Test Drives

Audi A3 Cabriolet Review



 

Munich, Germany – Audi has four new or revamped models planned for Singapore for the rest of the year, and the A3 Cabriolet is the most glamorous of the lot. It’s a couple of months from landing ashore, but here’s what you need to know before it gets here.

A convertible? Oh, no, I sense a topless joke coming…
Please, that would be crass. This is a small German convertible, not some jiggly Page Three Girl. What kind of boob do you think I am?

Aargh!
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I beg your Parton.

Groan… The car. For the love of humanity, please just talk about the car.
Well, at first glance, you take an Audi A3, chop off the roof, and you have the Cabriolet model. But there’s a bit more to this version than that. Whereas past A3 Cabriolets were based on hatchbacks, Audi says this new one is more closely related to the A3 Sedan. That’s why it looks less like a giant pram than before.

What do you mean?
Since the A3 Sedan provided its starting point, the Cabriolet has ended up with a sleeker silhouette than before. It’s still a small car at only 4,421mm in length, but it’s 183mm longer than the previous A3 Cabrio. The wheelbase (that’s the bit between the front and rear axles for all you non car geeks) has actually only gained 17mm, so most of the car’s extra length comes from the boot area. That helps with the whole not-looking-like-a-pram, thing. It’s also a bit wider (by 28mm) and lower (15mm) for a meaner stance.

Aha, but bigger means heavier. That’s a bad thing.
It would have been a bad thing, yes, but Audi must have signed up the Cabriolet at FitnessFirst. It’s somehow lighter than its predecessor. Building the car’s front axle and bonnet out of aluminum and using special high-strength steels in the body structure have helped to slice 60kg off the A3 Cabrio on average, compared to the previous car. The folding roof only weighs 50kg, too, about the weight of the average SIA stewardess.

Doesn’t that mean the Audi has a flimsy top?
Not really. Audi claims hard top levels of refinement for the roof, with plenty of sound insulation built into the fabric structure. There’s a 1cm-thick layer of polyurethane foam lining the whole thing, for instance. On the move the sound of air rustling means you can still tell you’re in a car with a fabric roof, but the little Audi doesn’t turn your conversations into a “Sir Alex Ferguson on a bad day” impersonation. More to the point for style-savvy convertible buyers, the roof will be available in three colours — black, grey or brown — that you can match with 14 body colours.

Is it easy to fold?
Dead easy. You press and hold a button and, 18 seconds later, congratulations! You’ve turned your scalp into a toilet for birds. I mean you’re ready to enjoy the wind in your hair. The roof works at speeds up to 50km/h, so if you get tired of having your follicles whipped around like mad you can seal the Audi’s cabin from the outside world again without having to stop. Or if you suddenly hear lots of chirping overhead, either reason’s good.

Couldn’t you just escape the feathery menace at high speed?
Well, here’s the thing. I’m not entirely sure. The test car we drove in Munich had a 1.8 TFSI engine with 180bhp, enough power to make it decently brisk. Singapore cars will be powered by a 1.4 TFSI engine with 125bhp and 200Nm of peak torque. That’s quite a difference in oomph, and it puts a big dent in the acceleration performance. The 1.8 TFSI takes 7.8 seconds to hit 100km/h, but the 1.4 TFSI needs around 10.2 seconds (in six-speed manual form). Perhaps the salient point is that with a 1.4-litre, 125bhp engine, the A3 Cabriolet will qualify for a Category A COE, which should save you a bit of money.

Save on COEs? Golly, now you’re really getting me excited!
Simmer down there, and save some of that adrenaline for when you drive the A3. It’s got surprisingly sharp handling for a convertible. Some open top cars are wobbly because chopping the roof off reduces rigidity, but the Audi is impressively solid. Occasionally you do feel the slightest shimmer from the steering wheel, but the car feels stiff enough to keep the steering wonderfully precise. It rides nicely over uneven tarmac, too.

When can I try one for myself?
It’ll be launched in Singapore within six months, and right now the target price is either side of $200,000 at today’s COE prices.

I can’t decide if that’s a lot of money…
In the sense that the A3 Cabriolet is a fairly impractical car, then yes. The rear seats aren’t uncomfortable for short journeys (even with the roof up), but there are only two of them and the boot is only just about usable, at 320 litres in capacity.

about the author

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Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.