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Audi S1 2.0 TFSI quattro

Click to view picture gallery“Buying one of Audis S1 models
  finished in eye-catching Vegas Yellow
  is never going to be a gamble
  return for around £25K you get an
  all-weather, three-door hot-hatch that
  runs to 155mph and creams 0-62mph
  in under six seconds...”

WHILE 'RS' MAY BE THE ULTIMATE performance badging for Audis, dropping the 'R' for a singular 'S' is not a cop-out 'S' is still a Number One choice. Especially when it appears on the hot-shot S1.

Let's cut to the chase which, thanks to the S1's gutsy 227bhp and muscular 272lb ft of torque, will see others doing the chasing…

It's said the acid test for a fast car is that it feels as rapid every time out as it did the very first time you drove it. The S1 passes this test with flying colours however many times you get behind its leather-wrapped, flat-bottomed wheel and hoof the accelerator, the S1 always feels invigoratingly quick. And with peak torque on tap between 1,600 and 3,000rpm, the turboed 2.0-litre four-pot petrol engine is always eager to entertain you.

“The mandatory stick-
shift is a six-speeder with
a quick and precise
change action that makes
flicking between ratios
a genuine pleasure.
Use it as intended and,
combined with the powerplant
s punch,
ll have serious get-
up-and-go from just
about any number on the
To add to the fun it's only available with a manual 'box. The mandatory stick-shift is a six-speeder with a quick and precise change action that makes flicking between ratios a genuine pleasure. Use it as intended and, combined with the powerplant's punch, you'll have serious get-up-and-go from just about any number on the rev-counter.

Power reaches the wheels via Audi's near-iconic quattro permanent four-wheel drive system. For petrolheads who like their trivia, the quattro system is actually the reason you can't have a double-clutch autobox in the S1 there simply isn't the room to fit both.

It's a fair trade, though: paddleshifters in exchange for traction and limpet-like adhesion with the blacktop. A done-deal that doesn't degrade one of the core reasons why people would buy an S1 in the first place driver involvement.

An involvement that kicks off in the cabin… Swing open a door and you're greeted by an inviting and beautifully appointed cabin that offers far more room than you'd expect given the S1's compact footprint. Both to look at and touch, all of the trim materials and aluminium-accented finishes are unmistakably upmarket.

Settle in the driver's seat and you're lovin' it already! The driving position is spot-on. The S1-branded chairs, upholstered in fine black leather, are shapely and supportive with well-toned bolstering that holds you firmly especially around the ribs but never pinches.

At a scrape under four metres long, the S1 packs in a lot of cabin. The front is exceedingly spacious, with a fist of headroom and fine shoulder support from the seatbacks; even a stocky six-foot passenger riding shotgun will travel comfortably.

The driver is particularly well looked after with an alloy pedal set and a seriously grippy wheel that's a real joy to handle more good news: its flattened lower rim doesn't restrict quick steering movements at the helm when pressing on. A traditional handbrake sits alongside the driver's thigh: combined with the clean-shifting gearlever it makes the S1 the perfect partner for lovers of J-turns. All this plus fine all-round visibility for placing and parking, which is good karma because there's no reversing camera or audible parking sensors fitted as standard.

The dark grey, two-dial instrument pack is characteristically Audi: stylish, classy, and superbly clear with crisp white numerals; the S1-badged rev-counter redlines at 6,500rpm. The two main dials are separated by a driver's information display with all the usual data available including that all-important digital road speed readout. Other well-considered touches include the MMI (multi-media interface) controller and shortcut keys set high for immediate access.

Nor will you be hot and bothered in an S1 refreshingly icy AirCon and two-stage heated seats should see you comfortably through all four seasons. Also worth mentioning is the engineered feel of the switchgear and the excellent and timely spoken directions from the SatNav.

“We kept our S1 in
Efficiency mode for a few
days and averaged
then we took off
muzzle and put the
pedal to the metal in

and even then we still
managed 32.6mpg!
Another big plus is the new easily scrolled driver's information menu system which lets you instantly skip between information using the buttons on the steering wheel for instance, jump from navigational graphic prompts to the digital speed readout and back again in areas where the posted speed limit keeps changing and you need to double check to be sure you won't get a ticket while navigating to your destination.

All-in-all, be you piloting or passengering, the refined cabin makes the S1 a very easy car to cover ground in with plenty of creature comforts to keep both driver and passengers satisfied including Bluetooth, digital radio, and a decent six-speaker hi-fi. A Bose surround sound system is a worthwhile £690 option as too is the £875 SD-based SatNav.

Amply filling the S1's engine bay is a strapping 2.0-litre inline four petrol engine. Keen drivers will be gratified to find it makes a willing partner-in-speed enthusiastic throughout its rev-range, it's at its most eager between 1,600 and 3,000rpm where it pulls with a refined yet powerful urgency. It's also happy to indulge its pilot even in the 'wrong' gear it will still give generously of its best. Select the right gear as you would! and it's very game-on indeed.

The 'stick' shift is a big plus factor in Audi's pocket-rocket no matter how fast and clinically-clean double-clutch gearbox shifts can be, there's a visceral satisfaction in executing a perfectly timed manual change. Plus, of course, it's you who decides exactly when and where to let loose that shove-in-the-back 272lb ft of torque.

Judged by the traditional 0-62mph benchmark the S1 is more than quick enough it rips past 62mph in an impressive 5.8 seconds. Top speed, incidentally, is electronically limited to a politically correct (for rule-maker Germany, that is) 155mph. So, will you be punished at the pumps?

Actually, you'll be smiling! We kept our S1 in Efficiency mode for a few days and averaged 44.1mpg; then we took off the 'muzzle' and put pedal to the metal in Dynamic mode and even then we still managed 32.6mpg. But whatever your personal driving style the one thing that remains consistent is the S1's refinement. For the record there's also a stop-start system but, should you prefer, it can be turned off.

Dynamically the S1 revolves (or doesn't, as is the case) around the über-dependable four-wheel grip provided by the quattro system which guarantees seemingly boundless traction even when exiting the fastest corner. In the wet too, where few drivers will be able to keep the S1's four short-barrelled chromed tailpipes in sight.

“Dynamically the S1
revolves (or doesn
t, as
is the case) around
the über-dependable
four-wheel traction
provided by the quattro
system which guarantees
seemingly endless
grip even when exiting
the fastest corners...
This level of chuckable all-weather handling proficiency hasn't been arrived at by going down the rock-hard trackday route ride-wise the S1 accommodates poorer blacktop while maintaining one hundred percent contact with the road through each of its four 225/35 lo-pro Bridgestones.

Audi's Drive Select system is standard which offers Efficiency, Auto and Dynamic driving modes and enables the S1 to serve-up a ride and handling package that's appropriate whether you're going for a spirited hot-hatch thrash or just want cruising without the bruising.

Impressive, too, are the S1's brakes (red-painted, S1-branded callipers at each corner) which are more than up to the job of hauling speeds back down as rapidly as the accelerator can spool them up. And that other essential ingredient of good handling, the steering, is equally well matched to the S1's darty and sure-footed attitude.

While an unashamed driver's car, the S1 is happy to take others for a ride in its easy-entry rear cabin. Obviously rear passengers have to share a door with those sitting ahead of them but as both front seats slide forward smoothly then return faultlessly to their previous setting this is no hardship.

Built-in outer armrests, nicely angled seatbacks and sloping seat bases maximise comfort as well as providing decent lower back support. Add to this foot room for XXL shoes, air between heads and the roof, and good views out. However, before you dish out invites note that the rear cabin is strictly for two, as confirmed by two of everything; seats, headrests and belts.

Hot this hatch undoubtedly is but that doesn't stop it also being practical to boot there's easy access through the wide rear hatch (capped by a distinctive spoiler) and it's easy to load, courtesy of a floor that sits level with the rear sill. With rear passengers on board there's 210 litres for your luggage; but fold down the 60:40 rear seatbacks and that quadruples to a versatile and unexpectedly accommodating 860 litres. Beneath the floor you'll find the S1's battery, a First Aid pack, and a tyre repair kit.

Audi's premium hot-hatch, the S1, will keep you smiling whether it's sun or sleet even the latter won't cramp its wieldy all-weather handling. And while it lists at £25K, tick away at the options boxes and you'll need to find £30K before driving it home. Not that you'll begrudge a penny of it.

Audi S1 2.0 TFSI quattro | £25,555
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 5.8 seconds | Test Average: 38.3mpg
Power: 227bhp | Torque: 272lb ft | CO2 162g/km