Audi A3 Cabriolet facelift review: Is 1.4-litre engine too small for this sportscar?

The updated Audi A3 Cabriolet gets a few cosmetic tweaks, a bit more equipment and a smaller petrol engine.

autos Updated: Jun 10, 2017 17:47 IST
Gavin D’souza
Gavin D’souza
Autocar India
Audi A3 Cabriolet,Audi A3 Cabriolet review,Audi A3 Cabriolet price
The Audi A3 Cabriolet facelift has replaced the bigger 1.8-litre engine with a 1.4-litre engine, with practicality to even switch a couple of cylinders on low-load mode. Is this convertible practical enough?(Autocar India photo)

Audi has recently been gambling with smaller petrol engines for its entry-level cars. This trend started when it introduced the brilliant new A4 with a small 1.4-litre petrol engine instead of the 1.8 from the old car. While the choice of engine was less than ideal, many agreed it was passable. This motor worked quite well in the lighter and updated A3 sedan, and, recently, even made its way into the Q3 compact SUV. Now, it has been introduced in the facelifted A3 Cabriolet, where, once again, scrutiny becomes a little tighter. That’s because, unlike the sedans and SUVs, this has clear sporting pretensions. Plus, at Rs 47.98 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), it is also the most expensive of Audi’s small cars in India. Does this new motor pack enough performance for this sort of car? And what else does this update bring along?

For a start, there are a few cosmetic changes on the outside. The bumpers are now more aggressive looking, especially at the rear, where a large grey insert gives the impression of a serious aerodynamic undertray. There are also new LED headlamps (optional) and tail-lamps, and of course, the massive new hexagonal grille, which really gives the nose a sportier look. The new alloy wheels look a bit out of sync with the overall design, though. Yes, they are 16-inchers as before but look a bit smaller than the previous design.

The all-black interior is almost exactly the same as before, save for a slightly different steering wheel and a very small equipment change. Where the previous car got Audi’s Drive Select drive modes, the new one doesn’t, but it does get an auto park feature and a wireless charging bay for Qi-compatible smartphones. There’s also the latest version of Audi’s MMI infotainment interface, but the introduction of the Virtual Cockpit digital dials, found in the Q7 and TT sportscar, would have been a nice way to set this apart from the sedan. As before, you get a pair of pretty comfy (albeit manually adjustable) front seats, a pair of tiny little buckets at the back that could work for kids, and a surprising amount of boot space, given the folding roof and the size of the car itself.

As for the driving experience, it’s still a tremendously fun-to-handle car, thanks to its compact dimensions, well-tuned suspension and steering. Also, while those wheels and their 55-profile tyres aren’t the most dramatic looking, they allow the A3 Cabriolet to ride really well, perhaps even better than the sedan.

And now to the elephant in the room – the move from a 1.8-litre to a 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine. The fuel economy bonus is obvious – a lower capacity engine and cylinder-deactivation tech (deactivates two of the engine’s four cylinders under low-load conditions) means the new cabriolet does a claimed 19.20kpl, up from the old car’s 16.60kpl! While that might have been useful for a sedan buyer, in a cabriolet, performance is definitely more important. The key thing to remember is, though the new engine makes 150hp, as against the older motor’s 180hp, pulling power remains the same at 250Nm. That means it’s only marginally slower; the new Cabriolet does 0-100kph in 9.50sec, versus the old car’s 8.59sec.

But how does it feel? In truth, at low to medium speeds, you really can’t tell the difference. It gets off the line smartly and accelerates without a hiccup, aided by the seven-speed, dual-clutch gearbox. Even on the highway, it’s as smooth and effortless as ever. You can certainly never tell when it shifts to two-cylinder mode or back again. The only time the smaller motor leaves you wanting for power is when you make a quick overtake or when you want to really drive the A3 Cabriolet enthusiastically. Here, the 1.4-litre motor does feel like it’s working a bit too hard compared to the effortless 1.8.

So, yes, you do miss the bigger engine a bit in the A3 Cabriolet, but then it’s still meant to be more of a cruiser than an all-out sportscar. Ultimately, its promise of comfortable and fun open-top motoring, with relative practicality for a 2+2 family, hasn’t changed at all.

(In partnership with Autocar India)

First Published: Jun 10, 2017 17:46 IST