Looks and practicality abound – sort of
Modern cabriolet versions of C-segment cars are often rubbish.
The Golf EOS was rather frumpy. Ditto, when Ford did a drop-top Focus and Vauxhall chopped the roof off the Astra no amount of Bertone or Pininfarina badges succeeded in elevating the everyday to the exotic.
Chopping the roof off and reducing boot space to accommodate the folded top also tends to limit the practicality and, the less said about the weather, the better. This has often led me to ask myself: why would anyone buy a C-segment convertible?
The Audi A3 Cabriolet, however, looks – and is – brilliant. In fact, if I had a spare couple of grand for a deposit and enough wiggle room in the stretched family budget to make the monthly PCP payments, I’d be trying to convince my other half that a four-seater German soft-top is exactly the answer to the needs of our nuclear family.
Safest seat in the house
Take the back seats, for example. There isn’t nearly enough room for the rear-facing car seat my youngest currently occupies behind the driver, so that has to be fitted behind the front passenger – the safest seat in a four-seater car according to childcarseats.org.uk.
Wedged as close as possible to the dashboard, any front passengers have ample opportunity to admire the tasteful styling and German build quality in exquisite detail.
Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TDI
Price: £41,705 (as driven)
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 139mph
0-62mph: 8.8 seconds
Economy: 67mpg combined
CO2 emissions: 117g/km
Our eldest, who has a front-facing seat, is relegated to the slightly less safe space behind the driver. With the front seat in a comfortable driving position rear legroom for Sadie is tight enough to prevent her kicking the rear of my seat while we’re in transit – another clever bit of design from Audi.
In terms of stowage, the 320-litre boot doesn’t benefit from a hatchback – and you need to leave space to swallow the roof if you’re going to take it down (approximately 120 litres) – but we managed to get the base of our travel system in there and, unlike our usual family wagon, it was nice and snug, so didn’t get thrown around as we cornered, allowing us to enjoy the terrific handling without an accompaniment of thumps and bumps from the rear of the car.
We even managed a post-Christmas trip to the local tip, where the Audi once again proved its suitability as a family workhorse. By taking the roof off, I was able to comfortably accommodate two rolls of sodden carpet and underlay, a six-foot Christmas tree, two bags of wine bottles and about 25 square metres of crumpled wrapping paper. The heads shaken in admiration at my ingenuity and enthusiastic hand signals from other patrons of the local recycling centre, were a gratifying side effect.
Okay, so perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part that the little Audi is, in any way, suitable for my family of four, but I was genuinely impressed with the A3 Cabriolet and I’d fully understand any buyers out there who put heart before head and buy the little four-seater and modify their behavior to fit.
It looks terrific – particularly the red hood fitted to our test car – and while not an out and out sports car, the A3 Cabriolet handles just like one – particularly in the ‘dynamic’ setting. The 148bhp turbo diesel engine powers the car to 62mph in 8.8 seconds. That’s not likely to keep pace with a modern hot hatch or super saloon, but it still feels plenty capable and, in fact, I’ve long been of the opinion that one horsepower per 10 kilos of weight is about the sweet spot for a car you’re going to use everyday (The Audi weighs in at 1460kg unladen).
Our test car rang in at £41,705 when you factor in the nine and a half grand of options plus delivery fees. Some of those you could live without – matte aluminium inlays, Bang and Olufsen speakers – but most you’d be wanting to include – the rear-view parking camera and driver assistance pack, for example.
With a premium of about £4,000 over the standard three-door A3 in the same trim, you’re paying a fair whack more for less practicality, less metal and less legroom. But that’s not bad when you consider there’s a difference of around £8,500 between a Vauxhall Astra in ‘Elite’ trim and an equivalent soft top version (the Cascada). Plus, it looks brilliant.
The wisdom of my buying one aside, I won’t be asking myself why anyone would buy this particular cabriolet as, having driven one, the answer is obvious.