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Occasionally a car company surprises you with a little more feeling and understanding of the consumer’s desires, beyond focus group feedback. I’m talking design that clearly demonstrates they have lived with the vehicle and, as the owner of a classic MG roadster, I can tell you Audi’s A3 convertible is 99% right.
Mechanically the four A3 soft-tops line up exactly with the sedan, which led to office banter that they simply cut the roof off, but the convertible is so much more. Entry level, and our test drive model, is the 103kW 1.4L turbo-petrol, and there are two 132kW 1.8L models – a standard front-wheel-drive model and a quattro all-wheel-drive version – and a 110kW 2.0L turbo-diesel. All drive through a 7spd dual-clutch automatic transmission. Everything you know of the sedan’s excellent performance, ride and handling is mirrored, so we’re looking at aspects unique to the convertible.
The windscreen sits at a nice angle, so it doesn’t feel like it’s about to crack your forehead, and the header rail carries lighting independent of the roof position. The soft-top weighs less than a hard-top, leaves the same amount of boot space and can be raised or lowered in 20 seconds. The cabin feels particularly taut over all sorts of roads.
The doors are another matter. You can’t avoid long doors on a 2dr car that has good rear access, and I could easily climb in and out of the back, hood up or down. The issue is firstly that the grab handle is too far forward to control the door’s weight, and more significantly the hinge has only two stop positions, the first insufficient to exit, the other wide enough to guarantee contact with whatever’s next to you.
Interiors appear well finished for outdoor durability, with heavier-grade leather trim and a simple, tidy layout in the entry model, although we’re not sure how Audi’s pop-up screen and control dial would handle inclement weather. The seatbelt is at your shoulder and not out of reach. Optional heated front seats with a warm air scarf (air that flows from the seat back at neck height) are heaven.
I could happily sit in the rear of this four-seater A3 via easy tip/slide front seats and with only minor compromise in their travel. These seats have childseat anchor points and ISOFIX fittings, and they split-fold 50/50. Boot storage is modest but not compromised by the roof and there’s a space-saver spare wheel underneath.
Be wary of option pricing, while engine stop/start with a dual clutch on take-off remains irksome. OK, the A3 is only 98% right.