The Audi S1 Sportback is the hottest member of the new A1 lineup. This hot-hatch is the real deal, with the sprint from zero to 100 km/h taking only 5.9 seconds – that was big petrol V8 territory not that many years back. Though we should point out the little Audi has the advantage of being driven through all four wheels. But where the big V8 would have been turning petrol into tyre smoke at the start of its sprint the Audi has instant grip from all four tyres.

The Audi A1 is already a pretty little hatch and responds well to the sort of dress-up you anticipate in an Audi S model. Our test Sportback was finished in Misano Red metallic paint (a $990 added cost) plus quattro exterior and interior packages. It had a front bumper with a spoiler lip in aluminium look, xenon-plus headlights with red trim, a quattro roof spoiler, quattro badges on rear doors, and 18-inch wheels in five-arm design, the latter being in matte black and partly polished.

Topping off the S1 Sportback were a contrasting black roof and black boot lid.


The interior featured S sport front seats in Nappa leather with back-rest cover in black, again there was a quattro logo. Black centre console, door armrests in black with contrasting stitching, flat-bottom leather wrapped sport steering wheel with S-specific stitching, air vent sleeves with red inner ring and floor mats in black with contrasting double piping. Air vents were in high-gloss aluminium with red inner ring.

All great dress up items – but they didn’t come cheap. Though the S1 technically sells for under $50,000 (plus on-roads) our test car was on the high side of $60,000. Still that’s the way the big name Germans make their money and most buyers are well aware of what is happening.


The Audi S1 is powered by a high-performance four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine pumping out 170 kW of power and up to 370 Nm of torque. After getting to 100 km/h in under six seconds, the S1 Sportback will move onto a governed top speed of 250 km/h should you be on a racetrack or enjoying driving in the Northern Territory.

On the subject of the NT, it’s interesting to note that the section of road with no speed limit has been extended after it was found that no crash fatalities due to incorrect speed have been recorded since the 130 km/h limit was withdrawn.

We were delighted that our test car had a slick shifting six-speed manual gearbox – this is definitely the sort of car that attracts those who enjoy doing their own driving. Audi’s famed quattro all-wheel drive system directs power variously from 60 per cent to 40 per cent between the front and rear wheels according to traction needs.

The 6.5-inch colour screen provides high resolution images. Standard in the S1 Sportback is the top-of-the-range Audi MMI (Multi Media Interface) with navigation plus. It has two SDHC card readers and uses a Bluetooth interface and the Audi music interface to connect phones and mobile players.

The system comes with a DVD player and a voice control system that accepts navigation addresses as well as radio, media and telephone functions.

Our car had an optional Bose surround sound system with an output of 465 Watts driving 14 speakers including a subwoofer. We loved the LEDs and light guides that illuminate in white the surrounds on the front woofers and mid-range speakers.

Should you manage to misuse the inbuilt safety features of quattro all-wheel-drive there is super suspension and handling, big brakes and built in electronic traction aids to keep you out of trouble. You will be pleased to know that the hot little Audi S1 has received high marks in official safety testing and easily gained five stars.

Audi A1’s suspension has been reworked for use in the S1 and the electro-mechanical power steering provides excellent road feel, at the same time taking less power from the engine to drive hydraulics.

The Audi dynamic handling system comes with a range of settings; Efficiency, Auto, Dynamic to vary the response of the engine and the variable shock absorbers. Even the engine note is tuned to suit – no marks for guessing the Dynamic mode got the biggest workout during our test week.

If you’re going to drive fast it’s good to have brakes to match. The S1 has a larger master cylinder and discs than the A1; red calipers with S1 lettering were one of the options on our car. We also had the optional 18-inch alloys in place of the standard 17s.

During the media launch of the S1 we used Baskerville Raceway in Tasmania to really push the Audi S1 Sportback to the limits of grip under safe conditions. It has huge levels of grip, telegraphs its behaviour to you via the steering and through the seat of your pants, and is easy to bring back under control if you do get over enthusiastic. Simply brilliant.

Officially the fuel consumption of the S1 Sportback is just 7.1 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle. In real life, admittedly with a fair bit of verve in our souls, we used from nine to twelve litres per hundred kilometres in hard country driving, with similar numbers on interesting country roads. On the motorway we did manage to get under seven litres per hundred without too much effort.

A high-performance Audi can be yours for a little over $50,000 if you can avoid getting over enthusiastic when ticking options boxes. The prestige of a German car for not much more than a similar Asian one could see the S1 Sportback high in the sales list.


Audi S1 Sportback 2.0-litre turbo-petrol quattro five-door hatch: $49,900 (manual)
Note: Thisprice does not include dealer or government charges. Contact your local Audi dealer for driveaway price.

ABS Brakes: Standard
Automatic Transmission: Standard
Cruise Control: Standard
Dual Front Airbags: Standard
Front Side Airbags: Standard
Electronic Stability Program: Standard
Rear Parking Sensors: Standard
Reversing Camera: Standard
USB/Auxiliary Audio Inputs: Standard
Satellite Navigation: Standard
Bluetooth: Standard
Steering Wheel Mounted Controls: Standard

SPECIFICATIONS (Audi S1 Sportback 2.0-litre turbo-petrol five-door hatch)

Engine Capacity: 1.984 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 9.3:1
Bore/Stroke: 82.5 x 92.8 mm
Maximum Power: 170 kW @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 370 Nm @ 1600-3000 rpm

Driven Wheels: AWD
Manual Transmission: Six-speed
Automatic Transmission: Not offered
Final Drive Ratio: 3.944

Length: 3975 mm
Wheelbase: 2469 mm
Width: 1746 mm
Height: 1423 mm
Turning Circle: 10.6 metres
Kerb Mass: 1340 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 45 litres
Towing Ability: Not supplied
Boot Capacity: 210 litres (860 litres with rear seatbacks folded)

Front Suspension: McPherson struts with lower wishbones, anti-roll bar, track-stabilizing steering roll radius, steel subframe
Rear Suspension: Four-link rear suspension with separate spring/shock absorber arrangement, subframe, anti-roll bar
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Solid disc

0-100 km/h Acceleration: 5.9 secs

Type: Petrol 98RON
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 7.1 L/100km

Greenhouse Rating: 7/10
Air Pollution Rating: 7.5/10

Three years / unlimited km

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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