Posh hatchback

* Great styling and engine line-up * Soft, wallowy suspension * On sale October from 25,440...

Posh hatchback

Audi has raided its parts store again this time to bring us the A5 Sportback.

The A5 Sportback is the sixth model to come out of a basket of components that has already given us a saloon and an estate (A4 and A4 Avant), a coupe and a convertible (A5 Coup and A5 Cabriolet) and a compact SUV (Q5).

Posh hatchback
It's an interesting idea, the Sportback. Forget the marketing-inspired name: it's really a hatchback, a rarity in the compact executive class. The last new posh hatch was the Saab 9-3 in 1998. The Germans who dominate this market sector have always left them well alone, claiming that premium-car buyers just weren't interested. Hatches were for the masses. Only saloons implied status and wealth. Now Audi is disputing that.

To be fair, Audi doesn't often get things wrong, as its meteoric rise in recent years demonstrates, and it's bang on the button with the Sportback's styling. If you can overlook that there are two door handles along each side, it's not hard to convince yourself that the Sportback is a coupe.

The illusion is helped by frameless side windows and a four-seater cabin, which affords roughly the same head- and legroom as in an A4 saloon: the Sportback might wear A5 badges, but it is underpinned by the extended-wheelbase platform of an A4. In fact, to be strictly accurate, it's a couple of millimetres longer between the axles.

All's familiar in the driving area: good seats, orderly dashboard, smart but not outstanding trim, and techy features standard or optional by the bucketload.

It's round the back where everything seems strange. That tailgate is a hefty item and it lifts to quite an altitude, but there's no strap to help you pull it shut, so unless you're blessed with reasonable height, you might struggle. Over-stuff your suitcases and you'll regret it as you heave them over the high lip into the boot.

The rear backrests don't quite fold fully flat when carting longer loads around, either. There are no complaints over capacity, though, which pretty much mirrors the A4 saloon's.