Welcome to summer 2021. Not exactly balmy, is it? With Caterham Sevens and Lotus Elises still tucked up warm and snug in their garages, we need something more predictable and watertight for our B-road antics in the coming months.
How about the S1? Packing the Volkswagen Group’s 2.0-litre EA888 turbo engine, this hot A1 arrived in 2014 as Audi’s answer to the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI.
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With a bespoke quattro four-wheel drive system, the S1 can put down its 228bhp effectively whatever the weather. And with 272lb ft of torque, it can hit 62mph in less than 6.0sec.
There’s no sporting variant of the current second-generation A1, and it’s very rare for cars of this size to be equipped with such a complete four-wheel drive system. This fact, partnered with its high original launch price, means the S1 only looks all the more appealing today.
We’ve got our eye on this five-door S1 Sportback quattro in Competition trim and decked out in striking Misano Red. While the car’s infotainment system is now showing signs of its age, the interior quality is high and the original owner’s generosity with the options list means there’s cruise control, parking sensors and high-beam assistance. Plus you get the standard LED headlights, Bluetooth and climate control to play with.
This 2017-reg example has 46,000 miles on the clock, which is certainly nothing to worry about, especially as it comes with a full service history and has recently passed an MOT test.
If you want supermini levels of urban manoeuvrability combined with the open-space flamboyance of a full-sized hot hatchback, not to mention an upmarket interior and badge, then the S1 is really quite a compelling option.
Max Adams: It’s funny that we should both pick 2.8-litre BMWs, but I’m afraid mine is much more of a classic in the making. Just look at this distinctive roadster and tell me you aren’t seduced. Not possible. Also, there’s no rot to be found in its shapely form.
FP: I was about to mock your Z3’s notoriously leaky soft top, but then I read that it has been replaced. This is a tough battle, then, but as a passable impersonator of the never-born E36 M3 Touring, I think mine is better tipped for classic status.
MA: BMW has tried and failed with multiple M estates in the past. It’s not meant to be, much like the classic status of all non-M E36 variants. Meanwile, the Z3 has the benefit of film star status: James Bond once drove one, don’t you know.
FP: I think you will find that most car enthusiasts are ecstatic at the prospect of the new M3 Touring arriving next year. This E36 just has the advantage of being about a twentieth of the price.
MA: And having a fiftieth of the performance potential, no doubt.
Verdict: Why leave the family out? I’ll take the 328i Touring.