First DriveMost frugal model in the Audi A3 range thrills with impressive economy, but it lacks dynamic sparkle
First DriveOur first drive of the new Audi A3 in the UK has revealed it to be a good, capable companion if slightly lacking in ambition
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.