Riding into the increasingly heated hot hatch space is this yellow pocket rocket, the new Audi S1. No, this isn’t a revival of the fire-spitting Group B rally car from the 1980s this abbreviation is famous for, but rather a hot four-wheel drive version of the A1. While not quite as potent as the 256 PS A1 quattro, the S1 will be the sportiest variant of Audi’s little runabout to be produced in significant numbers.
Available in three-door and five-door Sportback forms, the S1 can be differentiated from the regular A1 through larger front air intakes, a jutting chin spoiler, trademark silver side mirrors, flared side skirts and a rear diffuser complete with quad tailpipes. Meanwhile, the sharper head- and tail lights are expected to filter down to the facelifted version of the regular A1.
The S1 rolls on 17-inch wheels, but 18-inch ones are available as an option. A quattro styling package will also be offered, adding further aggression to the car’s looks, including a bigger rear spoiler and subtle ‘quattro’ logos ahead of the rear wheels which are obviously meant to hark back to the original Audi Quattro.
Inside, changes are limited to a more sculpted steering wheel, an S1-badged instrument cluster, stainless steel pedals, sports seats (more bolstered S sport seats with integrated headrests are also available as an option) and a ‘quattro’ badge ahead of the front passenger. As with the exterior, there will also be a quattro interior styling package, which adds a flat-bottomed steering wheel and gloss colour-coded trim pieces.
Powering the Audi S1 is the ubiquitous Volkswagen turbocharged 2.0 litre TFSI engine that also sees service in the Golf GTI. In this application it produces 231 PS and 370 Nm, propelling the car from 0-100 km/h in 5.8 seconds (5.9 for the Sportback) on its way to a top speed of 250 km/h. The engine will be mated to a six-speed manual transmission; there’s no mention of a dual-clutch transmission being offered so far.
Of course, the main technical statistic that truly sets the S1 apart from the rest of the A1 lineup is the quattro permanent all-wheel drive. The system varies the torque split continuously via a hydraulic multi-plate clutch on the rear axle, while the Electronic Stabilisation Control (ESC) system is also used to lock the differential electronically by braking the inside wheels when cornering.
Elsewhere, the suspension and electric power steering has been revised, including the fitment of modified pivot bearings on the front axle to improve steering response. A multi-link rear suspension setup replaces the torsion beam unit from the standard A1.
Variable dampers are fitted as standard, the Audi drive select system controlling the suspension stiffness as well as engine response. Also included are a larger brake master cylinder and larger brake discs (310 mm at the front).
The Audi S1 is expected to share a lot of its components with the upcoming Polo R, including its engine and four-wheel drive system. The car will make its motor show debut at Geneva Motor Show next month, possibly alongside the facelifted A1 as well as the next-generation TT.