The next chapter in Audi's small car future has just been written. This sensational model is the new A1 Sportback – and it's a five-door version of the German manufacturer's forthcoming compact hatch.
The A1 was first unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year in the form of the three-door Metroproject Quattro. The wraps came off this more practical model at the Paris exhibition.
Together, the two concepts preview Audi's forthcoming MINI rival, due on sale in the UK in 2010. And one thing is for sure: if this latest show car is anything to go by, customers are in for something special.
Taking the look of the Metroproject Quattro to new heights, the Sportback adds an extra pair of doors and a host of neat visual details. At the front is a set of adaptive LED headlights, which change their beam width and length according to how quickly the car is travelling.
The rear end features a split tailgate which has a drop-down glass panel and a vertically split screen, too. And the body itself is made from lightweight steel and carbon fibre composites. Under the bonnet is the most powerful incarnation yet of Audi's 1.4-litre turbocharged TFSI unit, boasting 148bhp.
This is assisted by a 20kW electric motor which provides an extra 150Nm of torque. The hybrid set-up powers the front wheels only – unlike the all-wheel-drive A1 three-door – through a seven-speed S tronic double-clutch box.
Eco-friendliness is the buzz-word for the Sportback, as it also features a stop-start function and regenerative braking. In addition, it boasts Audi's adjustable Drive Select system, which incorporates a special 'efficiency' mode.
Meanwhile, the satellite navigation even has a setting that can plot the most fuel efficient route to a destination, taking into account inclines and traffic density.
As a result of all these features, the A1 Sportback is remarkably economical, returning a hugely impressive 72.4mpg combined. The car is extremely clean, too, emitting a mere 92g/km of CO2. And it should be a lot of fun to drive thanks to the inclusion of Audi's Magnetic Ride system, which was seen for the first time on the R8.
The hi-tech equipment continues inside. While the three-door concept featured a plug-in iPhone-style set-up which started the car and allowed a range of settings to be adjusted, the Sportback accepts a variety of mobiles.
Owners simply download some software from Audi, which allows their phone to 'talk' to the car. It can then be used to start the engine and remotely change temperature, warming up the interior on cold days.
When the A1 officially arrives in 2010, buyers can expect a wide range of engines – including the latest small-capacity turbo petrols and super-clean diesels.
An Audi spokesman told Auto Express that a hybrid version "would be available at some point down the line". Prices should start from around £15,000.