Audi S1 (2015) Review

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The flagship of the Audi A1 range spent a week with Cars.co.za. How did the fiery Audi S1 fare?

Personally I love the idea of shoving a big engine into a little car and usually the results are most amusing. This is particularly true in the Audi S1.

Engine, Performance & Handling

Powering this little pint-sized road warrior is the same engine found in the Volkswagen Golf R and Audi S3. It's slightly detuned to ensure that S3 owners don't feel inadequate, but still, outputs are commendable. How does 170 kW and 370 Nm grab you? In something as compact as an Audi A1 and coupled with quattro all-wheel drive, performance is dramatic, visceral and exciting.

I say compact due to the vehicle's size, but in reality a big 2.0-litre engine and quattro all-wheel drive system contribute to the car's overall mass. Despite looking like a small car, the S1 tips the scales at 1400kg - that's considerable and as sportscar specialists Lotus will tell you, weight is the devil.

All jokes about the Audi S1 being a fat slob are rendered null and void the moment you open the taps. With the 2.0-litre engine in Dynamic mode and some tactful use of the lovely six-speed manual gearbox, you can expect 100kph to come up in about six seconds. It's the in-gear acceleration which really underlines the performance of the S1. You can put your foot flat at 70kph in 6th gear and the car is instantly responsive. I suspect gear ratios are nice and short too, making it an involving drive as you'll enjoy working that transmission. Keep your foot planted and you'll be approaching speeds which earn you time in front of a judge.

Handling is what I've come to expect from quattro products. Words like firm, precise and entertaining can be used to describe the Audi S1. On my favourite stretch of driving road, I got a feeling that the Audi S1 was a perfect fit. I've had some tremendous fun in some front-wheel drive hot hatches, but at the expense of some squealing tyres.

The S1 on the other hand was able to attack some 2nd/3rd gear corners with gusto, with the quattro system meaning you can start accelerating earlier out the turn. This sporty suspension comes at a price - you're going to feel each and every bump and rut on uneven roads.

Interior and Practicality

I suppose I'd better talk about the sensible things like the interior and practicality. Being an Audi, the interior is a pleasant place to be and the build quality is impressive. Things like the ventilation dials have a quality feel, and there's a cute infotainment screen at the top of the dashboard.

Here's where it gets interesting. Due to the dimensions of the 2.0-litre engine in the smallish A1's engine bay, the battery has had to move into the boot. The lack of engine bay space means there's no chance of the outstanding Audi S-tronic twin clutch gearbox as an option. The knock-on effect is unfortunate. There's no spare tyre and boot space is a little smaller than the standard A1 1.2 Sportback. Still, it's not the most cramped of interiors and an average-sized adult can fit into the rear seats.

There are two cupholders located just in front of the gearbox, with a further storage area located between the driver and passenger seats. There's ample space in the doors for things like keys and smartphones.

Audi S1 - Verdict

As far as range toppers and flagship models go, the Audi S1 is an enthusiast's choice. A reduced boot size, lack of spare tyre and a questionably high price tag count against an entertaining product. Also, if you're wanting nice things like the outstanding yellow paint which is more appropriate for this wildchild, race seats and satellite navigation, you're looking at R500 000.

Logic and common sense would suggest buying a second-hand Audi S3 with the brilliant S-tronic box and added interior space, but if you're after something extraordinarily unique and a bit of a collector's item, then check out the Audi S1.

Second Opinion

The Audi S1 was an absolute riot to drive. The S1 handled like a dream thanks to the quattro all-wheel drive and in-gear acceleration was impressive, particularly when overtaking on the highway. The interior is attractive and the seat bolstering and flat-bottomed steering wheel give the S1 a sporty feel to match the engine under the hood. My only gripe is the price and the exorbitant costs on the options list. Look past the money, and you have a fun and engaging car to throw around your neighbourhood. - Gero Lilleike

Pricing

The Audi S1 two-door retails for R442 000, while its Sportback five-door brother goes for R449 500. Options like navigation system, Nappa leather sports seats, and Vegas yellow paint retail for R24 700, R24 990 and R18 500 respectively. Pick wisely when it comes to ticking those option boxes.

We Like: Six-speed gearbox is a joy, all-wheel drive handling is confidence boosting, monster engine, build quality

We Don't Like: Sparse interior specification, lack of an S-tronic option, lack of spare wheel, price.

Also Consider: Forthcoming Mini Cooper JCW, Volkswagen Golf GTI, pre-owned Audi S3/ VW Golf R, Subaru WRX

See how the Audi S1 compares against the Volkswagen Golf R and Subaru WRX here.

Audi S1 Sportback Quick Specs

Engine 2-Litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Power 170 kW
Torque 370 Nm
Transmission Six-speed manual
Wheels 17-inch alloy wheels (optional 18")
0-100km/h 5.8 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed 250 kph
Fuel Economy 7.1L/100 km (claimed)
Fuel Tank Capacity 45 Litres

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