Audi has a fascinating history in rallying, with a back catalogue full of turbocharged, all-wheel drive tearaways. With a compact footprint, a big engine and, you guessed it, all-wheel drive, our S1 has all the makings of another classic. But does it deliver?
This is a Cars We Own diary for our own Audi S1. Think of it as a rolling logbook, a little window into life with the cars in the CarAdvice stable. You’ll find the most recent entries at the top, and the older instalments at the bottom.
Expect to see monthly updates from here on out. They might be longer, more in-depth breakdowns of specific trips, or sentence-long snapshots of foibles that have popped up.
Let us know if there you have questions about the cars and we’ll try to answer them. Most of all, enjoy!
Thanos Pappas, HotHatch.com
The Audi S1 is a very hot hatch. Who better to spend some time in our little pocket rocket than the team at HotHatch.com, then?
Thanos: “The S1 Sportback is a very capable pocket rocket that provides powerful acceleration with maximum grip and great handling in all weather conditions. At the same time, it is nimble around the city, however its small boot and tight space for the rear passengers limit its practicality for longer journeys.”
Adam Morris, Contributor
We like the Audi S1, but it isn’t perfect. Adam Morris, our most fashionable presenter, took the keys and put this video together to wrap up what we like (and what we don’t) about the quattro tearaway. Infotainment and rear-seat space are both in the firing line, duck for cover!
Daniel Davis, Reader
Sharing is caring, right? We love the S1 so much, we offered it up to Daniel Davis, a long-time CarAdvice reader, for a week. Here’s what he found, and how the little Audi compares to his E36 BMW M3.
Daniel: “I’ve always been a fan of Audi road and race cars, therefore jumped at the chance to drive the S1…
“I was surprised by how compact the car was, as well as the distinct CarAdvice wrapping. I was also happy to see that the car had a six-speed manual gearbox, as my daily is an automatic. The car is quite rare on Australian roads, so it was great to see the little S1 up close…
“The most enjoyable part was the in gear acceleration of the car and the quattro grip through the corners. The 310mm ventilated disc brakes on the front and 272mm solid discs on the rear were excellent, and I had great confidence in them. The S1 was light and nimble through the corners, and there wasn’t as much understeer as expected.”
Scott Collie, Journalist
Another day, another warning light for our S1. This time, it was coolant. Our resident clueless millennial, Scott Collie, stepped in once again.
Scott: Having topped up the S1 with oil, responsibility for adding coolant fell to me as well. Thanks gang.
At least our office is across the road from a Burson. Having consulted the manual – that’s right, RTFM – and bought the correct fluid ($13 for 1.0L), we popped the bonnet and set about topping up the S1.
Although the lid was hard to open (Kez Casey struggled, too!), the little Audi drank half a litre of pink coolant.
As for why it needed it in the first place? We’re looking into that.
Marika Zhu, Southern Region Sales Director
Marika is the most frequent driver of the S1, making her an authority on what’s good (and not so good) about the little Audi. Although it’s a great little car, it’s lived a hard life at the hands of CarAdvice staff – and that’s starting to show.
Marika: I’m not a fan of the navigation. It’s old, out of date and kinda ugly – and Bluetooth quality is starting to become noticeably poor, especially after sitting in other cars. I feel like I need to speak quite loudly for the other line to hear.
Things are starting to rattle, and the clutch is starting to feel a bit funny compared to our MX-5. I also don’t like how it doesn’t have hill start control.
With that said, it’s still a very entertaining and fun car to drive, practical enough and outside of the infotainment, I like the interior. It still feels very minimal and hasn’t dated too badly – outside of the screen, at least.
There’s even enough space to fit your friends for a short road trip with enough room for them at the back
Scott Collie, Journalist
Volkswagen 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines are known for consuming a fair bit of oil, and our S1 clearly isn’t immune. With an oil light showing on the dashboard, we set about refreshing the lubricant in our all-wheel drive runabout.
Scott: I’d initially intended on moving the S1 out of someone’s way but, when the big ‘Oil Level Low’ message flashed up on the Audi’s instrument binnacle screen, I couldn’t resist taking a look at the dipstick.
Good thing, too, because it didn’t paint a pretty picture. Although there was still some oil in the car, the level had dropped well below the acceptable range.
A container of 5W-30 oil ($62) and a funnel ($4) were promptly bought, and 1.5 litres of Fuchs finest synthetic lubricant poured into the thirsty Audi’s belly. Correct lubricant levels restored, the oil light promptly disappeared.
The car started running better after the top-up, with a smoother idle the most noticeable change.
James Wong, Journalist
The S1 is small and grippy, making it the perfect car to take along the Black Spur. James spent New Year’s behind the wheel of our pocket rocket, and had some fun in the process.
For the New Year’s weekend I chose the S1 as my getaway chariot, and headed to Lake Eildon where a close mate has a houseboat.
Melbourne to Eildon is one of my favourite drives because it has such a mix of different roads, including a stint through ‘The Spur’ north east of Melbourne.
Over my time at CarAdvice I’ve spent plenty of time in the S1 and it never ceases to amaze me just how much fun this little thing is to drive. It’s so nimble and has oodles of grip courtesy of its quattro all-wheel drive system, and the 2.0-litre turbo has so much grunt for such a small car.
I managed to fit my luggage for the weekend in there with no issues – though I did travel alone – and despite a bit of tyre roar on coarser surfaces, the S1 didn’t really put a foot wrong.
The design is still a highlight for me too, it’s cute and compact while also looking tough and muscular with those large 18-inch wheels and massive quad-tipped exhaust out the back.
For singles or empty nesters, the S1 is a fantastic hot hatch that does the job in town and in the country.
Tegan Lawson, Contributor
We’ve all been there. You’re reverse parking, probably in a rush, when *BANG* you slam into the gutter and redecorate a wheel. What comes next? We took our pocket rocket to a wheel repair shop to find out.
Tegan: “I’m sure most of us have, at one time or another, misjudged a corner or failed to see a pothole and heard that horrible graunching sound. Yes, you’ve just decorated your alloy wheels with gouges and scrapes, possibly even dents and cracks.
“The CarAdvice office runabout is an Audi S1 with 18-inch wheels. Someone, who shall not be named (and no, it wasn’t me), managed to give one of the wheels a bit of a knock, so we dropped into Wheel Repairs Centre Sydney to find out what they can do and how they do it.”
James Wong and Mandy Turner, Journalist and Podcast Host/Road Tester respectively
He might be all grown up now, but James Wong was a stick-shift virgin when he arrived at CarAdvice. Shocking, right! With Mandy Turner as his passenger and God as his witness, a younger, sprightlier JWo welcomed the S1 to our garage with a bunny-hopping, traffic-stopping lesson between Melbourne and Sydney.
James: Considering all the flack I’ve copped over the last six months for not being able to drive a manual, I was really keen to get behind the wheel of the CarAdvice Audi S1 and spend some quality time in a car where I had to shift gears myself.
The S1 would also be the first manual car that I’ve driven that wasn’t an off-roader or dual-cab ute. What an honour.
As a ‘beginner’ in terms of my manual driving skills, the short throw helps to make shifting gears that little bit less stressful, though the light clutch can make it difficult to gauge where the friction point is.
The lack of a hill-holding function also means I really struggle to launch smoothly on inclines because the sudden roll back freaks me out – but we’ll get to that.
Mandy: Driving the S1 is made all the more fun with the six-speed manual transmission, with each gear slipping into place with ease. Cruise control was incredibly reliable and trustworthy, sometimes only adding about 1km/h onto the speed when going downhill.
Away from the straight stretch of freeways, the S1 eats corners for breakfast and produces a cheesy grin from the driver, especially when Sport mode is engaged.
Audi’s claimed combined fuel economy is 7.1L/100km and we achieved exactly that, with an average speed of 96km/h. Its 45L fuel tank was filled only twice during the trip.
As an introduction post (with two authors!) this story is a bit longer than average. Check it out here.