We drove to Cornwall recently in the improved Audi A3 Cabriolet with the popular 2.0 TDI 150 PS engine beneath the bonnet and the S line chassis. In sporty red it certainly looked the business and its size was perfect for driving down the narrow lanes of Cornwall combining style and function with a big dollop of fun thrown in.
Being top of the range the starting price of £31,340 includes an impressive list of standard kit – 18 inch alloy wheels; Sat-nav; Bluetooth phone connectivity; DAB radio; LED headlights; rear parking sensors; cruise control and automatic lights and wipers. We had one small niggle though, the digital radio would ‘cut out’ which is disappointing in such an otherwise reliable car. We assumed this problem was unique to our car and not a general fault or due to the West Country terrain but in the 21st century one would expect to have an uninterrupted signal?
However there are several ‘extras’ that start to ramp up the price taking it to over £41,000, which might be a step too far but there are definitely extras which will enhance the experience of owning an Audi A3 Cabriolet. The wind deflector at £300 and the heated front seats for another £300 are desirable to ensure a comfortable drive with the hood down. There is also a Driver Assistance Pack at £1,950 which adds adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, high beam assist, autonomous emergency braking, traffic sign recognition and parking sensors all round.
All these advances in safety may seem unnecessary and of course the extra cost a deterrent but, in particular on motorways driving with cars and lorries appearing from all around you, these additions are certainly desirable.
Adaptive cruise control (or radar-guided cruise control) automatically adjusts the speed of your car in order to maintain a safe distance to the vehicle in front. The driver can pre-set their vehicle’s maximum speed and minimum distance to the car in front. This works best with automatic gearboxes.
Active lane-keeping technology is designed to assist the driver by automatically guiding the vehicle within its lane on a motorway or dual-carriageway. This technology works by the use of a small camera or sensor – usually mounted on the rear-view mirror which detects the vehicle’s position within the lane. This information is then used to determine the amount of steering angle required to keep the vehicle within the white lines.
High-beam assist recognises oncoming vehicles at night, switching headlights between main and dipped beam automatically. It’s a very clever bit of kit and is claimed to make nocturnal driving less stressful.
Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is a safety system that detects a potential crash ahead and prepares the car by either audibly warning the driver or taking evasive action itself by applying the brakes. This is becoming more standard as this is a real life saver, as the car will react quicker that the driver in split-second situations. The added advantage to any car fitted with AEB is that they fall into slightly lower insurance groups and your new car will have a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
Audi’s Virtual Cockpit is a digital screen that replaces the analogue speedometer and rev counter with digital dials. There is also space for sat-nav, music or telephone information to be displayed. It is part of Audi’s £1,395 Technology Pack Advanced that also includes a more advanced version of its MMI navigation system, internet access and wireless phone–charging. Alternatively you can pay £450 for it on its own. This is certainly new and innovative but difficult to justify the cost but a good talking point if you love your up to date gadgets.
So it is easy to get carried away with the additional packages but some of the safety features are certainly desirable and becoming more and more an advantage on today’s busy motorways.
But back to the looks and interior space – Audi are famed for the quality of their interiors and the ease of use of the various functions and the A3 Cabriolet falls firmly in this category.
However, although styled as a four seater, it would not be for four adults on a long journey as there is not a lot of leg room for anyone of more than average proportions! Also actually getting into the rear seats is a little tricky as you have to detach a strap which holds the seatbelt in place, from the side of the front seat and then with the seat folded forward there is quite a small gap through which you have to squeeze.
A couple with a young family would be able to keep it for a few years but the time would come to buy a more family orientated vehicle. Also the boot space would dictate that holidays would have serious restrictions on the amount of luggage that could be taken. Whilst on the subject of luggage, only soft bags are advised as the height allowance is restricted because of the soft top mechanism.
All these restrictions apart, for the right buyer who would not be concerned with a few impracticalities, this is a perfect car. It aims to appeal to those wanting something stylish, enjoyable to drive with the roof down, as well as refined and relaxed with the roof up. The acoustic roof fabric on the S-line model ensures that there very little road noise and to add to its appeal, the roof can be raised or lowered at speeds up to 31 MPH in a matter of only 18 seconds. It must be said that all the Audi cabriolets we have tested seem to look good in this format.
Overall it is a sophisticated small car with bags of eye appeal and fun to drive.
Chrissy studied at Southampton University where she gained a degree in Fine Art Valuation and worked for 16 years at Gerald Marsh Antique Clocks in Winchester, now known as Carter Marsh. Following her departure from Carter Marsh she has been instrumental in the launch of The Vintage Magazine and the design of its website. As well as being a contributing author she is the Features Editor of the magazine with special responsibility for Arts and Culture.