Those modes are Dynamic, Auto and Efficiency, and they seem to make more sense to us than the choice of several Comfort or Sport settings that rival BMW tends to supply.
The Dynamic mode in the S1 is, without question, too uncompromising for a lot of UK road surfaces. It leaves the S1 too stiff-legged to absorb typical back-road lumps and bumps and can cause adverse bodily reactions ranging from rotational head toss to quite pronounced pitch.
On a couple of uneven country roads that we often seek out to test ride and handling in particular, Dynamic mode turned the S1 into a rebounding, bump-steering, near-driver-unseating mess.
Mercifully, things improve when you select Auto mode. The ride calms itself down – although it still seems overly firm and poorly resolved at times – allowing you more freedom to concentrate on the car’s handling repertoire.
Odds are that you’ll like what you find. The S1 meets the expectations that we all have of ‘pocket rocket’ hot hatchbacks by being responsive to steering inputs, tackling corners with grip and directness and having plenty of impish attitude about it all.
Audi could perhaps have risked rebalancing the car’s grip levels towards the front wheels, which tend to run out of purchase just when you want to lean on them that little bit harder. Having said as much, if doing that would make the car’s limit handling any more boisterous, it wouldn’t be worth the trade.
The S1 is capable of eyebrow-raising things on a circuit. It has the pace, grip and staying power to run with the proper full-sized hot hatches against which it is priced. Its dry handling track lap time is fully two seconds faster than a Ford Fiesta ST’s and it is within six-tenths of the Focus ST’s.
But it also makes you glad that such potent superminis don’t come along very often. Relatively short, narrow, upright superminis aren’t meant to have full-house hot hatch power, after all. When ‘blessed’ with it, they can be troublesome to control as grip ebbs away and physics takes over.
And so proves the S1. Up to the limit of grip, with the ESC left on, it’s stable and well behaved. But push to the very edge and it yaws quite hard on turn-in and runs out of adhesion quite suddenly thereafter.