Joel Helmes road tests and reviews the Audi S1 Sportback.
The hot hatch market in 2015 is almost as keenly contested as the race for buyers in the small SUV category!
With plenty of choice and a number of different configurations available, if a sporty five-door hatch is on your agenda then there are a number of cars to test drive.
One of those vehicles that needs to be on your list is this new 2015 Audi S1 Sportback.
Just the one configuration is available, even down to there being just the one transmission choice – six-speed manual. The Audi S1 Sportback is priced from $49,900.
Naturally, when it comes to five-door hatchbacks with spirited performance, the Volkswagen Golf GTI comes to mind, though the most accurate comparison between the two comes with the S1 up against fellow all-wheel drive variant, the Golf R.
The manual version of the Volkswagen offering starts from around $2,700 more than the Audi.
Featuring a 2.0 litre turbo-charged engine that produces 170kW and 370Nm, the Audi promises a 0/100km/h sprint in 5.9 seconds and claimed combined fuel consumption of 7.1L/100kms. I averaged around 8.3L/100kms in a week of city driving.
For the record, the VW gives 206kW/380Nm a faster 5.2 0/100km/h sprint and combined fuel use of 7.3L/100kms.
Time to focus on the Audi S1 Sportback though and a great place to start is the ride and handling, both of which really impress. Nimble in the bends, while sporting low-profile tyres all round, the S1 Sportback delivers a surprisingly comfortable ride too.
There are three different drive modes; even in the sportiest ‘Dynamique’ setting the little Audi provides one of the best ‘all round’ suspension and chassis set-ups getting around.
Matched with the quattro all-wheel drive system there’s never an issue getting the healthy amounts of power to the ground.
Being a turbo-charged engine the S1 Sportback gets most exciting when the revs are up, especially beyond around 2750rpm.
To be honest though I was just a little disappointed at the get-up-and-go provided by the Audi. Sure, it moves along nicely, just at times though I thought there might be just a little more excitement delivered.
The six-speed manual transmission is nicely matched to the torque and power of the engine and the shift-feel is rather sporty.
Same goes for the steering, really nicely weighted and direct and with an adequately small turning circle – it’s hard to find too much to fault with the Audi S1 Sportback drive experience.
Inside the cabin you really can feel fairly quickly that this is the smallest model in the Audi range.
While front legroom is alright, a low roofline and particularly cramped dimensions for any rear-seat passengers makes you feel quite claustrophobic.
I did have the need to transport three other adults in the Audi S1 Sportback and we really did get to know each other a whole lot better!
Boot space is also what you would describe as minimal, though perhaps a little longer than you may expect.
Underneath the boot floor you will find a first aid kit, the battery and a tyre inflation kit that comes instead of a spare wheel/tyre.
Everything in the cabin fits really nicely, the materials and surfaces are all top-notch and I loved the S1 Sportsback’s flat-bottomed steering wheel.
One thing that I definitely wasn’t a fan of was the front seat buckles.
Located really low-down beside the seat and without the usual ‘moveability’, getting your hand down around that low, especially around the centre arm-rest, is an awkward and frustrating experience each time you buckle-up.
Standard features in the Audi include 17” alloy wheels, cruise control, sat-nav, LED daytime running lights, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, cruise control and an in-built hard drive to save your music on.
Take note though, the car that I had was fitted with the optional S Performance package – this brings the sports seats and larger 18” alloys, as well as upgraded stereo system and the painted brake calipers, all at a $4,990 price premium.
Disappointingly though, a reverse camera is not standard, though you do get rear parking sensors.
If you want push-button ignition and keyless entry then you need to pay an additional $670 for the Convenience Key option.
Summing it up; The 2015 Audi S1 Sportback scores points for the quattro all-wheel drive drive-train, as well as the solid and well-balanced chassis, and ultra-impressive ride and handling.
I was a little disappointed that a few extra features such as a reversing camera and push-button ignition aren’t standard – at about $50,000 I’m expecting both and both would really help finish this package.
The operation/location of the front seat buckles drove me a little bananas too! And I cant’t help but take a way some points for the cabin space, particularly what is offered to those who have to sit in the back.
The Audi S1 Sportback is well worth a test drive though, especially for people who could survive with the capacity of just a three-door hatch.
If not, then options such as the Volkswagen Golf R might be worth a closer look – especially given that the VW also delivers more power and torque and comparative fuel consumption too.
NUTS and BOLTS – 2015 Audi S1 Sportback
Engine: 2.0 litre turbo-petrol producing 170kW and 370Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual (only)
Safety: Five star
Warranty: Three years
Price: From $49,900