Mark Jones
Road Test Editor
3 minute read
12 Dec 2014
4:00 pm

Audi S1 joins the hot-hatch war

Mark Jones

The hot-hatch war in South Africa rages as fierce as ever, with almost every serious manufacturer playing in this segment.

A pricey buy but perfect for lovers of the marque. Picture: Supplied.

One just has to look to the car clubs and related forums online to see that every weekend there is a battle of some sort to prove who has the quickest hatch.

And now Audi SA has brought their S1 and S1 Sportback to do battle here and fuel the fires even further, albeit in limited numbers. There are only 75 cars confirmed for next year, with a potential further 25 available, should those sell out fast.

Audi have certainly given the compact car the right stuff to deal with the battles it faces out on the road or the track. You have a detuned S3 2.0 TFSI engine doing duty and this sees a nice 170kW of power along with a strong 370Nm of torque being fed via the six-speed manual transmission (no S tronic version is available) to the Quattro all-wheel drive and onto the tar in a fuss free manner.

Audi claim the S1 and the S1 Sportback sprint to 100km/h in 5.8 and 5.9 seconds respectively while on the way to an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. And I have to say that on my brief drive on the roads around Kyalami, the S1 felt very much up to this and accelerated strongly in any gear selected.

At the heart of its Quattro system is a hydraulic multiplate clutch located on the rear axel, along with an electronic differential lock with fine-tuned wheel selective torque control that forms part of the functions of the Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC).

The suspension on the cars has been extensively revamped and now features a four-link design at the rear, along with electromechanical power steering that has also been newly developed. You also get the Audi drive select dynamic handling system that allows you to change the response of the engine and the dampers.

These systems combined well, especially on the track, where the S1 could be flicked into a corner nice and early and then powered out hard without the dreaded understeer commonly associated with all-wheel drive cars when pushed to their limits. It made for a seriously enjoyable car to drive.

Was there a downside to all this performance? Yes, I have to say, one: the exhaust note was completely disappointing. From inside the car you could barely hear you were covering ground at a serious pace.

With regard to its looks, the S1 ticks all the boxes and carries what should be the new look of the face-lifted A1 that will reach us early next year. The xenon plus headlights are all new, while the LED rear lights come with new, horizontally structured graphics. A host of details on the front and rear bumper, the side sills and the exhaust system boast a more striking style.

The same high-quality theme continues in the interior of the S1 and the cars feature the likes of S1 specific door sill trims to a standard flat-bottom multifunction steering wheel and S-specific instrumentation along with stainless steel pedals and footrest.

Audi is a premium brand, so you get to choose from a host of added cost options if you want to make your car look special and, of course, the products themselves are not exactly at the budget end of the market. And at the kind of money being asked for the S1, no matter how much I enjoyed the car, I can still honestly only see Audi enthusiasts queuing up for this one.