STYLE COMES AT A PRICE
Neil Lyndon is not converted by the Audi A3
hat Audi convertible you’ve got on loan this week?” began my wife, tentatively. “Ah, yes,” I answered, bracing myself to hear that the car had acquired some new decorations in the form of scratches or dents. “Can we keep it?” she went on. “I’ve got a very strong feeling it’s me.” This is a woman who usually takes about as much interest in cars as in crop yields in Kazakhstan. There might be 70 new cars a year coming and going through our gates but I doubt if my wife could name more than five of them. Yet the new Audi A3 Cabriolet got to her. The key fob took up permanent residence in her bag. I would see the Audi disappearing up the drive for her daily commute to work without so much as a “by your leave”. Price (as tested): £37,335 Power: 148bhp 0-62 mph: 8.9sec Top speed: 139mph Average fuel consumption: 67.3mpg; (as tested) 32.7mpg CO2 emissions: 110g/km Insurance: 25E Star rating: CITROËN DS3 CABRIOLET Price: £15,205-£19,845 For: pzazz Against: uneasy drive Rating: MINI COOPER CONVERTIBLE Price: £17,850-£27,930 For: nippy Against: two-seater masquerading as four-seater Rating: That week of May mornings shimmering with sunshine after overnight showers was perfect for a convertible (more convertibles per raindrop are bought in Britain than in any other country on Earth). And the A3 Cabriolet was perfect for a person who has to drive a car but couldn’t care less about them. It is, in the first place, as pretty as paint. The previous A3 Cabriolet was a dumpy little blob that looked as if its cloth roof was an unexpected burden. The long roofline on the new car is neatly proportioned in relation to the deep flanks and powerful haunches of the body and flows seamlessly into the sturdy back end. Powered by a button by the gear selector, the roof folds in less than 20 seconds into a hard compartment between the rear seats and Turning heads: the Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TDI will impress other parents on the school run the boot. Making space for that box cuts into the room for passengers and luggage, but the owner of this car might feel that the pins and needles of a painful confinement ought not to be too much to ask of the children for the sake of looking great at the school gate. The hydraulic mechanism and the roof itself add 50kg to the weight of the car and, inevitably, cutting out a hard roof reduces the stiffness and integrity of the body. These are the usual compromises in a convertible, but Audi’s engineers have done a worthy job in addressing them. Some trembling is detectable between the windscreen and the bonnet if the car is pushed hard through a corner but I have never known my wife to drive like that and it’s unlikely those shivers would trouble many other purchasers. The clonky old two-litre TDI engine in the version I borrowed is a stranger to the concept of urgency and its suspension set-up was designed for comfort rather than for edgy sensations. Other zippier engines are on offer – including a 1.4-litre TFSI turbo petrol and a 180bhp 1.8-litre turbo petrol – but any old Mazda MX-5 would leave all of them for dead on a country road. And at a fraction of the price, too. At £25,790 the list price for the cheapest A3 Cabriolet is about £2,000 more than the most expensive MX-5, though it’s slightly less than was the now discontinued BMW 1-series Convertible, which is its more natural rival. You could almost buy two MX-5s for the jaw-dropping all-in price of the A3 Cabriolet that got my wife in such a state of rapture. That price does include £145 for a “storage and luggage package” which presumably amounts to more than the pair of restraining nets in the boot; and £225 for an “interior lighting package” which, I am sure, offers more than fitted light bulbs. So that’s all right, then.