An Audi RS1, boasting 280bhp and four-wheel-drive, has been given the go-ahead by Audi bosses.
The new model will act as a swansong for the current Audi A1 prior to the arrival of a new, second-generation line-up in 2018.
Set to go on sale early next year, the new hot supermini will fill the void left vacant by the earlier A1 quattro — a 258bhp version of the pre-facelifted A1, of which just 19 were sold in the UK in 2012.
Unlike the £40,020, left-hand-drive-only A1 quattro, the RS1 has been conceived as a regular production model, complete with righthand drive compatibility.
As a result, it will be priced more competitively than its limited-edition predecessor. Nothing is official yet, but suggestions are that the newest addition to the RS ranks will attract a handsome premium over today’s 228bhp S1, which costs £26,335, hinting that it will probably cost more than £30,000 in the UK.
As sister model to parent company Volkswagen’s upcoming Volkswagen Polo R, the RS1 is planned to rival a number of performance-based small cars, including the Ford Fiesta ST. However, the prime target for the new junior RS model — whose name was recently the subject of a copyright filing by Audi — is the Mini John Cooper Works. Sources close to the recently reorganised Audi Sport division say the RS1 has been extensively benchmarked against the hot Mini.
Power for the RS1 is planned to come from Audi’s widely used EA888 engine. The turbocharged 2.0-litre fourcylinder petrol unit, which, in its more highly tuned guises, uses a patented valve lift system to provide continuously variable camshaft control, is expected to develop around 280bhp.
This would provide it with 52bhp more than today’s S1, which uses a 228bhp version of the EA888 engine and whose output is the same as that of the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine in the Mini JCW.
Gearbox choices for the RS1 are likely to be a standard six-speed manual or a newly developed seven-speed dualclutch automatic unit that is engineered to handle up to 369lb ft. As with the S1, the RS1 is also set to receive a standard multi-plate clutch four-wheel drive system as standard.
With greater power, the RS1 should comfortably dip below the claimed 5.8sec 0-62mph time of today’s three-door S1. With similar gearing, it also should have the same limited 155mph top speed as the Audi S1.
As with the S1, the RS1 is expected to be offered in both three and five-door — or Sportback — bodystyles. Following the launch of the RS1 next year, Audi plans to launch the second-generation A1 in 2018. Eschewing the PQ35 underpinnings of today’s first-generation model, it has been conceived around the VW Group’s versatile MQB structure, which Audi says provides the basis for significant increases in structural rigidity together with a reduction in weight due to the use of a so-called hybrid construction, with a combination of hot-formed steel and aluminium.