However, the S3 will do without four-wheel drive, making it the first S model not to use a quattro drivetrain. Instead, the S1 will be front-wheel drive, using a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox with steering wheel paddle shifters.
Although the S1 is still more than year away from going on sale, Audi development boss Michael Dick has already indicated that the car’s performance will match that of rivals such as the Mini Cooper S and Mito Cloverleaf. He put the S1’s 0-62mph time at under seven seconds and said its top speed will be beyond 140mph.
More than straight-line performance, however, it is the dynamic properties that will set the new car apart, Dick said.
“A great deal of attention has been paid to the tuning of the front end, particularly the properties of the bushes and the electric steering rack. We’ve found an excellent combination of steering feel and overall grip,” he said.
Before the S1 arrives in British showrooms, Audi will establish the rest of the A1 range. It is hoping to emulate the success of Mini, which has enjoyed a worldwide sales climb to over 200,000 units a year (more than a fifth of Audi’s total 2009 sales volume) in recent years. Audi boss Rupert Stadler confirmed that UK sales will begin next September, after the car’s launch at the Geneva show in March.
The smallest and most affordable Audi since the demise of the A2 in 2007 is based on VW’s PQ25 platform — as used in the VW Polo, Seat Ibiza and Skoda Fabia.
The steel-based structure has been selectively modified by Audi. It has added stiffening within the floorpan and made changes to the chassis (a mix of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear) aimed at providing greater levels of refinement and more engaging dynamics than its cheaper VW Group siblings.
The A1 will be launched as a three-door. Audi intends to market it as a coupé and aim it directly at the Mini and Mito. A year on from launch, a more practical, family-oriented five-door A1 Sportback will be added to the line-up as a rival to the Mercedes-Benz A-class.
Also under development in Ingolstadt, but not due until 2012, is an A1 cabriolet with a fabric roof. The car will be launched with four-cylinder petrol engines: an entry-level 85bhp 1.2 and a 122bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre unit.
They will be joined by three diesels: a 74bhp 1.2 three-pot and Audi’s new 1.6-litre four-cylinder unit in 89bhp and 104bhp guises. A 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel is also under consideration, although it isn’t likely to form part of the initial line-up.
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