In the last 2 years sales of Audi S, RS and R8 sales has risen from 3% of total yearly sales to a healthy 14%. This year that number will undoubtedly jump again, and you can be sure the new Audi S1 Sportback will play a pivotal role in the growth of the brand’s performance vehicle range moving forward – largely due to price.
Last Friday, for the first time in Australia, Audi introduced a performance vehicle starting below the $50k mark, making it the most accessible Audi sports vehicle to date. Whilst it doesn’t stay below $50k for very long it introduces the Audi performance range to an affluent young professionals market, a market they hope will get a taste for the sports pedigree and upgrade to RS and eventually R8 in the future.
Despite being instantly drawn to the ‘Vegas Yellow’ S1 (there’s also a bright green model on the way) I ended up in a Grey coloured example before setting off for the picturesque Hobart coastline to test the 170kw Quattro hatch. It’s instantly obvious that the car has been designed to appeal to a younger market with funky appointments of colour and materials throughout the cabin. Thankfully these vibrant additions aren’t just design gimmicks and blend seamlessly with the luxurious (and surprisingly spacious) surrounds. The seats are very good, at least they were for me. I thought they were a great balance between performance seat and practical everyday comfort after 2.5 hours on the winding Tasmanian roads.
As you might imagine in a car this size the 2.0 TFSI is quick, and hoot to drive. The turbo charged engine propels the 1340kg car to 100km/h in just 5.9 seconds, making it the fastest hatch in its class. Selecting the car’s ‘Dynamic’ drive mode stiffens the variable dampers and adds some theatrics to the exhaust note via a sound actuator. The Quattro all wheel drive system and the S1’s dynamic drive mode make for a potent combo of power and balance – the S1 also sits 25mm lower then the normal A1 with the S Sports suspension providing added poise on the road. The 6 speed manual gearbox (there’s no auto model coming to Australia) makes for an exhilarating drive and there’s certainly no lack of torque, which is delivered virtually absent of torque steer. Dial it back, flick on the 465 watt 10 speaker Bose stereo option and the S1 is a comfortable highway car capable of 7.1km per 100km.
Looks wise I think the design team has hit the nail on the head with the S1, not that I saw one without one of the three extra packages available. Customers have the choice of customising their orders with one or more S Performance ($4990), Quattro interior ($2490) and Quattro exterior ($3990) packages. The model we tested on the way home was fitted with all the trimmings including 18inch wheels, Xenon headlights, roof spoiler, Quattro logos, Nappa leather seats and of course the flat-bottomed steering wheel (among other things) bringing the price up to a hefty $57,620.
The S1 is an exciting car no doubt, but let’s be honest, you’re going to want all the trimmings and that’s going to push the car much closer to $60k then $50k. That being said a dux nuts example of the Mini Cooper S is going to set you back a similar amount and I think the fresh faced four door S1 will attract a host of young drivers who are tired of the Mini’s design – its certainly got my vote.