Audi S1 2014 sportback 2.0 tfsi quattro

Cars We Own: A week-long fang in the Audi S1

CarAdvice reader Daniel Davis prised the keys from our hands. Here's what he thought.

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Sharing is caring, right? Daniel Davis, long-time CarAdvice reader, recently jumped behind the wheel of our Audi S1. Here's what he thought of the car, in a short-and-sweet questionnaire.

What's your daily driver?

My current daily drive is a 2014 Ford Ranger with the turbo-diesel 3.2-litre, five-cylinder engine. I use the car for my job and find it reliable with loads of torque. I also own a 1994 E36 BMW M3, but I only use it on the weekends.

Why did you want to drive the CarAdvice S1?

I’ve always been a fan of Audi road and race cars, therefore jumped at the chance to drive the S1.

Audi has been very successful at Le Mans, and was a pioneer in introducing all-wheel drive and turbocharging in the World Rally Championship. The only other Audi I’ve driven was the old S5 with the V8 engine and was impressed with the quattro all wheel drive system, so it was great to drive another model from the Audi range.

What was the first thing you noticed about the car?

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.

Could you easily get comfortable behind the wheel?

It was easy to get comfortable behind the wheel and finding an ideal driving position was simple. The leather seats are manually adjustable and very supportive, however I felt like the driver’s seating position is a bit high. The steering wheel has tilt and reach adjustment, and pedal placement is also ideal.

Being such a small car, the rear seat passengers don’t have a lot of head- or legroom. Interior materials are of a high quality, and fit/finish is good.

Was phone pairing easy, and are all the buttons in a logical spot?

All the buttons for phone pairing are in a logical spot, but both my wife and I couldn’t pair our iPhones through Bluetooth. All other buttons and controls are in sensible spots, and I didn’t have any trouble operating the sat-nav or radio. I like the Audi MMI system, and found it easy to operate in general.

Did you find the car comfortable? Why, or why not?

I had the car in dynamic mode for the majority of the time, and in this setting the car had the most throttle response and power however I found the damper setting to be very firm.

On a smooth racetrack the suspension in dynamic mode would be ideal, but over potholes and dips the car was quite unsettled. I didn’t have the car in auto mode for long, but it felt similar to dynamic. In efficiency mode, the car was much more comfortable to drive however there was a noticeable drop in engine power compared to dynamic mode.

The car was better over bumps in efficiency mode and fuel economy also improves. On the road, it would be great to have the engine response you get in dynamic mode combined with the ride offered in efficiency mode.

Did the car seem faster or slower than expected?

The car felt quicker than expected, and I’m surprised it’s not faster than the claimed 5.9 seconds to 100km/h.

I was really impressed with the Audi’s in-gear acceleration and low-down torque, with the car feeling fast and responsive, pulling well from as low as 60km/h in 6th gear.

There was some turbo lag, but once the engine got on boost at about 2000rpm it felt very fast. I enjoy driving these lightweight cars – the S1 weighs 1315kg – with relatively powerful engines.

What were the most and least enjoyable parts of driving the car?

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.

Steering feel was great, but the car seemed to not settle well over bumps in dynamic mode, and I noticed some clutch slip when shifting from third to fourth gear.

How does it compare to your daily driver?

There are many differences between the S1 and my M3. The Audi is a lot newer and has ESP, traction control, Bluetooth and different modes to choose from, just to name a few.

My M3 is a 1994 model, and doesn’t have too many creature comforts with no driver aids available. The BMW is now 24 years old and trim pieces have definitely seen better days. In regards to the driving experience, the M3 feels more composed over the bumps and develops its power higher in the rev range (around 5000rpm) whereas the Audi feels strong from 2000rpm.

The 0-100km/h times on paper are comparable, but I feel like the S1 is faster with 170kW of power and 370Nm of torque. This is 40kW down on the M3, but it has 50Nm more torque – and the S1 is about 150kg lighter. I think that the BMW would have a higher top speed as the Audi has quite short gear ratios.

Where did you take the car?

I took the Audi to some of my favourite roads in the Yarra Ranges including the Healesville-Kinglake Road and Myers Creek Road.

Both of these roads offer a good mix of fast and slow corners, along with some straights. The Healesville-Kinglake Road used to be a real challenge in the wet, but resurfacing has made it a lot safer. It's smooth and wide, therefore you can take the corners with a lot of confidence. Myers Creek Road is a tricky, windy narrow road and therefore needs to be treated with respect, but if you get it right it's very enjoyable

What did you do while you were there?

Driving was the number one priority, and I also got some pictures in Toolangi, Kinglake and Healesville. I hadn’t seen the new SES and CFA buildings in Kinglake so this was a good opportunity to do that.

Did the car suit the roads?

The car did suit the narrow roads, however the suspension setup in dynamic mode was too stiff. On the narrow roads the steering feel was excellent and it was great under brakes. It would be good to test the car in wet conditions to see the benefits of all-wheel drive over my rear-wheel drive BMW.

If you had the money, would you buy one? If not, what would you prefer?

I’m not totally sold on small hot hatches, so I probably wouldn’t buy an Audi S1. It’s also quite expensive compared to equivalent models, and if I was forced to buy a hatch it would probably be the Volkswagen Golf R. The S1 shares the same engine as the Golf R but in detuned form.

Did it meet, surpass or fall short of your expectations?

Performance wise, the car surpassed my expectations, however as mentioned in Dynamic Mode, it seemed a bit stiff over bumps. Turbo lag was also more pronounced than I expected. Steering and braking were excellent, and the car has a lot more steering feel than the hydraulic system in my BMW.

Build quality was good and I enjoyed the interior layout. It's a shame phone connection didn’t work and the clutch was worn after only 50,000km.

What were your favourite parts? Least favourite?

The surge of power from 2000rpm through the rest of the rev range was addictive.

Clutch slip was an issue at times and there was some torque steer under hard throttle. Not being able to pair the iPhone to Bluetooth was also frustrating.

The centre armrest is poorly positioned and has to be permanently up to change gears properly. This coincidentally is also a problem with the M3 that I own.

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