As you'd expect, powerful and fun. The engine feels easier, boasting pleasing low end flexibility, punch mid-range properties and a nice smooth nature at the business end of the dial. With peak torque arriving at 1600rpm it happily pulls taller gears at low speeds, making it subdued and fairly relaxing in an urban environment.
But with rising revs there is a raspy sound from the terrifically tractable four-cylinder, followed by a sporting crackle from the exhaust on the overrun as you come off the throttle on the entry to corners.
There is only one gearbox option. The conventional six-speed manual sports a suitably light action across the gates and a short travel clutch. It operates in combination with the latest version of Audi’s electro-mechanical multi-plate clutch four-wheel drive system. That means the S1 is capable of delivering up to 50 per cent of drive to the rear wheels as a well as an electronic differential lock as part of a two-stage electronic stability control system.
Together, they provide the S1 with outstanding levels of grip and sufficient traction to deploy its reserves without any unruly wheelspin, even in the wet. Official performance claims point to a 0-62mph time of 5.9sec, but the sheer efficiency of the S1 away from the line makes it feel subjectively faster from the driver’s seat.
As you’d expect given its sporting ambitions, Audi has not only given the S1 a four-wheel drive system but more extreme chassis tuning than its less powerful A1 siblings. Included is a 25mm reduction in ride height, revised spring and damper rates, beefed up anti-roll bars and a set of 17-inch wheels shod with 215/40 rubber as standard.
The electro-mechanical steering is also heavily reworked. It gains new mapping for a more urgent feel away from the centre position and more consistent weighting, although it continues to lack for ultimate feel and feeback.
Find a suitable back road and you'll enjoy rapid progress. With such diminutive dimensions, the S1 can be confidently placed on the road and firm damping ensures roll angles are kept well in check as lateral forces build. With the drive apportioned to each wheel, it boasts a more neutral cornering nature and greater overall agility than any existing front-wheel drive A1 model. The ride is firm. However, the worked underpinnings manage to absorb nasty bumps without any real harshness.
In changing weather conditions and a challenging mix of road surfaces it would take a very well sorted car to keep up with the new Audi, such is its all-round dynamic ability and real world speed.
The interior is another highlight thanks to its compelling style, high grade materials and functional simplicity. But while there’s very little to fault about the quality, the driving position is less than great, at least in left-hand-drive examples of the S1 we drove. The problem rests with the placement of the pedals, specifically the throttle which is well to the right and due its closeness to the trim surround for the centre tunnel impedes heel and toeing.