Audi A5 Sportback review
There’s more to the Audi A5 Sportback than sleek looks, as the classy premium hatch is practical and cost effective tor run
The Audi A5 Sportback is the perfect car for anyone who’s fed up with the usual choice of straight-laced executive saloons. Thanks to its practical hatchback body, it’s more user-friendly than the A4 saloon and much more stylish, too. Originally the A5 Sportback was only available as a strict four-seater, but Audi has answered its critics and a more versatile five-seater layout now makes it better than ever - although it's still not quite as practical and spacious as the BMW 3 Series GT. As with the two-door coupe version, there's a wide range of excellent diesel and petrol engines, while most models are available with the Quattro four-wheel drive transmission. Buyers can choose from standard, SE, SE Technik, S line trims, while at the top of the range is the high performance S5.
Our choice: A5 Sportback 2.0 TDI (177)
If you want a car that will impress your colleagues and make your neighbours green with envy, the A5 Sportback will be just the ticket. Its beautifully judged proportions, sleek lines and smooth profile set it apart from the usual crop of saloon cars and hatchback rivals such as the BMW 3 Series GT and Citroen DS5. Sporty S line models look even better thanks to their lower stance and bigger wheels, but beware; the larger rims and lowered suspension really affect ride comfort - although you can select the softer SE set-up at no extra cost. The S line is further distinguished by its eye-catching LED daytime running lights and 18-inch alloy wheels. The eye-catching exterior of the A5 comes matched to an equally impressive interior, which is full of high quality materials. However, the dashboard, which is lifted straight out of the Audi A4, is starting to look a little dated when compared to newer rivals.
Let’s get one thing straight; the Audi A5 Sportback isn’t the most rewarding driver's car around. Instead it majors on secure handling and refinement. If you stick to SE models it’s comfortable, but versions fitted with larger wheels aren’t so polished. They typically have a firmer ride and a tendency to tramline, as the front wheels try to follow the camber of the road. The engine line-up is brilliant, though, and includes everything from efficient diesels to the 328bhp supercharged V6 petrol fitted to the storming S5. The 2.0-litre TDI is available in either eco-freindly 134bhp guise or punchy 175bhp tune, while the muscular 241bhp 3.0-litre V6 TDI delivers all the performance you could need. Petrol fans can choose between the eager 168bhp 1.8 TFSI or the rapid 222bhp 2.0-litre TSI, which claims 0-62mph in just 6.5 seconds. Transmission options include conventional front-wheel drive and famous quattro four-wheel drive. Manual gearboxes are light and positive, but you can also choose from Multitronic CVT automatic and slick twin-clutch S tronic transmissions, depending on the engine you want. Whatever model you choose, you'll benefit from excellent refinement. There's very little wind and road noise, while all the engines are smooth and muted on the move.
The A5 has many similarities with the A4 saloon, so while it hasn’t been put through the rigours of a full Euro NCAP test, you can bank on strong safety credentials. All A5 Sportback models feature electronic stability control and front and side airbags as standard. S line and S5 models also get bi-xenon headlamps, which can be upgraded at extra cost to include a useful cornering function. As you'd expect, there's also a raft of hi-tech safety options, including adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring. Audi is also famed for its quality – and that bodes well for owners. And in our 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey Audi finished in tenth place, five places ahead of BMW.
For a car that is effectively billed as a stylish compact executive, the A5 Sportback is incredibly practical. Its rear hatch creates a large boot opening and the amount of space inside isn’t bad, either. With the rear seats in place the well-shaped boot can hold 480 litres of luggage, but if you fold them forwards this increases to a useful 980 litres.Early cars were blighted by an impractical four-seater layout, but a facelift in 2011 added a much needed third seat to the rear bench, making the A5 a much more versatile proposition. The interior of the Audi is also packed full of useful storage, including deep door bins, a large glovebox and numerous cup holders. And while the car's low slung roofline means headroom for rear seat passengers is a little tight, there's plenty of legroom.
The huge engine range runs from the sublime to the ridiculous. The S5 flagship has high emissions of 190g/km and a hefty thirst for unleaded, but the diesel models are seriously attractive to both company car drivers and private buyers. Emissions for the ultra efficient TDIe start from a low as 117g/km and it provides claimed economy of 64.2mpg. Even the 2.0-litre TDI quattro puts out only 134g/km, so if you want reasonable fuel and tax bills, the four-cylinder diesel A5 Sportback models are the ones go for. Strong resale values also help to take the sting out of depreciation, with most versions hanging onto at least 45 percent of their value after three years. However, unlike arch rival BMW, Audi doesn't offer a pre-paid servicing pack, meaning regular maintenance will cost more.