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?
The entry-level version of the A3 cabriolet, powered by a 158bhp version of the 1.8-litre TFSI engine. It combines decent performance with good fuel economy – and undercuts the diesel version by a big enough margin to make it attractive to value hunters.
Even in base trim the A3 cabriolet gets reasonable kit, including alloys and aircon – although you have to make do with part-electric operation for the fabric hood. This means you have to manually release the roof from the header rail before it performs its dance – losing the spectacular nine second operation time of the full-auto roof in more expensive models.
What’s it like?
Very impressive. Out on the road, the 1.8 TFSI is a surprisingly strong performer. The 158bhp helps the A3 to sprint to 62mph in a creditable 8.3 seconds, and the wide spread of torque and well spaced gear ratios help keep you fizzing along at a decent pace.
The absence of a fixed roof is noticeable in the occasional wobble from the dash or through the steering wheel, but this is only obvious over particularly broken surfaces.
What is far more remarkable is the A3’s behaviour through bends – this is a four-seat, hatch-based convertible that is actually enjoyable to fling along a twisty road.
We’ve said this when we drove more powerful versions both at home and abroad, and it stands true for the base model in the UK. The nimble way the A3 turns in is a real surprise, as is the car’s composure when asked to make a rapid directional change. The only real dynamic complaint is with occasionally poor traction out of slower corners.
So should I buy one?
If you’re looking for an A3 cabriolet, yes. The cheapest version in the range is probably the best, combining decent performance with sensible running costs – the official 38.7mpg economy figure negates most of the point for the less civilised and more expensive diesel.