Audi A1 Sportback Concept

[cars name="Audi"]‘s getting serious about this premium-subcompact category. After teasing us with the delightful A1 Metroproject Quattro concept at last year’s Tokyo show, the firm evolved the design into this four-door hatchback – the A1 Sportback Concept – for the 2008 Paris motor show.

Designers kept much of the styling of the A1 Metroproject Quattro – notably the large grille, aggressive fascia, and rounded hood – but re-worked a good majority of the car. We’d argue that everything aft of the A-pillars is very reminiscent of the A3. Perhaps that’s not surprising, as it too is deemed to be a ‘Sportback.’

Stylists also aimed to give the car a technical look. Certainly, the dark metallic silver color helps that cause, but many details, including the finely-spaced grille insert and the layered-wave projectors in both head- and tail lamps, add to the high-tech feel.

Perhaps that’s fitting, as the driveline is just as technically advanced. The A1 Sportback’s main source of power is a 150-hp, 1.4-liter turbocharged direct-injection I-4, coupled through Audi’s new seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission. One more thing – the concept is also a plug-in hybrid, as it’s fitted with a 20-kW electric motor that’s integrated into the transmission.

Though the motor can add an additional 110 lb-ft of torque under hard acceleration, it’s also capable of powering the car on its own. A lithium-ion battery pack reportedly allows for the A1 to travel up to 62 miles in pure-EV mode.

The result? The A1 is a decidedly sporty (0-62 mph in 7.9 seconds and a top-end of 125 mph) yet efficient (60.31 mpg on a European combined test cycle) compact hatchback.

Audi may not have been successful with subcompacts in the past (need we remind you of the A2?), but if this combination of fun and frugality carry through to the production car (due in 2009), we think the Germans will have a serious Mini Cooper-killer on their hands.

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