GET a taste of the sporting life in the Audi S1 Sportback and you'll whet an appetite for a lifetime.
That's the plan behind this new release, which is more wee-weaponry than pocket-rocket.
The new Audi S1 Sportback is the least expensive entry to Audi's "S" performance range at just below $50,000.
Powering the tiny frame is a potent 2.0-litre engine, matched exclusively to a six-speed manual gearbox.
Audi Australia's managing director, Andrew Doyle said this new entry point creates an opportunity to "nurture" buyers into the sport realm.
"Ideally, then we will be able to lead our owners through a succession into other Audis or S and, of course, RS models as well," he said.
Like sitting in business class, slinking into the leather pews comes with a level of extravagance. Yet there are some cues of the S1's market positioning.
Some hard plastics are used, like on the doors, glove box and console, although the areas touched most on the doors and dials are of typically high quality.
Apart from the stand-out circular air vents, the design is modern minimalism, and anyone chasing some extra spunk would be well advised to opt for the $2490 Quattro interior package which adds Nappa leather, glossy coloured console and front seatbacks, along with contrasting steering wheel stitching.
The driver has the trademark Audi concise instrument display, with tachometer positioned left and speedometer right of the digital display. A digital speed read-out is available, which is perfect for quick reference.
Finding a comfy spot behind the wheel is easy courtesy of telescopic steering adjustment, along with an ability to raise and lower the pew.
Rear seat space is tight. Not that you expect too much from this light-size genre but those over 180cm will be scraping the roofline and front passengers need to be wary of sliding too far back.
On the road
Audi has cooked up a fine recipe with the S1: get a lightweight chassis, add all-wheel drive and a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. And they mix well.
Through some interesting Tasmanian roads and during a short stint on Baskerville Raceway the little hatch proved a tasty treat.
Not quite a hot hatch on the boil, but it still feels fresh out of the oven.
That little engine may only weigh 148kg but it packs some punch. It hauls the 1340kg S1 frame with ease, pulling hard from below 2000rpm.
Get things moving, attack some bends and you can slingshot out of a corner with ample torque at your disposal. It's a grippy little thing too, the S1 is beautifully nimble and balanced - about the only time it felt floaty at the back was hard on the brakes while turning in to testing bends (not your usual daily occurrence).
There is ample communication from the steering to generate plenty of confidence and apart from some tyre rumble it sits comfortably at highway speeds.
What do you get?
Among the basic kit is suede and leather seat trim, cruise control, sat nav with a pop-up colour screen, Audi drive select with three different modes, 17-inch alloys, flat-bottom sports steering wheel, stainless steel pedals and a 180 watt 10-speaker sound system.
There are three packages available to improve the appeal inside and out: S Performance $4990, Quattro interior $2490 and Quattro exterior $3990. They provide access to a range of cool kit, like a pumping Bose sound system, bigger alloys, rear spoiler and flashier interior treatments.
Like all other Audis, there is no USB port but rather a plug which requires a special cable to charge and access smartphones as audio devices. That plug is in the glove box which can be awkward to access.
The small centre arm rest does need to be folded upright for ease of handbrake use.
There are just the two cup holders, positioned in front of the shifter and bottle holders in each door.
Boot size is compact; a weekly grocery shop would probably spill over into the back, but the rear seats fold 60:40 for a handy loading option.
While it is a performance model, the engine has won accolades the world over. It's fast yet efficient, and it should still sip less than eight litres for every 100km.
Capped price servicing isn't available.
Neither girly or bursting with muscle, the S1 has a broad appeal. The exterior Quattro package really does amp up the looks if you want to stand out from the crowd.
Men aged 25 and older are a key focus for the S1, but the cute lines and flashy internal options would certainly have ample appeal for those with oestrogen flowing through the veins. Although, it's only available with a six-speed manual which does present a challenge for many ambitious youngsters who seem to shy away from shifting cogs themselves.
At just under $50,000 it's no cheap runabout, and by adding a couple of packs there wouldn't be much change out of $60,000 once on-road. But the Audi badge has plenty of pulling power, and for those who want the "S" badge it's the most affordable one in the range.
Model: Audi S1 Sportback.
Details: Three-door all-wheel drive performance hatchback.
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 170kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 370Nm @ 1600-3000rpm.
Consumption: 7.1 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 5.9 seconds.
Bottom line: $49,900.