Audi can't stop building new models and has taken a hacksaw to its new A3 Saloon and chopped the roof off to produce the Convertible. Is it any good? AOL Cars traveled to Monte Carlo to find out
What is it?
It's yet another derivative of the A3 but one that is important to the UK. Why? Well, Brits love drop-tops and Audi hopes this all-new version will continue the interest. Unlike its predecessor, the new A3 Cabriolet is based on the new Saloon model and not the hatchback. So out goes the dumpy styling and in come some sleek lines and more elegant proportions. Audi has stuck to the formula of giving its A3 Cabriolet a soft-top roof and, for the new version, the roof takes just 18 seconds to retract up to speeds of 31mph – and this time round its stows neatly under a cover. Ordering begins this month with deliveries commencing in April 2014.
What's under the bonnet?
For the moment just two petrols and a diesel. The petrol line-up consists of Audi's rather excellent 138bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged unit with cylinder-on-demand technology (under part load, two of the cylinders are shut down, saving fuel) which gets to 60mph in 8.9 seconds and emits 114g/km of CO2, and a turbocharged 1.8 with 178bhp which will hit 60mph in 7.6 seconds and top out at 150mph. There's a 2.0-litre diesel as well – headline figures are 148bhp, 0-60mph in 8.7 seconds, 139mph top speed, emissions of 110g/km and a combined fuel consumption of 67.3mpg. From February you'll be able to order a 1.6-litre diesel with emissions of just 99g/km, a more powerful 182bhp 2.0-litre diesel with two-wheel- or four-wheel-drive and from quarter four 2014 a 296bhp 2.0-litre petrol – but this will be reserved for the S3 Cabriolet. A3 Cabs come with a choice of a slick six-speed manual or Audi's sharp-shifting automatic called S tronic
It's traditional Audi fare here. Entry-level SE models get 16-inch alloys, air conditioning, an 11 millimeter-thick multimedia screen, iPod connectivity, DAB radio and a roof only available in black – prices are £25,790 for the 1.4 TFSI and £27,240 for the 2.0 TDI. Sport models kick in at £27,015 and get an acoustic hood available in three colours, 17-inch alloys and a 15mm drop in ride height. Meanwhile top drawer S line versions start at £29,165 and get sporty bodywork and 18-inch alloys. Both Sport and S line models can have the SE's soft suspension (highly recommended) or can be selected with S line sports suspension which is lowered by 25mm.
There's not many. The only real like-for-like rival is the BMW 1 Series Convertible which is soon to be replaced by the new 2 Series range. Meanwhile, there's the Volkswagen Golf Convertible that is both smaller and less prestige than the A3. You could also throw the Mini Convertible in the mix too, or even the Vauxhall Cascada – although Vauxhall foolishly believes the Cascada is an Audi A5 rival.
What's it like to drive?
Most hatchbacks which are turned into drop-tops – and we're including the old A3 Convertible here – suffer dreadfully from skuttle-shake. It's where the car gets all wobbly because the roof has been sawn off. But the new A3 Convertible barely suffers from this. It's hardly different from the A3 Saloon on which it's based – so that means agile and direct handling, a comfortable ride and decent performance. It's not a sports car and it's not a cruiser – it's a fine balance of both of these.
The AOL Cars verdict
We'll have to reserve proper judgment on the A3 Cabriolet when we review it again next year on drizzly UK roads. But on our test drive in sun-baked Monaco this week, it was a nicely produced car from the German firm. All too often small convertibles are more for posing in than for driving, and while there's no doubt the A3 Cab majors massively on style, it's a fine-driving car. Audi is sure to have another success story on its hands.
Model: Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TDI S line
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel
Power: 148bhp, 320NM
Max speed: 139mph
0-60mph: 8.7 seconds
MPG: 67.3mpg (combined)
Emissions: 110g/km CO2