Car review: Audi S1 is a super firecracker in a pint-sized package

The Audi S1 hot hatch is highly responsive to steering and throttle inputs, and has seatbacks that are colour-coordinated with the exterior paintwork. -- PHOTO: AUDI
The Audi S1 hot hatch is highly responsive to steering and throttle inputs, and has seatbacks that are colour-coordinated with the exterior paintwork. -- PHOTO: AUDI
The Audi S1 hot hatch is highly responsive to steering and throttle inputs, and has seatbacks that are colour-coordinated with the exterior paintwork. -- PHOTO: AUDI
The Audi S1 hot hatch is highly responsive to steering and throttle inputs, and has seatbacks that are colour-coordinated with the exterior paintwork. -- PHOTO: AUDI

The Audi S1 is proof that big performance can come in a pint-sized package

Audi used to have a model called the S1, which terrorised the rallying world in the 1980s as one of the fearsome Group B rally cars.

The S1 you see here shares the same name as that remarkable 600bhp rally machine, but they are unrelated.

Instead, the new generation S1 is the spiritual successor to the A1 quattro from 2012, which is the most powerful A1 ever made, with 252bhp and a limited production run of 333 units.

The S1 looks less aggressive than the limited edition A1 quattro, but it still has plenty of racy exterior accoutrements, which include two-tone 17- inch alloy wheels, quadruple exhaust tailpipes and an outrageous rear spoiler.

Inside the cabin, the seatbacks are colour-coordinated with the exterior paintwork - Vegas Yellow in this case.

Under the bonnet of the S1 is the same 2-litre turbo engine found in the Audi S3 and Volkswagen Golf GTI.

It develops 231bhp and 370Nm in this application, which is considerable when shoehorned into a "matchbox" hatchback.

It begs to be unleashed on twisty back roads, but even on the motorway, the S1's smooth and flexible power delivery means I can take every opportunity to experience the engine's riotous nature and nice noise.

As expected of a pint-sized, short- wheelbase hot hatch, the S1 is immensely nimble when the roads tighten up.

Extremely responsive to steering and throttle inputs, this Audi is far sharper than the S3 or even the TT coupe. The harder the car is pushed, the more rewarding is my experience behind the wheel.

The S1 carves up the wet, often icy roads around the Munich countryside with reassuring sure-footedness.

Traction is never an issue, even in treacherous motoring conditions.

This vehicle is everything I love about good, old-fashioned driver's cars, starting with a proper manual gearbox. There are niggles, though, such as a bone-jarring ride in Dynamic mode and a set of over-servoed brakes.

But still, the S1 might be Audi's most grin-inducing production model today.

Too bad the firecracker will not be imported into Singapore, even though it is available with the steering wheel on the right. This is because the S1's estimated price here will be close to Audi's $246,000 S3.

stlife@sph.com.sg

The writer is a regular contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.