This pairing – the final match-up wrestled from our sprawling sub £30k shootout – is probably most notable for the obvious absentee.
The Ford Fiesta ST is our small hot hatch champ by a troublingly huge margin, it won last year’s contest and came within a whisker of taking top honours again this time round.
In contrast, the Mini Cooper S and Audi S1 have both been somewhat damned by faint praise. Both have their likeable sides. Both are pleasantly premium, and easy to imagine living with. Both are competent and undeniably quick, too. But where the Fiesta frequently dazzles, they tend to fizzle out.
Between them, they share the last two positions in the affordable fun countdown. However, in this case, not quite measuring up to the standard isn’t anything to feel ashamed about. Especially as, excluding the Fiesta, these were the cheapest cars on test - and cheap, as the criteria suggests, is good.
In the case of the S1 that does place us on admittedly shaky ground, referring to a £25k inhabitant of the B segment as ‘cheap’ is like calling a commuter train season ticket ‘good value’.
But it’s worth remembering that this is still the low-cost way into Audi’s coveted S-brand, and included in the price is a 228bhp 2.0-litre engine mated to a multi-plate clutch four-wheel-drive system.
If that combination appeals on paper, then you’ll probably appreciate the way the S1 goes down a road. Like practically all of quattro GmBH’s progeny, its supermini is primarily concerned with turning turbocharged torque - 273lb ft of it in this case - into forward motion.
By doing this more effectively than any of its two-wheel-drive rivals, the tiny Audi is nearly a second quicker to 62mph than the Mini.
It feels it, too. Through the first few gears, the familiar EA888 motor - usually labouring under the higher workload of bigger hatchbacks - makes the S1 properly ferocious. And because it comes without the slightly haywire lack of composure endemic to overpowered front-drivers, its potential never seems less than fully exploitable.
While it obviously can’t overcome a near 30bhp deficit, no one would accuse the new Mini of tardiness during get away.
All the old scamper is present and correct, enhanced by the better mid-range delivered by the upgrade to BMW’s larger 2.0-litre four pot and a 100kg weight-saving over the more mechanically complicated Audi.
However, where the pair differ most is the way they turn straight line guts into cornering glee. As you might expect, it’s nonchalant accuracy versus darting excess - and it plays out differently depending on where you are.
On the road, the Mini’s jacked-up positivity and scything direction changes are intended to keep you on tenterhooks; as is the torque and bump steer which shimmy up the steering column.
It’s a level of interactivity the S1 can’t, or, more specifically, doesn’t even attempt to match. The car’s light but direct manual gear change and short wheelbase might make it rather perky for a fast Audi, but following the Cooper’s feverishness, it seems desensitised during fast A to B work - content enough to be blithely swift and composed.