Car reviews - Audi - A1 - S1 Sportback
Powerful engine, quattro all-wheel drive, excellent handling and performance, tough stance
Room for improvement
Price-tag seems expensive, no reversing camera, limited space in the back seat.
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13 Nov 2014
By TUNG NGUYEN
RICHARD BERRYMORE than just an Audi A1 with a body kit and stickers, the S1 Sportback is a proper S model. Any doubts as to its sporting credentials were soon blown away after a two-hour blast along winding Tasmanian forest roads to Baskerville Raceway where the car was really put to the test at the S1’s local launch this week.
While only $10,000 less than its more powerful and larger S3 Sportback sibling, Audi thinks the price gap is big enough for the S1 to appeal to different buyers.
Yet at $49,900 the S1 is expensive for a light-segment car and there are bigger hot hatches with comparable outputs such as the Renault Megane RS265 Cup for $5910 less at $43,990, Ford’s Focus ST for $11,610 less at $38,290 and the potent Volkswagen Golf R for just $2090 more at $51,990.
But the S1 is an Audi and an S model at that so its badge trumps the VW, Ford and Renault in the premium stakes.
The price point may cause some to baulk, but there’s good value to be found in standard features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, Xenon plus headlights, Audi’s range topping MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system with DVD player, sat-nav, Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming, with 20GB hard drive, two SDHC car readers, 6.4-inch colour screen and 10-speaker sound system.
It also features sports seats in a combination of cloth and leather, stainless steel pedals, rear parking sensors, automatic air-conditioning, plus rain and light sensors.
The S1 may well be the most expensive car in its segment, but none of the others can touch it in terms of performance.
On the road it’s a little beast, with outstanding handling and a ride that never feels overly firm even with the optional 18-inch alloys with low profile 225/35 rubber on our test car. Suspension travel does seem short as potholes quickly revealed.
Audi has given the S1 sports-tuned suspension with a MacPherson-based design at the front and a four-link rear axle replacing the compound rear link in the regular A1.
Switching to Dynamic Mode using the Audi Drive Select function stiffens up the dampers for even flatter cornering and opens up flaps in the exhaust system to release a louder bark.
Under the tiny bonnet lurks the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine found in S3 Sportback, but with the wick turned down by 36kW and 10Nm for 170kW and 370Nm.
It’s enough to fling the S1 from 0-100km/h in 5.9 seconds which is impressive, but so too are the brakes it was found when coming to the end of the main straight of Baskerville Raceway with a 90 degree left-hander approaching at 183km/h. The S1’s top speed is limited to 250km/h.
Audi has fitted 310mm discs at the front and 272mm rotors at the rear, which wash off speed fast. The A1 master brake cylinder has also been replaced with a larger unit.
In Australia the S1 is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox, but the clutch is light and shifting is easy. Sixth-gear is a particularly long gear, too.
The quattro all-wheel drive pulls the S1 out of corners, providing almost perfect traction and the tyres gripped on despite this driver’s impatience to step on the gas early or maybe come into a bend too hot.
The electromechanical steering is accurate, while not too heavy in Dynamic mode and or artificially light in the Efficiency setting.
The driving position is excellent, the sports seats comfortable and supportive.
Room in the back seat, however, is a little tight for those over 188cm.
Audi has done well to insulate the S1’s cabin with minimal road and wind noise filtering in.
Excellent quality is seen in every aspect of the car, from the feel of the materials used and workmanship of the interior to sporty exterior.
The S1 will only come to Australia as a five door Sportback, with the three-door hatch also available in Europe.
At 3975mm long it’s a little car, but at 1746mm wide and a front track of 1474 track the S1 has a tough stance which is made all the more menacing looking thanks to a ride height lowered 25mm more than the A1.
This is a rewarding and fun car to drive on the road with a comfortable ride and excellent handling.
On the track it’s a capable little beastie, and has all the hallmarks of a giant killer, punching well above its light-car segment weight in terms of performance and quality.
A great place to start for those new to the S model line-up.
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