What is it?
The new Audi S1, first hinted to by Ingolstadt officials as a rival to the Mini Cooper S John Cooper Works at the launch of the three-door Audi A1 back in 2010. This classy four-wheel-drive supermini has endured a drawn out development process that, at one stage, included a limited run of the even more extreme left-hand-drive only A1 Quattro – a car Audi readily admits acted as a prototype for the new go-fast S1.
The reason for the prolonged wait, according to Audi’s outspoken research and development boss, Ulrich Hackenburg, has been the engineering of the S1’s electro-mechanical multi-plate clutch four-wheel drive system, which necessitated the adoption of a new multi-link rear suspension in place of the torsion beam arrangement used on the standard A1. “It wasn’t a simple job at all. We had to reconfigure the whole rear end of the car,” he says.
Our first drive of the S1, admittedly in less than ideal road conditions and on winter tyres, reveals it is a thoroughly sorted and a genuinely engaging car to drive. There is a palpable depth to its engineering that suggests the time taken to perfect its underpinnings has also been put to good use elsewhere, allowing Audi to take advantage of various upgrades and deliver a car enthusiasts will no doubt savior.
The sporty styling of the modern day S1 is built around the inherent good looks of the standard A1 – itself due to be facelifted later this year. Unique touches include a deeper front bumper with additional cooling capacity, blackened grille and exterior mirror housings, new headlamp graphics, chunkier sills underneath the doors, prominent spoiler atop the tailgate, blackened rear licence plate panel and a diffuser touting rear bumper. Buyers can choose between three- and five-door bodystyles and a range of exclusive exterior colours.
Under the clamshell style bonnet lurks Audi’s widely used EA888 engine. The turbocharged 2.0-litre direct injection unit delivers 228bhp and 272lb ft of torque, endowing the S1 with 46bhp and 88lb ft more than the most powerful of existing A1 models, the 1.4 TFSI.