Road Test: Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TDI Sport
Sector: Convertible Price: £27,820 Fuel: 67.3mpg CO2: 110g/km
Audi’s segment-defining A3 has become a staple of the UK’s fleet diet, combining economy, style and technology to become a favourite with user-choosers. Fit a convertible roof and, provided it doesn’t hurt those qualities too much, it’s hard to see how it wouldn’t prove popular.
Yet it took over a decade for the first A3 Cabriolet to join the range, and that first venture into the sector was arguably a little too close to the equivalent Golf. That’s not to say that this car’s predecessor was a bad looking car, but the short boot deck and visible tonneau cover weren’t quite as neatly executed as Audi drop-tops tend to be.
This time, the A3 Cabriolet is based on the Saloon rather than the hatchback, and the difference is dramatic. Within 18 seconds, the roof folds itself into three sections and slots into a box in the boot, leaving a long, straight, uninterrupted shoulderline from the wing mirrors to the line at the top of the tailgate.
It’s a stunning silhouette which reminds you how intricate the surfaces of the standard A3 are. Pick a metallic colour and, on a sunny day, it’ll show off myriad creases and lines accented by sharp light signatures at the front and back. Lift the roof – which can be ordered in grey, brown or black – back into place and it gives a hint of how good a hard-top coupe would look.
But Audi has been clever all ways round with the A3 Cabriolet. The roof mechanism is lighter, yet in Sport spec features thicker soundproofing for high-speed refinement, and the platform underneath helps cut weight compared to its predecessor despite the extra size. Its wheelbase hasn’t changed much between generations, but the extra 180mm length gives it a much larger boot, particularly with the box for the roof pushed up out of the way.
Audi’s choice of two 2.0-litre diesel engines make great choices for company car drivers, with the lower-powered 148bhp version tested here offering CO2 emissions of 110g/km. The lightweight roof mechanism adds around 150kg over the saloon, so it’s only with the top open that the economy starts to tumble. Even then, it’s easy to get upwards of 55mpg with a steady right foot.
Better still, diesel clatter is almost unnoticeable even with the roof open, which is a common problem with fuel-efficient convertibles, there’s almost no scuttle shake on even the roughest roads, and the fleet-familiar engine offers an impressive turn of speed, matched with quick, communicative steering and a positive-feeling gearchange. With 62mph reached in 8.9 seconds, it’s as good on the move as looks standing still.
Inside, the familiar, stylishly designed and beautifully finished A3 interior is almost unchanged in the front, but the rear bench of the Saloon has been replaced by two seats with a centre console. Both are suitable for adults, with plenty of leg and shoulder room, though headroom is a little tight with the roof up.
British buyers tend to spec up to Sport and S line models, and both add lower suspension, dual-zone climate control and very comfortable half-Alcantara bucket seats. Satellite navigation is the only obvious omission, but adding it costs a very reasonable £495.
All in, the A3 has proved it has all the right features to be a hit in the fleet sector. Finally giving the Cabriolet version the silhouette it’s always needed should make this a popular car for the image-conscious user-chooser.
Building on a good base, the A3 Cabriolet doesn’t sacrifice much of the saloon’s usability in the name of al fresco motoring. It’s great to drive, fuel efficient and a genuine head turner.