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Icon Buyer: new Audi S1 or used Lancia Delta HF Integrale?

Published: 23 September 2016

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Audi built its quattro legend during the 1980s World Rally Championship, but when the top-tier Group B category was cancelled in 1986, Audi quit WRC for good. Not so Italian rival Lancia, which developed its all-wheel-drive HF Delta for the new Group A rules. Group A cars were less spectacular, but with 5000 examples mandated – not the 200 exotics demanded by Group B – the link between road and stage was stronger; it was easier and cheaper to get the next best thing on your drive.

Today, Integrale values start from £10k, typically span £20-£50k, but can reach £100k. Meanwhile, the new Audi S1 retails from £24,730, and quattro is standard. Tickled with a few options, our car nudges £30k. It made us wonder if a genuine WRC homologation special with values on the rise could actually be a wiser investment than an all-new Audi with only the most tenuous links to Welsh forests.

Integrale: a quick history

The Integrale bloodline starts with the Delta HF turbo and 4WD, progresses to the Delta HF Integrale (the first Integrale, yours from £10k) with wider arches, then a 16-valve version (£15-£20k) and onto the highly desirable Evo 1 (£25-£40k) and 2 (£40k and up). But Final Edition models are the Holy ’Grale, 250 run-out cars delivered to Japan in 1995. Owner Simon Russell has kindly loaned us his.

Inside the Integrale's cabin

It’s a great-looking car, the beefy spec crammed into a 4 hatchback body like too many clothes stuffed in a suitcase. The arches are stretched to house wider wheels and track and give more suspension clearance; the bucket seats allow my six-one frame an inch of headroom; and the 215bhp 2.0-litre turbo is wedged under the bonnet – and ahead of the front axle – like a map of the London Underground in an undersized frame.

The Integrale is not an intimidating drive: the steering is a little slow but nicely assisted, the gearchange long-ish of throw but slick to slot, and although the brake pedal has a little too much dead travel, you can smooth the downshifts with some heel-and-toe magic like you’re Miki Biasion charging the Col de Turini. Fractious ride, though.

The Integrale’s engine flat-lines below 3000rpm, but when the turbo kicks, it punches the car to 6000rpm with surprising ferocity. Naturally, all-wheel drive provides massive traction, and even feels sure-footed during the deluge we experienced. Use that traction, keep it lit, and this is still a quick car, its on/off delivery making it feel far punchier than a contemporary E30 BMW M3.

Audi S1 on the road

The 228bhp Audi S1 is similarly boosty, and while it is more tractable, you still get that kick above 2000rpm. Switch to Dynamic mode and the throttle becomes keener, the rasping, slightly shunty delivery more intense. Flick through the slick six-speed ’box and you’ll arrive at Z before the Lancia’s even found B.

Adaptive dampers are standard-fit on the S1 with two modes: too firm and a bit firmer. Our car has the optional 18s, so the extra suspension movement in Efficiency mode is essential. Pity you can’t configure an Individual setting, matching the intense throttle with lighter steering and softer suspension.

Audi S1 interior

On twisty British tarmac, quattro feels sure-footed but responsive and adjustable too; you can balance it on the edge of adhesion and shift the torque around with your right foot. In Dynamic mode with traction control off, it’ll even powerslide out of wet T-junctions.

And of course it’s an easier daily drive than the Integrale. Looks a bit plain in white, though – the funky contrast roof and Design pack is probably a good idea – and the infotainment lags way behind the Virtual Cockpit available in the Audi TT.

Servicing and running costs

Auto Integrale near Reading (beenhammotcentre.co.uk) recommend an oil service for both 8- and 16-valve models at 9000km/annually for £144 all in. A full service is due at 18,000km/24 months for £396. The cambelt should be changed every three years or 20,000km for £384.

Audi owners can choose from fixed (10k annually, harder use or city driving), or flexible servicing (18k annually, lighter use, non-urban driving). Based on fixed servicing and average main-dealer rates, you’d pay £137 (1yr/10k), £258 (2yr/20k), £281 (3yr/30k), £258 (4yr/40k), £200 (5yr/50k); with a flexible plan its £223 (1yr/18k), £258 (2yr/36k), £544 (3yr/54k).

Adrian Flux Insurance quotes £250 fully comp for the Audi, £140 the Lancia for a 40-year-old male with a clean licence.

Reliability

Auto Integrale highlight corrosion as the Integrale’s biggest bugbear, with front chassis legs, rear inner arches, rear cross members and sills being key areas. Also check the front scuttle panel and rear roof section, and look for stress cracks on the A- and B-pillars. Common mechanical issues include gearbox bearings and oil leaks. Replacing gearbox bearings costs £1014. Oil leaks are typically traced to upper sump gaskets or head gaskets, with sump gasket replacement £834. Exhaust manifold studs are drilled through the oil ways on 8-valve models, and oil can leak down the studs’ threads. You’ll notice a burning smell. Turbo seals can fail on all models. Let the car idle for 15 minutes, and look for exhaust smoke. A replacement turbo is £880. 16v models also suffer from camshaft lobes wearing completely away. The car will still run fine unless two lobes on one cylinder have disappeared. Be warned: all Integrales use about one litre of oil every 1000km, so can run dry between services, causing most engine failures. Check regularly!

Listen for a knocking under the front floor on Evo models. The drop-links that locate the anti-roll bar regularly wear out, costing £270.

The Audi comes with a three-year/60k miles warranty, but owners can extend to four years/75k (from £235 for a basic A1) or five years/90k miles (from £500). Visit audi-extendedwarranty.co.uk for a quote.

Key options

The Audi’s options list goes on like the credits of a Hollywood blockbuster. Various packs bundle related options together. The exterior styling pack (£1245) brings xenon lights with red highlights, red brake calipers, roof spoiler, quattro logo on body side, 18-inch matt black alloys, aluminium-look splitter. If you don’t spec the pack, 18s are a £650 upgrade over 17s. The Comfort pack (£525) adds parking sensors, cruise control, auto-dimming mirror, auto wipers/lights; Design pack (£845) includes panoramic sunroof, LED interior lighting, light/rain sensors, electric mirrors, tints. The Tech pack (£1495) brings HDD nav with Audi Connect, including wi-fi hotspot, and online traffic updates. Sports seats are £600, plus £650 for Nappa leather, or get the interior pack for £1695, which bundles high-gloss centre console, Nappa leather sports seats, with high-gloss shells, flat-bottomed steering wheel and more. Brilliant black is the only free colour, everything else £390, with Vegas Yellow £475, and huge range of ‘exclusive paint finishes’ £1840. And there’s much more…

Specialists Auto Integrale say options for Integrale Evo models were restricted to 15mm lowering springs and a quick-shift gear lever with carbon surround.

Lancia Delta Integrale or Audi S1?

Verdict

Similar power, similar weight, four-cylinder turbo power, all-wheel drive… Both Audi and Lancia share much, but they’re quite different propositions, and mostly your own circumstances will dictate your purchase.

As a second car, I’d go for the Lancia, because it represents a time when WRC cars shared much more with the cars in the showroom, and we’ll – sadly – never see their like again. I love the looks, the tech and the competition pedigree, and it’s highly likely values will rise. But you’ll need to use an Integrale sparingly and maintain it religiously, and it’s clear that two decades after being dubbed the ultimate point-to-point machine, the Lancia is now easily shaded by the Audi. The S1 doesn’t just have a more powerful engine and broader powerband, its chassis lets you stride away from the Lancia whatever the conditions. Then there’s the great lease deals, the service intervals and warranty, the build quality…

If it’s your only car, the Audi’s the only choice. Just don’t expect it to pull your heartstrings like the ageing Italian.

Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione 2 specs

  • Price From £40k (Evo 1 £25-£40k)
  • Engine 1995cc four-cylinder 16-valve turbo, 215bhp @ 5750rpm, 220lb ft @ 3500rpm
  • Transmission Five-speed manual, four-wheel drive 
  • Performance 0-60mph 5.7sec, 137mph, 23.9mpg
  • Suspension MacPherson strut front, independent rear
  • Weight/made from 1300kg/steel
  • Length/width/height 3900/1770/1365mm
  • On sale 1991-1995 (Evo 1 and 2 models)

Audi S1 specs

  • Price £24,730
  • Engine 1984cc 16v turbo four-cyl, 228bhp @ 6000rpm, 273lb ft @ 1600-3000rpm
  • Transmission Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive 
  • Performance 5.8sec 0-62mph, 155mph (electronically limited), 40.3mpg, 162g/km
  • Suspension MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
  • Weight/made from 1315kg/steel
  • Length/width/height 3975/1740/1417mm
  • On sale Now

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I own one!

Lancia Delta Integrale Evo 2 Final Edition: Simon Russell

‘I own a Final Edition Integrale, one of the last 250 models that all went to Japan. This is my fourth Integrale, and I’ve also got a 16v model that I use more regularly. I got hooked watching them on the RAC Rally as a kid. They’re reliable, but they need to be used and maintained regularly. I take mine for an annual check-up at Auto Integrale, and get the cambelt swapped every two years. Electrics can be temperamental – get the bunting out if every dial and light is working – and parts can be expensive: it’s a grand for a bumper.’ 

Audi S1. No RS1, yet...

Audi S1: Ron Cole

‘I optioned my S1 to £28.5k with Comfort pack, contrast roof, heated seats, folding mirrors, hill-hold assist, storage pack and 48-month warranty. 17-inch alloys take the edge off the stiffer suspension. Cardiff Audi dismissed an annoying rattle as a ‘trait’, but Tim the service test driver diagnosed faulty rear suspension top mounts. I love the car. It’s quick, chuckable and rides very well. I’d just prefer more involvement through bends. Insurance is £334, I average 30mpg, and it’s a bargain on Audi’s Solutions PCP at £268 a month.'

Read more CAR comparison tests

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

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