Audi S1, motoring review: Britain's clogged roads are no place for this pocket rocket

 

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Price: £24,900
Engine capacity: 2.0-litre petrol
Power output (bhp @ rpm): 228 @ 6,000
Top speed (mph): 155
Fuel economy (mpg): 40.3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 162

Britain is a busy place. There is a massive road-building plan in the offing, with the Government considering resuscitating long-dead motorway expansions. These so-called "zombie roads" will, we are told, be part of a £24bn road-building programme.

I am a big subscriber to the "if you build them, they will come" philosophy though, and if George Osborne does really cut some dosh free to fund these new road schemes, they are almost certain to get clogged up with cars quickly. We are a small island after all and last year alone we bought 2.26 million shiny new cars to fill up our traffic jams.

The new Audi S1, a four-wheel drive pocket rocket, is designed for speed and twisty roads, not to sit in traffic. It might come in a tiny package – this is Audi's smallest car – but the crowded South-east is no place to test a sure-footed beast like this which, thanks to its punchy 228bhp engine, will hit 60mph in just 5.7 seconds.

Sure enough, last month the wide A-roads and hopefully empty B-roads of the Welsh/English border country beckoned. I was returning from a job in Pontypridd and had the luxury of a free afternoon, a fast motor and 200 miles of country lanes ahead of me before I hit Southern traffic.

To be clear; I'm no speed demon. I enjoy the scenery just as much as a sweetly executed turn or perfectly timed downshift. Speed isn't the aim. Nonetheless, the S1 is blisteringly fast. Its four-wheel drive system allows you to speed off so rapidly that you have to remind yourself to lift off before blasting past the speed limit. And in the bright yellow of my test car, even a distracted policeman will spot you before you get a chance to test the brakes, which in all likelihood are sharp enough to stop a train.

The real problem though was that my carefully planned drive through supposedly empty rural Wales and England only resulted in one 15-mile stretch where I was briefly free of road works and lumbering farm traffic.

This S1 is sublime, it's just that in Britain today, there are few places that you can really use it to its full potential. It seems the days of tracking down an open road are numbered. Perhaps they'll return after Boy George or the next guy covers the country in concrete, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want that. I think I'll just slow down and enjoy the view.

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