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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

Depending on which angle you’re approaching it from, there can be something either mildly impressive or slightly disappointing about the S1’s straight-line pace.

On the one hand, here’s a very small hot hatchback that can reach 60mph from rest in 5.9sec, whereas a Ford Fiesta ST wanted a full 7.0sec in our hands, while the ST200 is capable of reaching 62mph in 6.7sec.

On the other, it’s a four-wheel-drive car with a 2.0-litre turbo engine, and a similarly equipped Golf R needed only 4.8sec to cover the same benchmark.

And that, in a nutshell, encapsulates the rather unusual positioning of the S1, which has a bigger car’s price and engine size but is itself rather more compact. Ultimately, its accelerative prowess is about right.

The shortish gearing reflects the car’s size rather than the swept capacity’s, so in-gear flexibility is impressive. In fourth gear the S1 will pull along a slip road from 30mph to 70mph in only 6.7sec, and in third you can make that 5.3sec.

And because, at 115bhp per litre, it’s far from the most overworked engine in the class, there’s decent pulling power from any revs, once you overcome a touch of turbo lag at the bottom end.

The gearshift itself is precise and light, so there’s no bother – although no tactile delight – in swinging it around the gate. Likewise all the other major control weights, including a brake pedal that pushes on uprated stoppers that are impressive the first couple of times but fade like those on many other fast Audis – faster than in rival cars, at any rate.

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It’s unlikely to be an issue on the road, but they’d want careful management on a track day.