one further wish to be granted it would be for cruise control, but frankly that was an omission from the options list on my part rather than the fault of the car. Silly me.

I’ve also been trying hard to keep the A1’s cabin de-cluttered, the only problem being is that it is rather good at swallowing it in the first place. The front cupholders are almost always occupied, swiftly followed by the one in the driver’s door. Even with a cup in there you can still stuff plenty of crisp packets and parking tickets in the space behind it, and the packet of biscuits that are kept on standby as emergency snacks for the kids has stayed untouched in the armrest cubby for several months on the trot. Anything A4-shaped (paper, not the car) is an arm’s length away in the pocket on the back of the passenger seat, and the space underneath the boot floor has housed emergency wellies and an umbrella without a problem. Small it may be but the A1 has swallowed everything I have reasonably asked of it, and sometimes a bit more.

I’m also more in love with its looks than ever. Lots of armchair experts are keen to predict the end of white as a fashionable colour for cars, but this A1 is still turning heads as well as making me turn and look wistfully at it as I lock and walk away. I’ve been extra good and treated it to a personal wash and a proper spruce-up at the hands of someone who really knows what they’re doing, and although it’s fun to give the local kids the opportunity to write rude messages in the dirt it positively zings when it is immaculately clean. And behaving myself on the road means it stays clean for longer too. Next to a three-door A1 with a bodykit installed it looks a little plainer, but it sits nicely in the space between discreet and posh. A sporty coupe version would look the absolute business.

Another hard month has also proved that even this smallest Audi doesn’t just look nice inside, it’s tough too. The parcel shelf attachments, so often the first thing to fall off with heavy use, remain stubbornly in place and doing their job. All the buttons and switches still operate with the same slickness and robust feeling as they did on day one, and despite having almost everything thrown at them the seats and their fabric trim have shrugged off numerous stains. It might not look like a family car at first but it’s fit and ready for the job.

And when I very occasionally allow myself a bit of fun on a deserted back road it still dives into bends with aplomb. The 1.4-litre TFSI petrol unit has a useful wodge of torque low down but happily revs high up too, feeling much like a larger-capacity naturally aspirated engine. It’s also a pleasure to give the gearshift paddles a workout, and the sports suspension comes into its own.

Time is almost up for the A1 and although it’s a month away from heading off into the sunset, I’m already starting to miss it. There’ll be some kind of replacement to follow it but unless it’s the Batmobile or Schumacher’s championship-winning Ferrari I can’t help thinking I’ll be wishing the A1 was still here.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

Audi A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI Sport, £17,680 list, £20,085 as tested

Engine: 1.4-litre petrol producing 120bhp and 147lb.ft of torque

Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch gearbox driving the front wheels

Performance: Top speed 126mph, 0-62mph in 9.0 seconds

Economy: 53.3mpg combined (official), 44.13mpg (this month)

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