Audi: 2015 S1 Sportback review

Audi: 2015 S1 Sportback review

The term pocket rocket has been applied to many small hot hatches, but none have been more deserving of the title than the new Audi S1 Sportback.

Here is a compact turbocharged four-cylinder 2-litre all-wheel-drive city hatchback with a six-speed manual transmission that will accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds.

2015 Audi S1 front on The 2-litre TFSI engine produces 170kW (231hp) of power and 370Nm of torque but will return 7.3L/100km on the combined cycle. Theres is only one gearbox option and thats a six-speed manual transmission, which will delight the driving purists amongst us, and annoy the wannabes who can’t handle one!

The S1 Sportback has become the flagship of the A1 Sportback model line up in New Zealand, adding a $59,900 entry-level version to the portfolio of Audi S models, joining the S3, S4, S5, S6, S7 and S8.

It sits 25mm lower than the standard A1, and theres a number of 2015 Audi S1 rear hatchcosmetic differences to the front and rear bumpers, side sills and exhaust system which tell you this is no ordinary A1 compact hatch for the supermarket and school run.

It’s not the first S1 Audi either, that nomenclature belonged to the 1985 Audi Sport Quattro S1 which was shortened version of the 1980 A1/A2 Quattro coupe developed as a homologation car for Group B rallying.

Road-going versions of the turbocharged five-cylinder 2.1-litre S1 produced 225kW, while competition cars had the wick turned up to 330kW! Only 224 cars were produced for sale at a price tag of around 204,000 German marks.

2015 Audi S1 rear 3:4French rally driver Michele Mouton took victory at the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb in the S1 Quattro in 1985, setting a record time in the process and further sealing the reputation of Audi’s prowess in producing high performance all-wheel-drive cars.

Spec

2015 Audi S1 Front seatsThere is a high level of standard equipment in the S1 Sportback, but naturally being an Audi, there are a number of option packs prospective owners can tick off.

Your $59,990 buys four individual sports seats, with lumbar support for the driver and front occupant and the upholstery is a comfortable mixture of leather and cloth.

There’s also a 3-spoke flat bottomed multifunction steering wheel, as well as automatic air conditioning, Audi Concert audio system, auto headlights, LED daytime running lights, cruise control, Audi drive select including hydraulic damper control, electrically adjusted and heated mirrors, LED rear tail lamps, rear parking sensors, auto dimming mirror, Blue tooth phone preparation, xenon plus headlights, and 18 inch alloys on 2015 Audi S1 rear seats225/35/R 18 tyres.

Our car was fitted with the $5000 quattro exterior styling package which provides the double rear spoiler, the red trim in the headlights, the red painted brake callipers, the black ‘quattro’ decals on the rear doors, and the aluminium-look front spoiler lip. The contrasting black-painted roof and arch is additional $1000.

The MMI Navigation plus with front and rear parking sensors included is $3500.

And if the standard interior isn’t quite ritzy enough for you, the optional $4500 quattro interior styling package adds Nappa leather S sport seats with coloured back rest covers (in black, yellow, or red!), a centre console in black, red, or yellow high gloss finish, armrests in Nappa leather in the same colour as the seats with contrast stitching, black air vent sleeves with red inner ring, and black floor mats with double piping.

Inside

Our test vehicle arrived without the quattro interior styling 2015 Audi S1 dashboardpackage, and to be fair we didn’t really miss it as the standard S1 interior is more than comfortable and extremely well put together and finished as you would expect of an Audi.

The latest crop of Audi’s have moved to a far more refined minimalist look with smooth high quality dashboard and door card surfaces, stylish but functional cylindrical air vents, theres 2015 Audi S1 rear hatch opennothing gratuitous or unnecessary, its function over form but elegantly executed.

The MMI controller is located on the dashboard above the heating and ventilation controls, rather than on the central console as is found on larger Audi models, but its easily used and becomes second nature. The Audi drive select button is found below the heating controls, alongside the rear screen demise button and the buttons to disconnect the ESP and parking sensors if needed.

We liked the standard sports seats with a mixture of cloth and leather trim and the contrast red stitching which is also found on the steering wheel, gearshift leather gaiter, and handbrake grip, as well as the floor mats. Its a nice subtle touch that lifts the sombre Germanic interior.

Considering the colourful exterior of our test vehicle, the standard S1 interior feels very premium, if a little bit dull, and 2015 Audi S1 side on viewthe red contrasting stitching certainly lifts it.

Power

The S1 Sportback shares the ubiquitous Volkswagen Group EA888 2-litre direct-injection turbocharged engine with the Volkswagen R and the new Audi TT, which is tuned for this 2015 Audi S1 front 3:4 levelapplication to produce 170kW and 370Nm, and thankfully Audi worked on developing a new electromechanical power steering system and also developed a new rear suspension package to harness that power to the road.

Audi changed the rear suspension from a torsion beam set up as found in the A1, to a four-link axle system in the S1, and the quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system has a hydraulic multi-plate clutch located on the rear axle, which can when required send 50% of the engines output to the rear wheels if required.

This will work in tandem with an electronic differential lock which is a function of the electronic stability control – the system will apply the brake to an inside rear wheel in conjunction with the multi-plate clutch which Audi claims is an interaction that makes for extremely agile, precise and stable handling.

The car is fitted with the Audi drive select system, offering dynamic, efficiency, and automatic modes and the name of each mode pretty much sums up what is on offer.

Experience

The S1 Sportback is a car that requires a driver who is sympathetic to a compact city hatch that has as much power and torque on hand as a much larger car, such as a performance edition Golf GTI. Most folks won’t drive it at ten tenths and those that do will find the S1 does have its ragged outer limits, even with the best of electronic interventions.

I have to admit that every time I got into the S1, I just wanted to explore the performance envelope, and I have to say that its best to leave the car in automatic or efficiency mode which will reward you with reasonable fuel economy, but still allow you to open up the taps when necessary.

My partner began to accuse me of “driving the car as if you’d stolen it” because I was really enjoying the cars chuck-ability as well as its penchant for leaving larger vehicles gasping in its wake.

Dynamic mode was just too firm for many New Zealand back roads, I found myself almost being pitched out of the drivers seat as the ride across some (admittedly pretty lumpy and awful) local roads was just way too firm, and the car turned into a bump-steering rebounding handful. This mode is best employed on a closed circuit in my opinion, where smooth asphalt won’t upset its equilibrium or the drivers.

Around town, the S1 rewards with nimble and nippy handling, its responsive to the steering wheel and has plenty of grip around corners, but there is just a little bit of turbo lag occasionally at the bottom end of the rev range, but this is soon overcome.

The six-speed gearshift is one of the nicest I have come across in a while, but I’ll qualify that by saying its very rare to get a manual press car these days, even the Utes and Vans are now supplied with automatic transmissions, such is the era we live in.

Verdict

It’s not going to be every ones cup of tea, and for nearly seventy grand as tested, there are other performance hatches out there offering just as much bang and ability as the S1 Sportback for far fewer bucks.

However there is a market that knows what the four-ring brand is all about, and thats exclusivity, performance and desirability with a proven rally heritage.

The 1985 Audi Sport quattro S1 was a car that you grabbed by the scruff of the neck and drove like you had stolen it, and the 2015 Audi S1 Sportback is not that much different.

Vorsprung durch Technik (advancement through technology) indeed.

Price as tested: $68,490

Pros:

  • Great package for an experienced driver
  • German engineering and build quality

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Dynamic mode too firm for New Zealand roads

Words and pictures:

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