I’ve always been a fan of Audi road and race cars therefore jumped at the chance to drive an Audi S1 that was offered to me by CarAdvice. Audi has been very successful at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and were pioneers in introducing all wheel drive and turbocharging in the World Rally Championship. I haven’t driven a modern turbocharged hot hatch before therefore was very interested in driving the S1. The only other Audi I’ve driven was the old S5 with the V8 engine and was impressed with the quattro all wheel drive system so it was great to drive another model from the Audi range. I also enjoy driving manuals and the S1 is offered only with a 6 speed manual gearbox.
After getting into the Audi, it was easy to get comfortable behind the wheel and finding an ideal driving position was simple. The leather seats were manually adjustable and very supportive, however I felt like the driver’s seating position was a bit too high. The steering wheel had tilt and reach adjustment and pedal placement was also ideal. Being such a small car, the rear seat passengers don’t have a lot of head or leg room. Interior materials were of a high quality and fit and finish was good. All the buttons for phone pairing were in a logical spot however I couldn’t pair my iPhone through Bluetooth. All other buttons and controls were in logical spots and I didn’t have any trouble operating the sat-nav or radio. I liked the Audi Multi-Media Interface system and found it easy to operate. The engine start/stop button was easy to locate as well as the driving modes button where you can select from efficiency, auto or dynamic. The car also has Electronic Stability Program and traction control.
I liked the dimensions of the little 5 door Audi hatchback. It has an aggressive stance and the 18 inch alloys, quad exhausts and the red ‘S1’ labelled brake callipers hint at the car’s performance. The CarAdvice wrapping on this particular car certainly stands out and is very conspicuous.
I had the Audi in dynamic mode for the majority of the time and in this setting the car had the most throttle response and power however I found the damper setting to be very firm. On a smooth racetrack the suspension in dynamic mode would be ideal but I found that over potholes and dips the car was quite unsettled. I didn’t have the car in auto mode for long but it felt similar to dynamic mode. In efficiency mode, the car was much more comfortable to drive however there was a noticeable drop in engine power compared to dynamic mode. The car was better over bumps in efficiency mode and fuel economy also improves. On the road, it would be great to have the engine response that you get in dynamic mode combined with the ride offered in efficiency mode. The 310mm ventilated disc brakes on the front and 272mm solid discs on the rear were excellent and I had great confidence in them. The S1 was light and nimble through the corners and there wasn’t as much understeer as expected. Steering feel was great with the electro-mechanical steering offering great feedback.
The car felt quicker than expected and I’m surprised that it’s not faster than the claimed 5.9 seconds to 100km/h. I was really impressed with the Audi’s in gear acceleration and low down torque, with the car feeling fast and responsive, pulling well from as low as 60km/h in 6th gear. There was some turbo lag but once the Audi got on boost at about 2000rpm it felt very fast. I enjoy driving these lightweight cars (S1 weighs 1315kg) with relatively powerful engines. The S1 has 170kW of power and 370Nm of torque.
I took the Audi to some of my favourite roads in the Yarra Ranges including the 15km Healesville-Kinglake Road and 15km Myers Creek Road. Both of these roads offer a good mix of fast and slow corners and straights. The Healesville-Kinglake Road used to be a real challenge in the wet but resurfacing has made the road a lot safer. The road is smooth and wide therefore you can take the corners with a lot of confidence. Myers Creek Road is a tricky, windy narrow road and therefore needs to be treated with respect but if you get it right it’s very enjoyable. The car did suit the narrow roads however the suspension setup in dynamic mode was too stiff. On the narrow roads however the steering feel was excellent and it was great under brakes.
Would I buy one?
I’m not totally sold on small hot hatches so I probably wouldn’t buy an Audi S1. It’s also quite expensive compared to other hot hatches and if I was forced to buy a hatch it would probably be the Volkswagen Golf R. The S1 shares the same engine as the Golf R but in detuned form. I’ve always preferred to drive rear wheel drive cars over front wheel and all wheel drive.
Top five things
– The engine power and torque.
– Feel of the electric steering.
– Braking performance.
– Interior fit and finish.
– Light weight.
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