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Driven: Audi’s S1 Sportback lands for under $50K

Quick start: Audi hopes the S1 will attract new buyers who will remain loyal and move upwards in the S model range.

Entry fee into Audi’s S models drops with new S1 Sportback’s arrival

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Audi logo26 Sep 2014

By RICHARD BERRY

AUDI’S new S1 Sportback pocket rocket has landed in Australia with a price-tag of $49,900, plus on-road costs, making it the German car-maker’s most affordable S model on the market.

At the local launch this week, Audi Australia managing director Andrew Doyle said the S1’s arrival lowers the entry point into the brand’s sport range, which will in turn attract new buyers who will eventually progress further up the S model line-up.

“This the first time that we’ve had quattro in the A1 and the first time we’ve had an S model under $50,000,” he said.

“So it’s a really important car for Audi because it opens up the S models to a much broader market and we believe it allows us to get buyers into our car at an earlier stage in their buying process and then over time with Audi move to other models if they so desire.

“We now have S and RS models from $49,900 up to $440,000 and everything in between.”

The S1 takes its place at the top of the A1 model line-up, which starts at $26,500 and it undercuts the larger, more powerful A3-based S3 Sporttback hatch by $10,000.

Mr Doyle said he worked hard to reduce the S1’s price as much as possible to appeal to a different type of buyer.

“We’ve been as aggressive as we can with the pricing on the S1,” he said.

“The S3 has been an outstanding success already and from the first reaction we’ve got already from people who have driven the S1 is that it will be its own market – it will be its own segment. We’re very confident we will attract the right people with this car.” Mr Doyle doesn’t expect the S1 to be a large volume seller, but said it’s important for Audi to have halo cars.

“I think we always are a little bit conservative in our sales numbers, but I would say we can probably do at least 10 a month and I would be happy to be proven wrong in the region north of that,” he said.

“I’m very excited by the feedback we’ve got already. The S1 evokes quite an emotional response.”

By coincidence the new baby hot hatch revives the S1 name of Audi’s rally car of the 1980s and Mr Doyle believes the new car is worthy of the name. “The Sport Quattro S1 represents such an important part of our racing heritage, and the Audi brand itself, that for a new model to rekindle the same nameplate is very special indeed.

“It is fitting then, that the new S1 Sportback is without rival. No other car of its size can boast such impressive performance credentials.”

As for the possibility of an even more potent RS1 arriving, Mr Doyle said it’s unlikely to happen soon.

“As an Aussie and as an enthusiast driver I think we’d love to see something like that, but there are no plans and nothing to confirm.”

Powered by a 170kW/370Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine with quattro all-wheel drive, the S1 can dash from 0-100km/h in 5.9 seconds.

Audi claims a combined fuel economy of 7.1 litres per 100km. In Australia the S1 will only be available with a six-speed manual gearbox, which Mr Doyle said was due to “technical restrictions”.

“We could probably do even more volume it if wasn’t just in manual, but by the same token it’s also an enthusiast’s car. Volume isn’t everything.”

The car will come to Australia in five-door Sportback form only, while a three-door hatch is also available in Europe.

Audi has given the S1 sports-tuned suspension, with a MacPherson-based design up front and four-link set-up replacing the compound rear link in the regular A1.

When Dynamic mode is activated through the Audi Select function, the variable dampers are stiffened, flaps are also opened in the exhaust system producing a louder ‘bark’.

Pulling the car up are 310mm discs at the front and 272mm at the rear, with the A1’s brake master cylinder replaced with a larger unit.

Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, Xenon plus headlights with LED running lights, top-of-the-range MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system with DVD player, sat-nav, Bluetooth connectivity, with 20GB hard drive, two SDHC card readers, 6.5-inch colour screen and 10 speaker sound system.

It also gains stainless steel pedals, sports seats in combination cloth and leather with S1 embossing, rear parking sensors, automatic air conditioning and light and rain sensors.

The $4990 S performance package adds 18-inch partly polished alloy wheels in contrasting grey with red front brake calipers, Nappa leather upholstery, Bose sound system and aluminium-look air-vents.

A Quattro exterior package for $3990 brings 18-inch alloys in matte black, a bolder roof spoiler, Quattro decals and a front bumper with aluminium look lip.

The Quattro interior package is $2490 and includes centre console and seat backs in high-gloss black, red or yellow, sports seats and arm rests in Nappa leather, and leather-clad flat-bottomed steering wheel.

Nine paint colours are available including Vegas yellow, Sepang blue and Mythos black.

With its five-star ANCAP crash safety rating, the S1 comes with six airbags, electronic stability control, ABS, Audi’s Anti-Slip Regulation and an electronic differential lock.

The S1 Sportback is in Audi showrooms on sale in Australia now.

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