Cabriolet 1.8 TFSI Sport
lifts the lid on its new A3
Cabriolet. And with prices starting
from £20,745, it looks like Audi has
yet another winner on its hands...
AUDI'S FIRST EVER COMPACT CABRIOLET arrives in the UK from 10 May
in time for summer and with prices from £20,745 to £27,060. These are
less than its main rival, the new BMW 1 Series Convertible, but they are around
£2,000 more expensive than the equivalent A3 three-door hatchbacks on which
the Cabriolets are based.
Initially, the new A3 soft-top models will be available with turbocharged, four-cylinder
engines and front-wheel drive. There are two petrol and two TDI diesel units
1.8 T 158bhp, 2.0 T 197bhp, 1.9 TDI 104bhp and 2.0 TDI 138bhp. The 1.9
TDI model has a five-speed manual gearbox, the others six-speed manual transmissions.
Around 30 per cent of customers are likely to choose the S tronic twin-clutch
transmission, available at an extra cost of £1,400 for all versions except the
1.9 TDI. There are three specification levels: Standard, Sport (£1,850 premium
over standard) and S line (£1,550 premium over Sport).
The new A3 Cabriolet is a four-seater but with a luggage capacity from 260 litres
to 674 litres depending on whether the rear seats are folded. Audi says that
by giving the A3 Cabriolet a classic Z-shape folding fabric roof the advantages
are both quick up and down action: lowered in nine seconds and raised in 11
seconds, at speeds of up to 19mph.
The roof is lighter and less complicated than a folding metal roof, and it takes
up the minimum of space in the boot when folded thus giving rear passengers
more room. Audi also says it looks better and it is more distinctive than a
folding metal roof and in the cabriolet market, looks definitely do matter.
Standard specification includes alloy wheels, semi-automatic hood operation,
AirCon, powered windows and mirrors and a CD audio system. Sport and S line
models incorporate a fully automatic acoustic hood and wind deflector.
Interestingly, BMW thinks their 118i petrol 1 Series Convertible model will
be the most popular it certainly is their cheapest variant, and petrol
models overall with sell more than diesel. Audi, for the A3 Cabriolet, believe
the opposite: they say diesel models will take 70 per cent of their sales, and
that the 2.0 TDI variants priced from £22,760 to £26,160 will
be most popular.
At the press launch in the South of France last week, Audi unfortunately only
had the 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol models for us to try: no diesels at all. Unless
customers are really
high-mileage users I'm no longer sure that diesel models in a cabriolet range
work. They generally cost more to buy and diesel fuel is much more expensive
than petrol. On the other hand, for diesel models Benefit in Kind company car
tax can be lower, as is road tax, and diesel engines do give more mpg. I think,
in this class, where retail buyers predominate and mileages are not generally
high, looks and affordable price count for much more than performance.
Although, as I've said, we did not drive diesel models, the 1.9 TDI model might
be the cheapest version in the range but it also the oldest engine. If diesel
is the choice, go for the new Audi 2.0 TDI unit we already know it's
very refined, powerful and, more importantly, quiet.
The two direct injection turbocharged petrol engines are ideal for the A3 Cabriolet.
They are quiet, fuel-efficient and CO2 friendly. The 1.8-litre TFSI unit produces
158bhp from 5,000rpm, so it needs to be pushed hard if the driver is in a hurry.
However, for day-to-day driving, its maximum torque of 184lb ft (developed from
only 1,500rpm) makes it an ideal unit for the UK's congested roads or for driving
in town. The latest VW-family TFSI turbocharged direct injection petrol engines
are very close to providing diesel-like driving characteristics. Top speed is
135mph and 0-62mph takes 8.3 seconds with the manual transmission.
With the S tronic auto the car is marginally faster under acceleration. The
average official fuel economy from this 1.8-litre engine with a manual gearbox
is 38.7mpg and our test car returned 32.5mpg during some spirited driving on
traffic-free country roads around the Bandol region. CO2 emissions are 174g/km,
so the annual road tax bill is going to be £170 the same as the 2.0-litre
The 2.0-litre TFSI unit pushes out 197bhp from 5,100rpm with 207lb ft of torque
from 1,700rpm. Top speed is 144mph with 0-62mph taking 7.4 seconds. Official
average fuel economy is 37.2mpg but the test car came nowhere near that
in real life it returned just 28.8mpg. CO2 emissions are 182g/km, so road tax
is also £170. Yes, this engine is a bit faster, perhaps more responsive, but
there is so little to choose between it and the 1.8-litre unit I'd go
for the latter and save £1,360.
Taking the roof off a conventional car and turning it into a cabriolet normally
unhinges the integrity of the bodyshell. Torsional stiffness becomes an issue
and the body starts to flex during cornering or over bad road surfaces. Very
little of this was evident with the A3 Cabriolet. It is there but you do not
really notice it. The front-wheel drive layout means the car handles well; it
is agile, the steering is well weighted and precise and the cornering is predictable.
Ride comfort is also excellent.
Wind buffeting inside the car for the passengers is minimal, especially for
the front seat occupants. With the roof up, the insulation against wind and
road noise is also good and, another plus, the roof mechanism is quiet and very
fast to operate. With the roof up, visibility to rear quarters is restricted.
With the roof down, the steeply-raked front A-pillar causes some obstruction
and you have to watch you don't impale your face on the end of it getting into
The quality of the interior is typical Audi: top-notch. The driving position
is first rate and the controls are easy to see and use. Whilst there is plenty
of room in the front, the rear passengers are also well catered for, with adequate
legroom for adults. Better than the BMW 1-Series Convertible in that area. The
boot is a good size as well.
While the new A3 Cabriolet can be expensive if lots of options are added that's
not as much a demerit as the steeply-reclining front A-pillar, which can be
tricky for tallish front passengers when first entering the car. Strong 'pluses'
include being the 'right' size with the 'right' looks, a classy desirability
factor, good to drive, easy to use roof, well made and a good quality cabin.
All-in-all then, the new Audi A3 Cabriolet is a pretty car; it looks really
smart, build quality is excellent and I can see it becoming a fashionable but
very useable must-have motor. David Miles
Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.8 TFSI Sport | £24,150
Maximum speed: 135mph | 0-62mph: 8.3 seconds | Overall test MPG: 32.5mpg
Power: 158bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2 174g/km | Insurance group 14