STYLE COMES AT A PRICE

Neil Lyn­don is not con­verted by the Audi A3

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Lifestyle -

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.

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