Audi A3 Cabriolet (2014-2016)
By Jonathan Crouch
2DR CONVERTIBLE (1.4 TFSI, 1.8 TFSI, 2.0TFSI PETROL / 1.6 TDI 105 & 110PS, 2.0 TDI 150 & 184PS [STANDARD, SE, SPORT, S LINE, S3])
Can a relatively affordable compact convertible be genuinely, heart-stoppingly, aspirationally desirable? Audi thinks so and, in the form of their second generation A3 Cabriolet, brought us an open-topped car that was an enormous improvement on its predecessor. All the Audi attributes you’re used to – cool design, fantastic build quality, engine efficiency and strong residual values – were here matched to sleek looks delivering that ‘want one’ factor. You can't really ask for much more from a compact convertible. Let’s check out this one as a used buy in its original 2014 to 2016-era production form.
We've always found it puzzling that car manufacturers frequently pursue an idea obviously flawed from the outset. Perhaps they get a bit mired in the details and lose sight of the bigger picture. Sports cars that don't handle? That worked really well for TVR didn't it? Economy-minded electric cars that cost three times as much as a diesel model? You know who we’re talking about. Or how about convertible cars that…. just don't look very elegant? That last trap is one Audi blundered into with its original A3 Cabriolet but one that was firmly rectified by this, its second generation replacement.
To be fair, there wasn’t much else wrong with that original drop-top A3, a car we first saw in 2007. It was well built, had a range of great engines to choose from and made all sorts of sense on the balance sheet thanks to decent efficiency and strong resale values. The problem lay in its underpinnings, which had to be based on those of the A3 Hatch, hence the short, stubby shape and pram-like look when the roof was down. BMW knew not to do this, basing the Audi’s closest rival, their 1 Series Convertible, on a coupe platform for a sleeker, more elegant look.
So the Ingolstadt engineers went back to the drawing board, resulting in this second generation version, a car we first saw in the Spring of 2014 and a design clearly based on a very different approach. For a start, this MK2 model was spun off the chassis of the A3 Saloon rather than the hatchback, which meant that it could be both lower and longer than the model it replaced. Perhaps indeed, the car to suit owners of the long lamented A4 Cabriolet unable to stretch to its A5 replacement. And certainly an Audi guaranteed to tempt buyers in search of something just a touch nicer than mainstream family hatch-based compact convertibles can offer. The original version of this MK2 A3 Cabriolet model was produced until 2016, when it was then lightly facelifted and some fresh engine and technology options added.
What To Look For
With this second generation A3 Cabriolet, Audi seems to have sorted out the occasional electric folding roof problems that blighted a few examples of the first generation model. Still, check the folding roof mechanism out very carefully before you buy and look out for discolouration from UV, road salt or bird lime.
Otherwise, the things to look out for are the same as those in any other third generation A3 model. Oil sump failure in 2.0 TD diesel variants was the most regularly reported issue we came across as part of our customer survey, this engine also sometimes exhibiting loud turbo noises too, so listen for that on your test drive. The 1.4-litre TFSI petrol variant has also occasionally faltered too. We came across a couple of owners complaining of a ‘whooshing’ noise with this powerplant in 120PS form which is apparently due to vacuum hose issues and a vibrating actuator rod.
On The Road
Use of the Volkswagen Group’s hi-tech MQB platform meant that this MK2 model A3 Cabriolet had far fewer shakes and shudders. Of course, it’s not really supposed to be any sort of sportscar, but that doesn’t mean that, once you’ve got over the slight vagueness of the steering, you can’t have fun in it. Enjoyment of this kind is possible because this car is so good through the corners, thanks to a front end endowed with prodigious levels of grip. There’s a quattro 4WD option on top models but in the dry, we can’t see that you’d need it. We’d think twice about going for a car fitted with the S tronic twin-clutch auto transmission too, unless we really were urban-bound.
On to engines. Many will want to avoid the entry-level units (a 125PS 1.4-litre TFSI petrol and a 105PS 1.6-litre TDI diesel) in favour of the two powerplants that make up the heart of the range, a 150PS 2.0-litre TDI diesel and a 140PS version of the 1.4TFSI petrol unit with clever CoD, or ‘Cylinder on Demand’ technology. We’re not sure we’d really want to go much faster than that in this car, but those with a further need for speed do have other options in the engine line-up. Diesel folk get a pokier 184PS version of the 2.0 TDI unit. While those preferring petrol have the further alternative of a 180PS 1.8-litre TFSI powerplant or the 300PS 2.0 TFSI unit used in the potent S3 variant.
It's hard to think of any other car in Audi's recent history that’s been improved so dramatically from one generation to the next as this MK2 model A3 Cabriolet. Provided you don’t enter the purchasing process with unrealistic expectations that this model will be mainstream brand-affordable - or some sort of sportscar - it’s hard to see how you could be disappointed by what’s on offer here. In MK2 form, the A3 Cabriolet matured – got a little more Vorsprung durch Technik. And the compact convertible class got a new benchmark.