Thanks to our friends at Caradvice, we had the chance to review the Audi S1 Sportback – an all wheel drive premium B-Segment hot hatch, launched back in 2014, with lots of power and a hefty price tag.
The car is fitted with a turbocharged 2.0 liter TFSI engine producing 170 kW / 231 hp and 370 Nm of torque, exclusively mated to a 6 speed manual gearbox. Thanks to all that power and the quattro permanent all-wheel drive system with a hydraulic multi-plate clutch located on the rear axle, the 0-100 km/h acceleration only takes 5,9 seconds while the top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h (155 mph). The S1 also features a heavily revised suspension with variable absorbers, uprated braking system and a re-developed electromechanical power steering.
As a reminder, the first generation of the Audi A1 was launched back in 2010, and received a facelift in 2014 with modern headlights, tailights and restyled bumpers. The car is based on the Volkswagen Group PQ25 platform, sharing similar exterior dimensions with the VW Polo, Seat Ibiza, Skoda Fabia, while featuring more premium components and higher equipment levels compared to its siblings.
Four years after its launch, the Audi S1 Sportback still is a beautiful supermini. The unique bodykit includes more prominent bumpers that look aggressive enough but don’t go over the top styling-wise, xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED tailights, silver mirror caps, 18 inch alloy wheels, four exhaust pipes, rear diffuser and a discreet roof spoiler (a larger roof spoiler can be specified with the optional quattro styling pack).
Compared to the second generation A1 (more information here) we could say that the S1 looks modest in today’s standards, but it definitely stands out as a sporty hot hatch with compact dimensions and masculine looks.
Interior / Equipment
The simplistic design of the dashboard has aged pretty well, however the infotainment system with the small retractable screen looks dated, so does the instrument cluster – especially when you compare it with the latest digital units on newer Audi models.
The car is equipped with navigation, Bose surround sound system, bluetooth, cruise control and trip computer, but it is missing some essential driving aids like lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, rear view camera and adaptive cruise control. Most of the features can be controlled from the buttons on the multi-function flat bottomed steering wheel, but generally they do require some getting used to. Having said that, I personally prefer the rounded and minimal look of the first generation A1 than the more angular and techy interior design of the second generation.
Built quality is good with soft plastics on the dashboard and nice touches on the climate controls. The optional sport seats provide enough support but could offer electric adjustments and heating (which can be specified). Those who want more, could opt for the quattro interior styling pack that adds some colour to the shiny shells of the front seats and the bottom part of the dashboard.
Space for the front passengers is alright, but the lack of rear headroom will definitely cause problems to the rear passengers. The cabin is a bit narrow, so the S1 Sportback would only seat four small sized people, preferably for short journeys. Another thing that limits the car’s practicality, is the limited boot space of only 210 liters (which is 60 liters less than the standard A1 because of the addition of the quattro system) however those who would like to carry larger stuff can easily fold down the rear seats and create a very practical two seater.
The S1 Sportback offers 3 driving modes – efficiency, auto and dynamic – accessible from the drive select button. When you drive it around the city in efficiency mode with lower rpm, the S1 pretty much feels like a regular supermini with very light steering and comfortable ride thanks to the variable shock absorbers (considering it is riding on 18 inch wheels). If the driver has a light right foot, it can also be quiet and economic, considering it has a turbocharged 2.0 liter engine under the bonnet.
It all changes dramatically though, when you select dynamic mode and rev above the 3.000 rpm mark. The car catapults itself without any wheel spin or torque steer, thanks to the quattro permanent all wheel drive system, allowing the driver to enjoy an amazing full throttle acceleration on any type of surface. The engine shows its full potential when the turbocharger kicks in, and it also sounds a lot more aggressive closer to the limit. The clutch is well weighted and the 6 speed gearbox has a solid feel, reminding us why we should keep the manual alive.
The suspension setup (modified pivot bearings at the front and unique four-link design at the rear) offers great handling with virtually no body roll around sharp turns, and it somehow makes up for the short wheelbase and the aging B-Segment PQ25 platform that the car is based on. As for the electromechanical power steering, it is definitely an improvement over the standard A1, with heavier feel in dynamic mode, however it still doesn’t give the feedback you would expect from a driver’s car. Finally, the uprated braking system provides enough stopping power to handle the 1415 kg weight of the car, that doesn’t really feel that heavy on the road.
You may not expect it when you see it on the street, but this little beast can outperform larger and more powerful cars, not only in straight line acceleration but also on a twisty road – especially when the tarmac is wet.
Pricing / Warranty (Australia)
Base price (MSRP): $50,400
Used car prices: $31,000 – $35,000
Audi offers a 3 year unlimited km warranty.
The Audi S1 Sportback is a very capable pocket rocket that provides powerful acceleration with maximum grip and great handling in all weather conditions. At the same time, it is nimble around the city, however its small boot and tight space for the rear passengers limit its practicality for longer journeys. The only all wheel drive B-Segment hot hatch comes with an eye-watering price tag, mostly because of the heavily modified underpinnings over the standard car. Those who prioritize interior space, practicality or value for money will obviously look elsewhere, but the S1 is still an appealing hot hatch with unique capabilities and special character, even now that it is approaching the end of its life cycle.
Hot Hatch Rating: 7,5/10
|Model||Audi S1 / S1 Sportback|
|Doors||3 / 5|
|Engine Displacement||1984 cm3|
|Fuel System||Direct Injection|
|Power (@rpm)||@6000 rpm|
|Torque (@rpm)||@1600-3000 rpm|
|Top Speed (km/h)||249 km/h|
|Top Speed (mph)||155 mph|
|CO2 (g/km)||166 g/km|
|Front Track||1473 mm|
|Rear Track||1453 mm|
|Boot Space||210 liters|
|Front Brakes||310 mm Ventilated Discs|
|Rear Brakes||272 mm Discs|
Note: We would like to thank Scott Davison and the Caradvice team for lending us their own Audi S1 Sportback and making this review possible.