The Audi A3 Cabriolet is stylish and refined, and with the 1.4 TFSI petrol engine with ‘Cylinder on Demand’ technology, it delivers performance and economy.
The growth of Audi since the days of the quattro in the 1980s has been amazing. The company is obviously doing something right – and this is much to do with sharing the very expensive development costs of new platforms with other members of the Volkswagen Group, but offering a genuinely premium product and particularly a design style both inside and out that makes Audi owners feel good. The driving dynamics of Audis haven’t always lived up to the image of the cars, but this is certainly changing with the A3’s latest platform.
The new A3 is based upon the latest Volkswagen Group platform, and it is a genuine move forward in terms of the driving experience (see below). The external design of this latest A3 looks much sharper than the previous model, and the interior certainly has a premium feel.
The last A3 Cabriolet had a virtually non-existent boot when the exterior shape was looked at from the side; with this new model the boot line extends out from the rear window, giving it more grown up, sportier proportions – similar to an Audi A5 Cabriolet.
Probably the two most significant bits of design and engineering news relate to the roof and the engine. The roof retracts electronically, involving the boot lid rising, the roof folding into the top part of the boot, and the boot lid closing again – all with just one touch of a button. This is all clever stuff, but it does result in a weight penalty for the Cabriolet. It also means that, although the boot goes back a fair way, access to it is fairly restricted, and if you have to fit in holiday-quantities of luggage, then there’s a bit of a faff to pull down the cover that separates the luggage compartment from the area above that the roof is stowed in. However despite this being a Cabriolet, the rear seats can still fold down to accommodate long items if the rear seats are unoccupied.
The other clever news is the engine; the 1.4 TFSI is an excellent engine to start with, but with ‘Cylinder on Demand’ technology (CoD), two cylinders shut down when not needed, giving you a two-cylinder car under low load conditions – and therefore using less fuel. You really can’t tell when the engine is swapping between two and four cylinders.
Thanks to its new platform, this A3 really does feel more agile and more refined than the last model. The platform benefits from weight saving, and this engine, being lighter than the diesel, is added help to make the car feel more alive than the previous generation model. The A3 is of course front-wheel drive, but the power delivery through the front wheels, and the handling, feels much better than in some other Volkswagen Group models.
The interior has a simple design, and it’s finished in high quality materials. All the interior controls are nicely weighted, and this extends to the gear change, which is light and smooth, and one of the better manual gearboxes in this class. The last Audi A3 Saloon that we reviewed had an S tronic transmission, which was also excellent, so much so that we thought a manual would feel like going backwards, but it was actually a pleasure to live with.
Throughout most of Green Car Guide’s eight-year history we’ve usually chosen to review models with diesel rather than petrol engines as they ultimately offer higher levels of economy. It was the 1.4 TFSI engine in the A3 Saloon that was one of the turning points in our preference for diesels; this petrol engine can’t quite match the diesel for overall fuel economy, but in everyday driving, it comes fairly close, but critically, it’s a much more flexible and enjoyable engine to use. It’s also very quiet – although one of the downsides of the canvas roof is that you get more noise entering the cabin.
The A3 has Audi Drive Select which gives you the choice between five drive modes – however there’s not a huge difference between them.
The official combined fuel economy of the Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.4 TFSI is 56.5mpg, equating to 114 g/km CO2. In real-life we enjoyed a best result of 70.4mpg at a steady eco-driving 50mph. Over a long distance averaging around 70mph on the motorway we achieved 41.0mpg. Overall after a week with the car we averaged 42.8mpg – which is impressive for such a responsive petrol engine.
The basic price for the Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.4 TFSI Sport with CoD (140 PS) 6-speed manual is £26,370. Perhaps not surprisingly our test car came with a number of options including technology package with mobile telephone preparation (£1,795); Xenon light package (£1,100); and 18” x 8J ‘multi-spoke Star’ design part-polished alloy wheels (£595). With these and other options, the total cost for our test car was £32,065. Whilst the alloy wheels may look impressive, if you like that sort of thing, they’re likely to be a nightmare to clean.
If you want a stylish and reasonably compact four-seater convertible that offers performance and economy, all in a refined package, then the Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.4 TFSI must surely be the answer. Unless you spend your life driving up and down the UK’s motorways, when you may want to consider the diesel, then this engine has to be your choice, as it’s responsive, light, and efficient. The A3’s exterior also looks sharp, and the interior really does feel high quality. Only because this car doesn’t have the ultimate fuel economy of a diesel does it miss out on a 10/10 – instead it is awarded a Green-Car-Guide rating of 9 out of 10.