For a couple of years I knew exactly why cabriolets are so popular, despite our less than ideal climate. My everyday transport was an Audi
While the number of times I actually drove with the roof down were relatively few, it is those occasions that stick in my memory.
Inside a conventional modern car we are so cut off from the real world, cocooned in our air-conditioned, sound-proofed box. In a convertible, however, you really feel much more part of the world you are driving through.
In town you even catch snatches of conversation from the pavement, as you fight the temptation to start singing along with the radio. Even without doing the latter, you may be aware that you are much more on show than in a conventional hatchback or saloon.
Head out into the country and you feel much more connected to nature. You not only see the wildlife, you can hear it. And you can smell the countryside.
If you drive through a conifer plantation and you do actually smell the pine. That’s nice. But, I shall never forget driving through Texas on Route 66 in a convertible Mustang. We drove through the centre of what seemed like a never-ending cattle station…
But, back to the positives. I recall my Audi A4 Cabriolet being comfortable, refined and practical. Have these attributes transferred to the smaller Audi A3 Cabriolet?
Style is likely to be one of the “must have” attributes for anyone interested in the cabriolet market and the A3 Cabriolet ticks that box. If you think of the A3 only as a hatchback, you might wonder how well it looks as a “soft top”. Well, as you can see in my impressions of the Audi S3 saloon
, it makes a stylish transition to a booted saloon very well. To my eyes its transformation to a convertible is equally successful.
Audi has stuck with a traditional hard-wearing fabric roof for the A3 Cabriolet, rather than heavier folding metal roof favoured by some other manufacturers. It’s a neat design and takes just 18 seconds to lower or raise the roof and it can be done at speeds up to 31 mph, should you suddenly get caught in an unexpected shower. The roof on Sport or S-line versions (and optional on the SE) has a more sound absorbent construction to reduce noise levels.
One of the attractions of cabriolet versions of mainstream models is that they offer greater accommodation than a two-seater or 2+2 convertible. While the front seat passengers have good space, as you might expect with the smaller A3, the rear seats are a bit of a tighter fit and probably most suitable for children.
Like its hatchback and saloon siblings the new A3 cabriolet is built on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform and makes use of aluminium to reduce the overall weight, in the on-going quest for ever-greater fuel efficiency, lower emissions and more nimble handling.
My test car was the Audi A3 2.0 TDI Sport Cabriolet. This is the latest incarnation of the tried and trusted two-litre diesel and it performs well – as the 8.9 second time for the 0-62 mph sprint might suggest. As expected there is also ample torque at 236 lb/ft.
If you do a lot of mileage, this could well be the power unit of choice. But, the normally subdued diesel engine note is inevitably more noticeable with the roof down, which is one reason why I would probably opt for either the 1.4 or 1.8 TFSI engines.
The price of the Audi A3 2.0 TDI Sport Cabriolet starts at £27,820, but there is the usual Audi tempting list of options. The Driver Assistance package (£1,300) offers adaptive cruise control, Active Lane Assist, High-beam assist and parking system. The Technology package (£1,495) adds HDD-based Satellite Navigation Plus along with the multimedia interface.
For a convertible you will probably want to add heated front seats (£260) and a wind deflector (£290). With these, leather seats (£795) and 19-inch ‘Wing’ wheels (£1,495), plus some other choice added equipment the total cost for the test car came to £37,335.
If the intention was to widen the appeal of the Audi A3 range by adding an even more stylish cabriolet version that offered top-down family motoring, then Audi has succeeded. This stylish model combines the prestige of the Audi badge with the additional glamour of the soft top.
Audi A3 2.0 TDI Sport Cabriolet
Carbon dioxide emissions: 110 g/km
VED band n/a
Combined fuel economy 67.3 mpg
Top speed: 139 mph
0-62: 8.9 secs
Power 150 bhp
Engine size 1968cc diesel
Boot capacity 320 litres