First DriveThe new plug-in hybrid petrol version of the Audi A3 promises a staggering 188mpg and a satisfying driving experience, but it comes at a premium
First DriveMost frugal model in the Audi A3 range thrills with impressive economy, but it lacks dynamic sparkle
What is it?
It’s the latest in a long line of Volkswagen Group cars to receive the downsized engine treatment in a relentless drive to improve fuel economy and emissions.
This time it’s Audi’s A3 convertible, which here receives the new 104bhp, 1.2-litre TFSI engine in place of the older, less efficient 1.6-litre FSI unit.
What’s it like?
Well, it’s an Audi A3, so it’s refined, good looking, well put together and comes with a great interior – and all the more so in the top-level S-line trim tested here.
It’s also a convertible, so it comes with all the roof-down advantages and engineering compromises that you would expect. Cabin noise in particular is really quite intrusive, and all the more so thanks to the S-line’s 17-inch alloys, which also adversely affect the ride.
Performance can best be summed up as adequate. While the 0-62 and top speed figures are about on target, the day-to-day reality is that the 1.2-litre engine has to be worked exceptionally hard to offer anything approaching a thrill, while any spark the 1.2 TFSI engine might deliver is dampened by the convertible’s added weight.
Around town it’s strong and flexible enough but on A-roads and motorways the engine can feel strained and thrashy, and while the headline economy figures are reasonably impressive they’re hard to get near in everyday use without driving self-consciously carefully.
Should I buy one?
We’re not ruling out the idea completely but this reduced-capacity A3 isn’t as satisfying to use as we’d hoped, and its straightline performance is out of kilter with the perceived image of a sporty convertible.
If you’re dead set on the idea of a cheaper-to-run open-top A3, then for similar money we’d go for the 1.6 TDI in Sport trim, with the same horsepower, more torque and better economy and emissions.