The Audi S1 is the baby of the German manufacturer's S family of sports models, but beefed-up to make it a super supermini.

It takes this small hatchback from an appealing £14,000 to eyebrow-raising £24,000 and skywards, sailing over £30k for the model on review here with all its extras on board.

But for that you're getting a little car that, according to the spec sheet, will speed to 62mph in 5.8 seconds - the sort of speed that would bother the Porsche Boxster and leave many hot hatches eating proverbial dust.

The Audi S1 doesn't differ in design too wildly from the A1. If you know what you're looking for, then aside from the S1 badge you'll spot the more obvious differences, such as the silver grille and the four chrome exhaust pipes.

For many, that will be the attraction of the S1. It is, first and foremost, an Audi A1 and it doesn't step away from the neat and tidy design of that car. This isn't about outrageous bodywork, which is why you might fancy showing off with an outrageous colour instead, such as the Vegas Yellow on review here.

Audi S1 review

You might also want to opt for the sporty red brake callipers (£315) paired with the upgraded 18-inch S design wheels (£650) if you're really driving for the sporty kerb appeal, although the 17-inch wheels will likely offer a slightly more acceptable ride. As the ride from the S1 can be rather harsh.

We suspect that, for some, the S1 will be about showing off. For those who really want to push the boat out, there's the option to add £1,250 worth of exterior styling via the Quattro package. For others, however, the S1 is a subtle hot supermini, without the aggressive styling you might find elsewhere.

Audi is consistent across its cars in offering a high quality interior. There's also a consistency in design, so slip into the driver seat of the S1 and you could be in almost any car in Audi's family, from the A3 to the R8. 

The S1, of course, has the sporty treatment inside, with the S1-branded leather seats (£650) and detailing on the steering wheel, along with the Quattro label on the passenger's side, but there isn't the sort of flair that some models will offer. Aside from those S1 branding points, this is pretty much standard Audi fare. High quality, but standard.

Audi S1 review

The flat-bottomed steering wheel is a good looking optional extra at £250, and for those with longer legs, it may well make an upgrade that's worth paying for, as there isn't an abundance of space in this interior. 

The sports seats provide plenty of support to stop you rolling in those fast corners, and we found them comfortable on longer journeys too.

There isn't a huge amount of passenger space in the rear of the S1. It's a 2 + 2 configuration, with cupholders in the centre rather than a seat, and there isn't a great deal of legroom or headroom for adult passengers, but there's amble space for children.

The small size of the interior means that some things are a little tight to get to. The handbrake is hard to reach when the front centre armrest is down, for example, and we found that we occasionally grabbed for the coffee cup when going to change gear. But on a car this size, that's to be expected: it's not the fault of the S1, per se, more a limitation of the platform.

Audi S1 review

Then again, the armrest is also an optional extra (£125) and therefore something you might happily do without, depending on whether you're looking to keep your hands on the wheel, or if you want to lounge a little more when you're cruising along the motorway. 

There's one upgrade we'd advise against, and that's the aluminium-effect air vent sleeves. This might add a touch of detail highlighting, but we found their reflection was always visible in the wing mirrors, which makes it £100 not worth spending.

Otherwise, the Audi S1 is full of much of the wizardry you might expect. It's a well connected car, with our review model coming with the advanced key option and that push-to-start button. We've heaped a lot of praise on Audi over the past few years for the tech that's available, but the S1 falls slightly short of the best on offer.

Audi S1 review

The 6.5-inch display on the S1 doesn't appear automatically, it's manual - so you have to tap it to open and tap it to close, which lacks the drama of the powered display of the A3, S3 and other models.

It also lacks the quality of some of the larger displays and the £875 satnav upgrade is rather fiddly, with the lack of MMI Touch. We found that sticking with our trusty TomTom offered the better navigation experience, making the upgrade questionable. 

Otherwise there's a suitable level of luxury here if you're prepared to pay for it. Auto-dimming headlights, heated seats, and folding wing mirrors will all cost you, but there's plenty on offer to get the Audi S1 as techy as you like. Those being critical, however, might feel that you don't get a lot for your money: the options list certainly pushes the price up.

But aside from design, the technology and everything else, it's the experience on the road that really has to make the S1 worth its money. It's the delivery of that 231PS from the 2-litre petrol engine, through all four driving wheels using Audi Quattro that makes this a little different. 

That might feel like compensation for the additional price that you're paying for the S1 over something like the Ford Fiesta ST with its front wheel drive. Admittedly, the S1 is around £7,000 more expensive, getting you to 62mph about a second faster.

Audi S1 review

However, put your foot down and skip through the 6-speed manual box and you'll marvel at how Audi has taken its city run-around and given it run-away performance.

There's very little turbo lag as you skip through the gears, but the S1 isn't as noisy as some might want it to be. You don't quite get the growl you might want, but we certainly appreciated the exhaust tone as you hit 3,000rpm. Yes, like many of its breed, this is a car that feels right at higher revs; that's where the fun is, when you're taking it screaming around the place. 

The S1 is sure footed and turns sharply. Passengers told us "it'll do this corner faster" and they were frequently right, as the S1 will almost certainly take those windy country lanes faster than you'll safely let yourself - and certainly faster than you should.

Audi S1 review

There are three driving modes on offer too: Auto, Dynamic and Efficiency. Dynamic tightens the suspension and boosts the throttle response for the most thrilling of drives, but it's pretty harsh on rough roads - you'll feel every bump - sp unless you're driving on a smooth track, you might find Auto or Efficiency is where you spend your time. Efficiency softens things slightly, but you'll always have a tight and sporty ride in the S1, which you'd expect.

There's a lovely weight to the steering so it feels precise and the short wheel base means you get a tight turning circle too, something that will appeal to urbanites. That's one advantage of adapting the A1: it's still easy to handle in tight spaces.

What might appeal a little less is the fuel consumption. We set out from London to the West Country and found ourselves hitting 33mpg average on the motorway (in a loaded car). That's where the S1 will cost you, and given that there's only a 45-litre tank, you'll be spending a fair amount of time at the petrol pump. With a little effort you'll get that figure closer to 35mpg, but no one is going to hand the S1 any prizes for its fuel consumption.


The Audi S1 is all about the fun of driving something that has all the power you could want. It delivers that compact hot hatch experience with all the panache and quality we've come to expect from Audi. 

The price does take quite a jump over the normal A1, though, but you won't get near these specifications in that car: you can't spec the A1 with the S1's 2-litre TFSI engine, for example, nor the regular A3. If you're after this sort of power then you have to take the S1. There are other hot hatches out there, but many don't hit the S1's levels of performance, or price point.

You can get the Ford Focus ST for slightly less cash, even if it's a touch slower. Specified as our S1 review model is, you could also take the excellent VW Golf R as an alternative, which puts the Audi in a slightly awkward place. The performance is great, as is the quality, but you're left with a high performance small car, rather than something that brings the obvious benefits of a little more passenger space, or room for a little more in the boot.

The Audi S1 is a great drive, dripping in quality, with oodles of Audi S performance and the fun that comes with that. Don't be fooled by its dinky dimensions, as it delivers big on the power, but do consider that if you're after a hot hatch, there are plenty of rivals also gunning for your cash.