It takes a certain sort of person to buy a convertible, or so the stereotype goes. Namely, the sort of person for whom the style card trumps all else.
That’s because while (usually) pretty, “ragtops” (usually, again) drive like their namesakes, in that they tend to feel a little limp, like a damp dishcloth. There’s also how most convertibles are more than a little porky, due to the loss of an important structural element (the roof), so chassis reinforcements have to be added to redress the loss of rigidity.
Or so goes conventional convertible wisdom. However, conventional wisdom hasn’t quite reckoned with Audi’s new A3 Cabriolet. All-new from the wheel nuts up, the new A3 Cabriolet’s underpinnings not only make it appreciably stiffer, but it’s also up to 60kg lighter than before, despite being 183mm longer than the car it replaces. Suffice it to say, this is quite a good thing – it allows the A3 Cabriolet to keep its open-topped posing value while managing to steer (almost completely) clear of the vices that normally afflict cars of its ilk.And more on that posing value, the A3 Cabriolet now looks a sight better than its overly cutesy predecessor (to us, anyway). Where it was previously based on the A3 hatchback, this latest-generation A3 Cabriolet is based on the A3 Sedan. This begs the question of when Audi will debut an A3 coupe to take on the BMW 2 Series, but that’s another story.
Of course, expecting this cabriolet to handle as well as its four-door chassis donor is a tall order. It weighs around 130kg more than the A3 Sedan, with its roof mechanism alone contributing 50kg to that weight gain. And there’s how the A3 Cabriolet’s chassis betrays a hint of twist when hitting some bumps.
Still, it’s impressively solid otherwise. Where some convertibles have a tendency to creak and generally feel less “complete” than their hard-top counterparts (because, in a literal sense, they are), the A3 Cabriolet displays an impressive amount of refinement. With an acoustically optimised fabric roof (optional in Europe, standard for Singapore-bound cars) that boasts additional levels of noise insulation, the A3 Cabriolet has levels of cruising refinement comparable to the A3 Sedan.It’s even surprisingly practical – the 17mm longer wheelbase has now given the A3 Cabriolet decent legroom in the rear seats for two average-sized adults, versus its predecessor, which has seats fit only for the vertically challenged. Granted, the 320 litres of boot space available is less than the A3 Sedan’s cavernous 425-litre capacity (no thanks to the roof mechanism’s servos and whatnot), but it’s still adequate for most needs.
What won’t be like the A3 Sedan, however, will be the newcomer’s price tag. When the A3 Cabriolet lands here a few months from now, official sources from Audi Singapore tell us it’ll cost in the region of $200,000, which is a not-insignificant $30,000 or so premium over the A3 Sedan and hatchback.And there’s also how the variant we drove over in Germany – a 180bhp one equipped with a turbocharged 1.8-litre engine – won’t be coming here. What we’ll be getting instead is a 125bhp model, powered by a 1.4-litre engine, touting a rather pokey 10.2 seconds zero-to-100km/h time.
But we suspect that sluggishness won’t matter too much to the A3 Cabriolet’s potential buyers, who will no doubt be tempted by how it’s one of the most affordable soft-topped cars you can buy and how it’s one of the few that attract a (marginally cheaper) Category A COE. Then, of course, there’s the way the car looks. Its new lines make it look more like a downsized A5 Cabriolet – in other words, a more “serious” car. On the merit of its relatively affordable price and good looks alone, this should ensure desirability amongst the more traditional convertible-buying crowd (the sort that prizes style over substance).
But even if you don’t fulfil that stereotype and demand plenty of substance as well as style, you’ll find plenty to love about the A3 Cabriolet. It’s refined, practical and handles decently enough, so if “cabriolet” for you until now has been a byword for woolly, all-flash-no-dash cars, this Audi will certainly change your mind.
ENGINE 1798cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 180bhp at 5100-6200rpm
MAX TORQUE 250Nm at 1250-500rpm
GEARBOX 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 7.8 seconds
TOP SPEED 248km/h
CONSUMPTION 17.2km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 133g/km
PRICE INCL. COE
To be announced