Audi S1 quattro first drive

Audi S1 With five consecutive record years of UK new car sales behind them Audi is now the established leader of the premium car brands.

It doesn’t look as though Audi’s move to the top of the posh brands sales league is a short-term move as their sales for the first third of 2014 are up by 15.5% over the same period last year.

Audi sold a total of 142,040 new cars in the UK last year against BMW’s 135,583 and Mercedes-Benz 109,456. So far this year Audi sales are already 56,724 units and significantly more than their competitors.

The growth of the brand’s popularity can be accounted for in part by the expansion of their model range, 17 to 50 in 13 years – the latest being the S1 quattro three door hatchback and five door Sportback ‘supermini’ sector high performance models.

Audi S1 Audi S1 Introducing the new cars to the motoring media this week Andre Konsbruck, the recently appointed new head of Audi in the UK said, “Our performance is all about ‘real sales’ no distress selling and customers like our strong image for the models we offer ranging from our smallest A1 to our executive limousine A8. For the first time we are bringing our famous quattro brand into the premium supermini sector with these additional S1 variants.”

When the new Audi S1 duo of three door hatchback and five door Sportback quattro ‘supermini’ variants arrive in UK dealerships at the end of May, priced at £24,905 and £25,635 respectively, they will be the only cars of their size to offer 4WD making them the most potent sub-compact currently available claim Audi.

The new S1 takes its name from Audi’s iconic World Rally Championship (Group B) winning car of the mid 1980s with its five cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with power outputs varying from 470 to 590hp and of course with quattro all wheel drive.

Audi sees the competition for the S1 as the MINI JCW, Ford Fiesta ST and Citroen DS3 Racing but realistically in this high performance and expensive sector the VW Golf GTi/R and BMW M135i models will be also be on customer’s radar.

Who will the customers be? Chris Batty, Audi’s UK brand manager for the A1/A8 ranges said, “We anticipate customers will fall into two types. The first being 25 to 35 year old singles or couples buying their first S model which is more affordable than the larger S3 version of the A3 family. The second group of customers will be in the 45 to 60-plus age group, empty nesters that enjoy motoring and probably the S1 will be the second car in their garage.”

Audi S1 As far as UK sales of the new S1 models, as usual for a VW Group family members no forecasts, but it is estimated that 5% of A1 sales in a full year will be for the new S1 quattro models (around 1,200 units) with the three door version being marginally (55%) the most popular.

The A1 range is Audi UK’s second best selling range of cars after the A3. Last year the A1 range achieved around 24,000 UK registrations, a third of them going to fleet and business buyers but the majority to retail customers.

The S1 is an important car for Audi as it will be the first step for many customers wanting something more than a standard performance car. It’s a halfway move before going to the full RS even higher performance versions available on some models in the extensive Audi range. Such is the power output of the S1 and the size of the car that no RS version is planned.

The S1 models are powered by a new 2.0-litre TFSI turbocharged direct injection petrol engine developing 228bhp and 370Nm (273lb ft) of torque from 1,600rpm. Drive is through a six-speed close ratio gearbox with quattro all wheel drive. Top speed is limited to 155mph for both body options and zero to 62mph takes just 5.8 seconds for the three door model and 5.9 seconds for the five door Sportback.

The engine response is well balanced right through the rev range and even at the maximum legal top speed limit there is still much more available in top gear. The engine performed well at low speeds so it is not just a ‘hot hatch’ for the open roads. It coped very well in a refined way with the usual stop-start traffic in urban driving conditions and once the open road appeared it was an effortless matter to get past slower moving traffic in the shortest possible time without having to go through many gearchanges.

Audi S1 Audi S1 Fuel economy is officially 40.4mpg in the Combined Cycle or 39.8mpg for the Sportback. On my brief test drives using winding Cotswold A/B roads the three door model returned 31.8mpg and the Sportback 31mpg. CO2 emissions are 162g/km and 166g/km respectively meaning VED road tax is £180 for the three door and £290 for the First Year rate reducing to £205 for Year Two for the Sportback. Company car drivers will therefore pay 25 or 26% Benefit-in-Kind tax depending on which body option they choose and insurance is Group 33E for both versions.

The quattro system gives permanent all wheel drive traction shuffling the power to the individual wheels with most grip through the electronic torque control system which incorporates a differential lock. The multi-plate quattro system clutch is mounted on the rear axle to aid weight distribution of 60% at the front and 40% at the rear for optimum handling ‘balance’. A new four-link rear independent suspension is used to accommodate the rear elements of the drivetrain.

The S1 is fitted with S-specific sports suspension configured for this supermini sized model and with 2 and 4mm wider tracks front and rear. Damper settings are adjustable via the Audi Drive Select system which appears for the first time on a car in this category. The Drive Select function also allows the driver to vary the response of the throttle and the climate control across a number of settings to refine performance. These settings are Auto, which I found the most useful, Dynamic and Efficiency.

Yes the ride was firm but not uncomfortable thanks to the supportive sports seats and the optional larger 18-inch wheels didn’t appear to compromise the ride comfort or handling. But what impressed me most was the balance of the car, heavy enough at the front to give good steering feedback and sharp-turn in for fast cornering speeds and stable under hard acceleration or braking especially on wet roads.

As standard the S1 has 17-inch alloy wheels with 18-inch ones available as one of the options. The brakes have been uprated over standard A1 models. As you overtake other slower cars the S1 will be recognised from other A1 models by its signature two pairs of twin exhaust chrome tailpipes. For those customers wishing to upgrade the visibility differential still further there are exterior and interior styling packs price at £1,245 and £1,695 respectively. As standard the S1 specification includes S-specific instruments, brushed stainless steel sports pedals, sports seats with part leather and cloth upholstery, electronic climate control, Bluetooth, a colour display screen and driver information system. Being an Audi there are many options ranging from 18-inch wheels, sat/nav, multi-function flat bottomed steering wheel, rear acoustic parking sensors, cruise control and an uprated sound system. On my three door S1 test car which started at £24,905 on-the-road with a range of options the price added up to £28,835 and the similar upgraded Sportback version was £29,455. Big prices for a big performance small car.

MILESTONES: Audi S1 2.0 TFSI quattro 3-Door Hatchback. (Expected best selling version). Price: £24,905 (With options as tested £28,835). Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre TFSI, 4-cylinder, DOHC, petrol direct injection, turbocharger with intercooler, 228bhp, 273lb ft of torque from 1,600rpm, 6-speed manual with quattro all wheel drive. Performance: 155mph (limited), 0-62mph 5.8 seconds, 40.4mpg Combined Cycle (31.8mpg on test), CO2 162 g/km, VED road tax £180, BIK company car tax 25%. Insurance group: 33E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 3,975mm, W 1,740mm, H 1,417mm, boot/load space 210 to 860-litres. For: Performance, balance, grip, image, a good first step to other high performance Audi models. Against: Costly with options, 3-door version has poor rear quarter visibility.    Miles better news agency

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