Audi's European-market Mini fighter, the A1, is selling more slowly than expected. It's the most expensive and the only premium iteration of a platform that is shared with mundane vehicles like the Škoda Fabia, the SEAT Ibiza, and the ubiquitous VW Polo. When we drove it last summer, we were impressed by the A1's handling and composure, but there is no denying that the VW Group offers cheaper ways to enjoy a similar level of driving pleasure. The quickest A1, powered by a turbo- and supercharged, 185-hp, 1.4-liter gasoline four, is only a symbolic five hp more powerful than its Fabia RS, Ibiza Cupra, and Polo GTI siblings. The Audi reaches 62 mph in 6.9 seconds, and its top speed is an ungoverned 141 mph, but a mere five hp aren’t going to pull it ahead of the other three.
With the upcoming S1, Audi will put its pedestrian sister brands in their place. Thankfully, its platform is flexible enough to accommodate something a little larger and more powerful than the complex 1.4-liter Twincharger engine: the turbocharged 2.0-liter TFSI shared with the VW GTI. When the S1 goes on sale in 2013, its version of VW’s vaunted four will make in the neighborhood of 225 hp. With Quattro a certainty and a six-speed dual-clutch transmission likely, the S1 should catapult to 60 mph in less than six seconds, which would put it ahead of even the Mini John Cooper Works. Top speed will be in the vicinity of 150 mph.
From the outside, the S1 will be distinguished from the regular A1 with a GTI-like wide-set dual exhaust system. The 185-hp A1, by contrast, features two tailpipes clustered on the left side of the rear bumper. LED taillights like those seen on the prototype captured here will be standard, and larger brakes also are a given.
The S1 won't be cheap. At around €30,000, it will be more expensive than the bigger VW GTI (which starts at €27,275, or about $38,500, in Germany), but then it also will be more powerful and feature all-wheel drive. For most customers, it won't stop there, though: Audi may not sell as many A1s as it would like, but the equipment level on each example is, on average, unusually high. Smiling executives tell us that the countless individualization options generate handsome profits.
Of course, we can always wish for even more. The 2.0-liter can be tweaked to produce close to 300 hp; if an S1 is in the works, what about an RS1? It shouldn't be ruled out, we are told. That’s very good news for Europe, but irrelevant for us. While we are scheduled to get the next-generation A1, this one isn’t in Audi’s U.S. plans—and that means no S1 or RS1, either. Here’s hoping that the hotter versions of the A1 sell well enough to ensure that they get a next generation, too.
Thanks to: Car and Driver