I have owned my Audi S1 Sportback for two years. At the time of purchase, its natural competitor set included the Subaru WRX, Volkswagen Golf GTI, Volkswagen Polo GTI, Ford Fiesta ST and the Renault twins, Clio RS and Megane RS.
The Audi S1 comes equipped with the 2.0L EA888 Gen 3 with the Golf GTI turbo. From a reliability standpoint at the time, the Audi S1 was very appealing. However, the downfall of the S1 is the limited boot space. With the quattro differential in the rear there is no spare tyre, only a tyre repair kit. However, you are rewarded with a slick manual gearbox and an exciting platform.
My S1 has no performance pack, which comes with 215/40 R17 wheels and are wrapped with Continental Premium Contact 2, which were very quiet but left me thinking that there is more chassis than tyre.
I upgraded the tyres to Bridgestone S001, which came standard with the performance pack 225/35 R18 wheels. The R18 wheels have the same width as the R17 (7.5) so you can fit 225s if you wanted to.
Upgrading the tyres reveal a chassis that is highly stable in long, fast sweeping corners. You get a sense of rotation in the rear, which is then subdued by acceleration as the rear of the car settles. The rear can come out if you lift off the accelerator or tighten the steering but the ESP will catch you as the car senses the slip.
I have found the ESP to not be overly intrusive in ‘on’ mode. There are three modes for ESP (on, sport and off). the car enjoys being thrown around corners and when the quattro system is utilised during exit, especially during the wet with sport mode on.
I wish the car had an individual mode. The exhaust baffles are only open when Dynamic mode is chosen. However, Auto is quick to respond and is ‘good enough’.
The car is well damped, even in Dynamic mode. It won’t crash and has plenty of travel but you will not be pleased when you are on a road with frequent joints. Dynamic mode is liveable and is a blast to use on a nice piece of road. The body control is night and day compared to Comfort.
I have read a previous review about grabby brakes and that it is difficult to heel-and-toe but let’s be honest, you don’t need heel-and-toe during daily driving… During enthusiastic pace driving, heel-and-toe is easy and natural with this responsive and eager engine. The brakes are amazing, easy to modulate and durable for fun driving.
This manual transmission is more sensitive to inputs compared to a Subaru WRX, which to me makes the car more engaging and makes me a better manual driver.
Ground clearance on the car is superb. I get more ground clearance than a Hyundai Elantra off driveways due to short overhangs in the front and rear.
I have found the fuel consumption to be exactly what Audi claims the numbers to be. After 30,000km, I am still achieving 9.0L/100km combined.
The washer fluid capacity is limited. Fuel capacity is 45 litres, and I roughly average 450-500km per tank before I really need to fill up. The car is more responsive and torquier with 98 RON, as sensed by my butt dyno.
The cockpit of the car is spacious (well, it feels spacious) and features logical placements of buttons. The infotainment is a generation or two behind the latest models.
Front sensors do not come standard in basic trim. I enjoy the fact that you can turn off the MMI screen between the rev counter and speedometer and focus purely on driving.
The sound system is adequate if you do not care much for music in fine detail. A BOSE system is an upgraded option, which comes with nice lights surround the speakers.
Technology-wise, it belongs in the 2005-2010 era. No adaptive cruise control, self parking, hill hold assist (yes, that’s right, you need to use the handbrake for hills!) or Android/Apple OS.
As a couple with no kids, I have had no issues with grocery shopping. When required, the seats fold almost flat, which makes the space more useable. The seats themselves are supportive. They are not comparable to the Recaro pews found in the Ford Focus RS or STi but they do a fine job in holding you in place.
I have size 7.5 shoes and the footwell room next to the clutch pedal is minimal. If you have size 10 shoes or larger, you may want to reconsider. The foot rest in this location has no plastic/metal cover, just carpet. I think this maybe due to the location of where the exhaust is and the fact the car was originally designed for left-hand drive.
The fit and finish is top notch, being an Audi product I have not had any rattling issues from the interior compared to say, VW/Japanese products that I have owned previously.
In my opinion, this car is the better alternative to the Golf GTI and Polo GTI if you want refinement, engagement (let’s be honest there are a lot of DSGs out there), power and traction but only if the boot size and the size of the car itself suits your lifestyle.
If you want to modify the car, you will need to upgrade the clutch and intercooler as a minimum. There are minimal aftermarket parts for this car in Australia. The tyre dimensions are unusual on this car, which can limit your choice. I haven’t been able to find a set of Michelin Pilot Super Sports or Yokohama tyres without modifying the speedometer.
The base model looks can be fly under the radar. A an additional wing can be installed, with 18-inch diamond cut rims, which I would like to note are costly to repair compared to standard alloy.
This car always puts a smile on the face. As a driver for enjoyment (not track or to the limit), the car definitely delivers.
Note: stock image used for illustration purposes