This new, unassuming motor is a Jack of all trades, and there is nothing terribly wrong with that
Audi likes to maximise the pizazz for the press launch of a new model. For the A3 Cabriolet it was a private jet to Nice and on to the Hotel Hermitage just off Casino Square in Monaco.
With this in mind, it seems churlish to grumble, but it’s a strange choice when you consider you need to drive quite a way out of town to find a road where you can drive faster than 20mph.
Monaco is a place for wafting around slowly, preferably in a car where the roof folds down so you can cruise about, eyeing people eyeing you.
In Monaco, even a whole grid of immaculately valeted A3 soft-tops receives little attention. Bentley Continental GTCs and Aston Martin DB9 Volantes are de rigueur, so your common or garden Audi convertible doesn’t really cut it.
Looked at in isolation, though, the new Golf-sized cabriolet is much more attractive than its predecessor – sleeker and less dumpy, even if it does bear more than a passing resemblance to the rest of the Audis currently on the market.
I decided to leave the glitz and glamour of Monaco behind and make a beeline for the hills. If the Audi didn’t get noticed on the coast, would it draw stares in the mountains?
The answer: yes, sort of. The 1.8-litre TFSI petrol turbo I pointed up the precipitous mountain pass, on to and beyond the Monte Carlo Golf Club, had just enough power to keep things interesting – but you wouldn’t call it fast. If you want to feel a real kick in the kidneys, you’ll have to wait for the range-topping S3 model to come out.
It has a raspy engine note to provide a touch of aural drama and a snappy paddleshift gearbox that works well as either a manual or automatic. But it’s no sports car, and as such it’s obliged to do a good job at the basics. The interior is smart but very dark, with black leather and soft-touch materials covering every surface. This is what Audi does best – why would you want it any other way?
There are plenty of gadgets and some neat chrome touches to lift the mood from sombre to sporty. You can even option up the A3 Cab to outgun the specification of a standard Audi R8 if you wish, but my goodness, you’ll pay a mighty premium to do it.
So if it isn’t a vehicle to pose in, and it isn’t an open-top sports car, then what is it?
As I wound my way back down into Monaco at a much more leisurely pace, dropping the electrically-operated roof while crawling along in traffic, it struck me. The A3 Cabriolet is simply a decent compromise.
Compromise isn’t generally a good thing, but here it works. As the head-level heating system gently blew hot air onto my neck, the heated seat warmed my back, and the Bang and Olufsen stereo blasted music with amazing clarity, I began to understand the A3 Cabriolet’s rationale.
It might not have the price tag or the badge to cut it in Monaco next to million-pound, exotic hypercars and even more expensive yachts, but in the City, on a grey British day, you’ll get noticed. Take it for a weekend in the country and you might even draw some envy.
It makes practical sense, too. It’s comfortable, reasonably quick, and even the boot is usable. It feels grown up for a small car, but you can have more than a little fun with the roof down.
It’s not without fault – far from it – but as one car to do many jobs, the A3 Cabriolet simply can’t be ignored. Audi has done it again.
Sean Carson works for motoringresearch.com
THE FACTS: AUDI A3 CABRIOLET 1.8TFSI S TRONIC
0-62MPH: 7.8 secs
TOP SPEED: 150mph
CO2 G/KM: 133g/km
MPG COMBINED: 48.7mpg
DESIGN Four Stars
PERFORMANCE Three Stars
PRACTICALITY Two Stars
VALUE FOR MONEY Three Stars