Topless Audi A3: Stylish But Sluggish

Topless Audi A3: Stylish But Sluggish
 

The current Audi A3 impresses with its premium disposition, polished ride quality and well finished cabin architecture. It truly is a class act among its peers.

Audi 2 - Ignition Live

It was perhaps the sedan that truly bowled me over with its well-judged proportions that seem to dispel the notion that hatches have the upper hand. In essence, it offers the hallmarks of the hatch, but with better practicality. And now the company has added yet another body form to the range, this time the cabriolet for those who like to drive topless — the car that is. While the previous generation model was, for all intents and purposes, a premium offering, it somehow lacked the universal appeal that the new model commands. You see, the new model is far better proportioned and seems to strike a chord with a much wider audience.

Audi 3 - Ignition Live

With similar proportions to the sedan, the cabriolet builds on its already impressive platform and practicality. Featuring an electrically operated roof that can be operated at speeds up to 50km/h, the model strikes an impressive pose, particularly when decked out in an optional S line package. This includes side skirts, 17-inch wheels and sportier front and rear valances to add some visual venom to an otherwise tidy exterior. Interior appointments mirror those of its siblings, with high quality finishes, excellent ergonomics and good tactile feel. Being a two-door model, entry and exit for the rear occupants is via the tilting and moving forward of the front seats. Once perched back there, particularly with the roof in place, it feels a tad claustrophobic, but then this is no large vehicle by any stretch of the imagination.

Audi 4 - Ignition Live

Up front things are a little more conducive and I quite enjoyed the comfortable seats and the level of adjustability. This was further emphasised by the equally adjustable three-spoke steering wheel. Our test unit featured the 1.8l TFSI engine with 132kW and 250Nm that drives the front wheels via a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. While the engine performs superbly in the Sportback variant we drove last year, I am afraid that things are somewhat lacklustre in this application.

Audi 5 - Ignition Live

For starters, there is a huge gaping hole between mashing the right pedal to the floorboards and the car obliging to your whim. It feels as though the additional weight required to strengthen the vehicle to avoid any scuttle shake and shimmy caused by removing the solid roof means the power- plant battles to pull the vehicle along with conviction. As a result, fuel consumption hovered around the 11l/100km mark, yet another testament of how hard the engine has to work to lug the car around. Perhaps a manual transmission would better suffice as the dual clutch transmission was left wanting and out of depth during urban excursions. Things did become more bearable on the open road, with the fuel consumption dropping to the 8l/100km mark. That said, the vehicle did feel it could do with a more powerful engine.

Audi 6 - Ignition Live

As it stands, the model on test here is acceptable in many regards save for the iffy performance. That said, it will be interesting to see how the BMW 2 Series convertible coming next year will fare in comparison. For now, the A3 cabriolet is a far better proposition than its predecessor — certainly as far as universal appeal is concerned — and it does strike a chord with a wider audience. However, I would avoid the 1.8 TFSI variant with the S-tronic transmission and look at the manual version instead. Or go for the cheaper, 1.4TFSI model.

The Facts: 2014 Audi A3 1.8 TFSI Cabriolet
Price: R482,500
Engine: 1,798cc petrol turbocharged
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Power: 132kW at 5,100r/min
Torque: 250Nm at 1,250r/min
0-100km/h: 7.8 seconds
Top speed: 242km/h
Fuel consumption: 7l/100km (claimed)
CO2: 118g/km

-Lerato Matebese