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Audi S1 Sportback vs. Audi S3 Sportback

Audi A1 Sportback

Audi S1 Sportback

 

If you have been clued into the world of Audi, you'll know that the company introduced a very limited edition Audi A1 Quattro back in 2012. Priced at £41,035 and limited to a production run of just 333 cars, it was a super rare and frankly stunning hot hatch that set the reviews alight.

Keen to give the A1 even more sporty credentials, Audi has now introduced a more mainstream Quattro equipped A1 into the market, and it's called the S1. It follows in the footsteps of Audi's other 'sport' cars, such as the S3, S4, and S5, and like those cars, it promises huge levels of speed combined with huge levels of refinement.

So does it deliver?

Well, let's get one thing out of the way - the S1 costs £25,630 in Sportback guise, which is around the same price as a Volkswagen Golf GTI pre-registered. But the S1 is no Golf competitor, it is in fact in the same class as the Polo, only VW's car cannot get close to the performance figures of the S1. Until, at least, the Polo R is finally available.

Under the bonnet of the S1 is a 2.0-litre TFSI engine that produces 228 bhp and 272 lb /ft of torque, and that is paired with a six-speed manual gearbox. Like all S cars, the S1 was Quattro all-wheel-drive, which in this car is achieved with a Haldex-style electro-mechanical multi-plate clutch.

The result of this power and traction is a 0 - 62 mph time of 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.

To put that into context, the Audi S3 will complete the 0 - 62 mph sprint in 5.2 seconds and reach the same top speed. A Volkswagen Golf GTI will go on to the same top speed, but can only manage the 0 - 62 mph sprint in 6.3 seconds - and that's with the Performance Pack.

Make no mistake, then, that the Audi S1 is a very fast car. In fact, there is no hot hatch in its segment that can match its performance figures, and it'll even whip cars like the Vauxhall Astra GTC VXR in a straight line.

When it comes to handling, the S1 is as slick as you'd expect it to be. It weighs just 1340kg and combined with its all-wheel-drive system, that means almost limitless grip and real chuckability. It lacks the steering feel of a Ford Fiesta ST, but it is an extremely good car when the speeds start to climb.

And then, there's the refinement. This is an A1, remember, which means hardly any road or wind noise and a top quality cabin.

The outright speed, combined with the quality cabin and technology, makes the S1 a tempting car for almost anybody. But can it sway potential S3 owners away?

Audi A3 Sportback

Audi S3 Sportback

 

The Audi S3 Sportback has an on-the-road price of £31,120, which is around £5000 more expensive than the S1.

This car, however, sits in the segment above the S1 and the increase in size, and quality, will justify the extra outlay for most people.

But with the S1 offering such a compelling drivers package, is it worth buying the S3 just for when the roads get twisty?

The new S3 is based on the new A3, which is among the best cars in its class. The A3 benefits from a class-leading cabin and refinement, and the S3 is no different - sitting in the S3, you'd be forgiven for thinking you're travelling in an sporty A7. It is just that nice an interior.

This refinement shows against the S1. The S1 is based on the A1 which is a few years old now, and it simply cannot match the S3's poise. The S3 glides over bumps and deals with potholes like you would expect a £30,000 car to, despite the lowered suspension and the grunt under the bonnet.

The S3 is powered by the same basic engine as the S1, only in the S3 it has been tuned to produce a thumping 296 bhp and 280 lb /ft of torque. Despite the increase in weight over the S1, the S3 is the faster car on paper, with a 0 - 62 mph time of just 4.8 seconds with the S Tronic gearbox, and 5.2 seconds with a six-speed manual.

Out on the open road, though, you only really notice the extra grunt of the S3 at higher speeds (think, above 70 mph). Sure, the S3 will gain a car length to 70 mph, but around town the light-weight S1 feels just as fast and in cities and towns, how fast are you going to be going anyway?

To answer the question above, about whether it is worth buying the S3 over the S1 for when the roads get twisty, then, I'd say no, it isn't. But that's only half the story. You see, the S3 is a much better everyday car.

For a start, it has a 380-ltre boot that can be extended to 1,100-litres, versus the S1's 267-litre boot space that can be extended to 920-litres. Front and rear leg room is also much better in the S3 and the interior is a much more comfortable place to be on longer journeys.

At the pumps, there isn't much difference. The Audi S1 will return a combined fuel economy of 40.3 miles per gallon versus the S3's 40.4 miles per gallon, which is rather incredible, given the the S3 is a bigger car and a much more powerful one too.

Overall

Both of these cars are very tempting, and in some ways, I can see why an S1 Sportback might appeal to the S3 Sportback buyer - it's just as fast in most circumstances and it is a top quality machine. But, there's no denying the extra grunt of the S3 at motorway speeds or the gorgeous interior and the better practicality. 

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