£25,940 - £29,125 Price range
39 - 40 MPG
With 0-62mph taking just 5.8 seconds, the S1 is the quickest car in its class and although it might not have the enthralling dynamics of some of its rivals, the grip of its four-wheel drive system means even a powerful sports car will have trouble keeping up on a tight twisting B road.
Based on the A1, the S1’s interior is starting to look a little dated, particular when compared to the much newer Mini. The quality of the fixtures and fitting’s is indisputable, though, and the fast hatch marks itself out from the rest of the range with a sprinkling of S1 badges, alloy pedals, a sports steering wheel and leather sports seats.
As a small car, it is not particularly spacious, but the Audi makes the best of the room that is available and four adults can fit so long as it’s not for too long. It’s also available in five-door ‘sportback’ form if you need easier access to the rear seats.
From outside the S1 is easy to distinguish from a regular A1 thanks to its 17-inch alloy wheels, sporty body kit and roof-mounted spoiler, while the four exhaust pipes hint at the powerful engine shoehorned under its tiny bonnet.
A long standard equipment list goes some way to justify the car’s high price – you get Xenon headlights, auto lights and wipers, climate control and adjustable dampers, but sat-nav remains a £570 option.
Despite being based on one of the oldest cars in the line-up, the S1 has a classy interior that is in a different league to all its rivals bar the Mini, which has a more stylish design and a better infotainment system.
A cool atmosphere comes courtesy of lots of aluminium switchgear and racy red highlights, and the optional sat-nav screen that tucks away into the dashboard means you’re not faced with a bamboozling array of conventional buttons.
Audi S1 passenger space
The driver and front passenger won’t feel cramped in the S1, but the same can’t be said for those sitting in the rear. The sloping roofline and small windows only increase the claustrophobic feel, but the option to have it with five doors makes it that bit more practical than numerous rivals.
Audi S1 boot space
The drawback of the S1’s four-wheel-drive system is that you get less boot space than in the regular A1. With the seat backs up you get 210 litres of boot space and with them down space rises to 860 litres. For comparison a Polo GTI, which doesn’t have to accommodate a four-wheel drive system, has a bigger 280-litre boot.
With lots of power wrapped in a small body the Audi S1 is something of a pocket rocket capable of outperforming a plethora of more expensive cars – not to mention its direct rivals.
Cross country B roads are where the A1 comes into its own. Its small dimensions mean you have plenty of space on the road, so you don’t have to worry about traffic coming the other way, while the quattro four-wheel drive system means it’s easy to get the car’s power down even in terrible weather.
The S1 uses a more complex rear suspension set-up than the regular A1 and it feels better tied down in corners as a result. The improvements can even be felt on the motorway, where the S1 rides better than the standard model on big wheels. It is also the only supermini to get adaptive dampers as standard, so you can stiffen the car’s suspension for spirited driving.
The S1’s biggest selling point is its engine. The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit is used in a huge number of other VW and Audi cars, but none are as small and light as the S1. That means it can make the most of its 230hp to hurtle from 0-62mph in just 5.8 seconds – a full second quicker than the Fiesta ST. It even sounds appealing with whooshing noises from the turbocharger gracing your ears every time you stamp your foot on the accelerator.
In a time when the Renault Clio RS is only offered with an automatic gearbox it’s refreshing to find the S1 comes equipped with a sweet six-speed manual that is effortless to use and makes the car more engaging to drive.
With the big engine come big running costs – fuel economy of 40.4mpg and a £180 yearly road tax don’t sound too much when taking into consideration the performance of the car, but rivals such as the Peugeot 208 GTi and the Ford Fiesta ST can theoretically return closer to 50mpg and cost less to tax thanks to their smaller engines.
Euro NCAP crash tested the regular A1 in 2010 and awarded it the maximum five stars. It was commended on the high level of driver and passenger protection it offered. It’s safe to assume that this fastest version of the A1 will be even safer – it has advanced stability and traction control systems as well as bigger brakes than the regular car.
The Audi S1 has many positive characteristics – it’s fast, stable and feels upmarket. It has one of the best engines Audi currently offers and would show most of the competition a clean pair of heels point to point. Some rivals offer more thrills, but the S1’s biggest problem is a price that makes it look expensive.