Car review: Audi opens fire with its new A3 convertible

After a hiatus, Audi is back in battle with this soft-top A3 that retains the tidy styling of the saloon but adds premium cachet

Make: Audi

Model: A3 Cabriolet

Year: 2014

Fuel: Diesel

Date Reviewed: May 19, 2014

Tue, May 20, 2014, 16:12

   

It was rather appropriate that, apart from a few minutes close to midnight on the second night, our entire time with Audi’s latest soft-top was spent in a weekend-long squall. Audi used the Côte d’Azur for the press photos of this car. Our time was spent in scenes akin to the set of the movie Seven.

Audi boasts that it takes less than 18 seconds for the roof to pop up or down on the new A3. That’s time enough in Irish meteorology for sunshine to turn to showers, then hailstones and back to sun again.

This is the latest salvo in Audi’s product offensive against its rival fellow Germans. Admittedly, it has had a little hiatus in the last few months and its short-term plans largely comprise facelifts for the likes of the A1 and A6 in the coming months.

In contrast, arch-rival BMW seems to be introducing a new model a week, from its i8 electric supercar to an electric scooter, a new M3 and an upcoming X4. BMW forecourts are bursting at the seams. Mercedes is on a similar offensive. All three have promised to be the best-selling premium brand by 2020. Only one will win out.

In the grand scheme of things this convertible will make up very little ground in the great premium race to the top. But every little helps.

As with its hard-top sibling, this A3 remains the best downsizing option in the Audi range. When Audi launched the A1, it claimed the premium supermini would lure “downsizers”. In reality, the plunge from saloon to supermini was a step too far for most premium motorists. It might make sense for older singles or a retired couple, but the social standing of a supermini is far less than a saloon, regardless of Audi’s spin.

The A3 saloon, on the other hand, requires little status sacrifice from A4 owners, yet offers a significant saving. It’s also arguably a much tidier package than its larger sibling.


Nimbler versions
We have raved about the A3 saloon already, part of a wave of smaller premium models (including the brilliant new BMW 2-Series coupe and the admirable Mercedes CLA) that hark back to the nimbler versions of premium saloons and coupes of 20 years ago. In its convertible guise the new A3 retains that tidy styling but adds an air of premium cache to the mix. Even Audi fans we came across thought this was the A4 convertible.

It’s great to see a cloth roof on this car instead of the messy folding metal adopted by some. The idea of having a hard-top that folds neatly into the boot may make sense in the engineering workshop, but the added weight and bulk doesn’t make up for the fact that modern cloth roofs – as with this one – let in little wind noise. It’s worth noting that the A3 cabriolet comes with a less well-insulated hood as standard in entry versions and the SE we tested, so it’s best to opt for the “acoustic hood”, a €356 addition to our car.

For the few seconds we managed to pop the hood down there was a degree of wind buffeting on the road, but there was a wind deflector to cover the rear seat gap. As with all these, it’s a fiddly device to fit and by the time we had it in place the rain returned, forcing us to scamper back inside and put the roof up.