Garage

The 300 SRT hits the drag strip and auf wieder­se­hen Audi’s S1

Motor (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

IT WAS a risk for Audi to agree to let us spend six months be­hind the wheel of its S1 hot hatch. At the time it had just lost a com­par­i­son to the Volk­swa­gen

Golf R and then had a solid, if un­spec­tac­u­lar, show­ing at Bang

For Your Bucks. Our gen­eral feel­ing to­wards the S1 was that it was a good car, but a lit­tle on the pricey side for the per­for­mance it of­fered.

But the S1 per­fectly en­cap­su­lates why we do long-term tests. In the cold, ob­jec­tive en­vi­ron­ment of a re­view or com­par­i­son test, any car’s faults are brought into sharp fo­cus. Which is as it should be; ev­ery­one wants to know what the best car is in ab­so­lute terms.

Over the course of six months, cer­tain strengths and weak­nesses pop up that aren’t al­ways ap­par­ent in the one or two days of a reg­u­lar road test. Take the S1’s price for in­stance. At $49,900 it’s a fair wedge to be­gin with, but add the 18-inch wheels from the ex­te­rior pack­age and con­trast­ing black roof that’s re­ally needed for it to look its best and you’re look­ing at $54,610.

In a di­rect com­par­i­son that’s bad news as there’s plenty of other faster or more prac­ti­cal choices at the same price point. That said, hav­ing lived with the S1, I’m not sure the price is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant. This is a very small car with a lot of en­gine and a man­ual gear­box; no one is buy­ing one be­cause they need it, they’re buy­ing it be­cause they want it. As long as it de­liv­ers what it prom­ises on the box, those keen on the idea of a tiny hot hatch are prob­a­bly go­ing to be pretty pleased.

And it does. You may be able to buy more power for your dol­lar, but thanks to 370Nm from the 2.0-litre turbo four, the S1 never felt short of poke. I still think it should have the full 210kW S3 en­gine tune, but that’s more be­cause it kind of an­noys me that Audi went out of its way to de­tune the S1 rather than any per­for­mance short­fall.

Its dy­nam­ics are equally im­pres­sive. Its size makes it re­ally chuck­able and the chas­sis is j-u-s-t keen enough to keep you en­ter­tained. Trac­tion is bril­liant, yet it still man­ages to avoid feel­ing too fron­twheel drive, which is a com­mon prob­lem with a lot of Haldex-based all-wheel drive sys­tems.

Its diminu­tive di­men­sions were one of its best as­sets. We live in a so­ci­ety

where big­ger is al­ways bet­ter, but be­ing able to slot through gaps in traf­fic and squeeze into park­ing spa­ces aban­doned by the SUV bri­gade con­stantly proved help­ful.

Ob­vi­ously, the com­pro­mise is less in­te­rior space, but trans­port­ing four adults was never re­ally a prob­lem for most jour­neys and with the back seats folded there’s plenty of room for lug­gage. You can even fit a full­size bi­cy­cle in the back, though it does re­quire some fairly ex­pert ma­noeu­vring to do so.

A day on track left the brakes feel­ing in need of a ser­vice and an al­loy wheel bore the scars of a park­ing mis­ad­ven­ture, but as you’d hope from some­thing with a four-ringed badge, noth­ing fell off or broke and there was no sign of wear from the in­te­rior.

The Audi S1 is go­ing to ap­peal to a very spe­cific buyer, but that per­son is prob­a­bly go­ing to be very happy, as it’s small, fast, stands out and has a pre­mium feel. It’s been an en­joy­able six months and while I wouldn’t buy one my­self, I can to­tally un­der­stand why some­one would. –

Its diminu­tive di­men­sions were one of its best as­sets

Fans of a gear stick will apre­ci­ate that the S1 comes so­ley as a six-speed man­ual

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