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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Taking the softer option with dynamic little pocket rocket

First Drive: Audi S1 Sportback

Published 06/08/2014 | 00:00

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Audi S1 Sportback
Audi S1 Sportback interior

I don't often take the softer option in cars. I usually like to have the suspension, throttle, engine at their sportiest settings.

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But I have to admit I went from Dynamic to Auto on this pocket rocket from Audi sometimes.

That is either a criticism of the car or the result of the roads I travelled.

Maybe a little of both?

Maybe, but I'm going to blame the roads though I have often felt that the tuning of the suspension in the S1's first cousin, the A1, is sporty enough for most people.

The S1 is a fairly ordinary looking car, I have to say. I'm not a fan of the A1's muted looks and the S1, despite flashes and badges here and there, doesn't do that much more.

I shouldn't say things like that really because I forgot all about how it looks from the moment I got in behind the flat-bottomed steering wheel well. Frankly, looks don't matter when you drive this.

The 2-litre that develops 228bhp, the chassis and the 'go on, go on' engine note take all your attention.

With quattro permanent all-wheel drive I had no hesitation in driving it to the red line (you can do that without breaking speed limits) and tucking it into corners.

They say you'll get 7.1 litres of fuel every for 100 kilometres (162/ 166g/km - €570 road tax). You won't unless you parsimoniously defy the reason the car was made.

It clung like glue to the line of steering, betraying only the slightest little bit of rear-wheel give under heavy pressure. Fun.

It's a small car yet it is so well set up to take the energy of the power, it never once felt skittish or out of its depth.

The revised suspension front and back (four-link) kept it flat and accountable.

The S1 and my 5dr Sportback shoot from a standing start to 100kmh in 5.8 and 5.9 seconds respectively. I have no reason to doubt them because, thanks to excellent gear change (6spd manual), it just propels itself.

Huge brakes tamed it and Xenon-plus headlights helped get me through a wet, dark evening (LED rear lights have new, horizontally structured graphics).

I must say I was impressed. But the demure looks still don't appeal to me at all. Especially for something that costs €36,970 (€37,570 Sportback) on-the-road.

That's touching MINI Cooper S JCW pricing.

But fair play to them for managing to get the sort of room in the back that they have in this small car. MINI most certainly do not have it.

Ah! Who am I fooling? I'll never buy a car like this.

But, by golly, I sure enjoyed the thought of it for a few days. It is possibly the best of its kind. It's a cliché to call it a pocket rocket. I'll take the softer option and call it a great little car.

Irish Independent

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