Ride and handling
The broken, lumpen B-roads around evo’s Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire homes have exposed many an oversprung performance car over the years, but the S1 absorbs the endless bumps sweetly and without deflection, keeping its four contact patches firmly in touch with the tarmac.
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Even in the stiffer damper mode – which is part of the standard-fit Drive Select system – there’s enough pliancy; in fact, for the extra body control it also delivers it becomes the default setting for spirited driving, regardless of the nature of the road surface.
There is never any real sense of connection through the steering wheel, but it is at least devoid of the unpleasant stickiness that afflicts some other fast Audis. The wheel itself could perhaps reach out an inch or two further towards the driver and the seat is mounted too high by the same amount, but these are minor criticisms of an otherwise welcoming driving environment.
That four-wheel-drive system brings boundless traction at corner exit, but it doesn’t add any other dimension to the driving experience. The S1 will never take an oversteer stance under power, instead firing away from corners without a hint of wheelspin. The chassis does respond to lifts off the throttle mid-corner, making the S1 adjustable and entertaining in the manner of a true hot hatch.
The very best small hot hatches, though – namely the Fiesta ST and 208 GTi – are even more engaging to drive because there’s yet more inherent adjustability and agility in their chassis. They don't have the wet weather ability of the Audi, driving only the front wheels, but both have an addictive immediacy that the Audi can't quite match, even if it'd be nicer to live with every day.