Tuesday 10 December 2019

Hope springs eternal with A3 cabrio, even in the wet


Dry run: the automatic hood on the Audi A3 takes 18 seconds to deploy
Dry run: the automatic hood on the Audi A3 takes 18 seconds to deploy
The Audi A3
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

It was a deal. I needed to put some miles up. They were going to Electric Picnic. It was my daughter's friend's birthday into the bargain.

So it was agreed, I would bring the two of them down and we'd all sample the new Audi A3 Cabriolet.

After all, it was the last hooley of the summer and they wanted to sign off in style.

What better way than in a white Audi A3 Cabriolet?

And, despite being shadowed by clouds, we sensed we'd surely get a bit of roof-down driving.

Sadly it was not to be, despite many a hopeful sign early on.

It was a bit of a squeeze (though there is more room than the old one). The daughter had been up cooking since early morning and had enough to open her own stall by the time we took off.

I think we, subconsciously, all knew we weren't going to get the sun, so cramming the boot with tents and blow-up mattresses and whatever else you need to get wet, mucky and smelly at a festival wasn't going to impede the roof's deployment.

At 320 litres the boot is bigger than the old one too. They talked of bands and singers. I listened. I talked of the stop/start system and tried to be funny by saying it wasn't a band.

They were genuinely interested in how the engine would stop in stalled traffic to save fuel.

The 2-litre TDI (150bhp) was crisp, sharp, quiet and really frugal. (I also think the hi-tech 1.4-litre TFSI petrol would be a nice choice with this).

In the absence of the real thing, we listened to sunshine on the radio. And, extraordinarily, they sang along to 'Cracklin' Rosie' by Neil Diamond. That is as good a sound system as you'll find in this segment of the market by the way.

It rained. It nearly always does when I take a cabrio, but we were cosy in our little cabin as we wended our way through horrific traffic and then, my fault, through most of rural Co Laois.

This is all by way of not talking about how long it takes the hood to disappear if you get the weather (18 seconds at up to 50kmh), or how smart the car looked.

I'm not into white cars as such but this did look quite well.

It is, partially, by way of mentioning how nice it is to drive a soft-top every now and then.

A bit like 'Cracklin' Rosie', it harks to nicer, better times which, please God, will come again.

The roof is made of a soft but hard-wearing fabric. There is a system to protect you should, God forbid, the car roll over in an accident. The 2dr cabrio is based on the new A3 saloon platform and, on my return over virtually traffic-free roads, I got to do what this is supposed to be all about: a bit of pleasant driving with an 'outside' feel.

It's stylish, smart and well equipped but, of course, it is a luxury of sorts considering the range starts at €35,910.

I rarely drive an Audi these days without praising the way they lay out their cabins but more especially their instruments.

The same applies here, naturally, given it is based on the A3 anyway. However, I have to say I was not so impressed with the way we had to sling the front passenger seat forward to get our birthday girl into the back seats.

On the open road, I could only imagine but, sadly, not put into practice what this would sound and feel like with the hood down.

Frankly, it was always going to be a risk at this time of the year. There were days back in the spring and early summer where it would have been divine to have the open air all to yourself as you swept along.

So I looked on the bright side. A cabriolet always gives me hope that there are better things (including weather) around the corner.

We mightn't see much of the weather for the moment - you never know - but if you are in the market, pencil in a reminder for next spring. Something tells me it will be a good one.

Facts and figures: Audi A3 Cabriolet

Audi A3 cabriolet 2-litre TDI (150bhp, 122g/km, €270 road tax).

Standard equipment across the range includes the fully automatic hood (deploys in 18 seconds), 16ins alloys, air con, MMI radio (clever electric folding screen slips out of the way when not in use), Audi music interface iPod connection, Bluetooth and an excellent driver's information display.

The next step up in equipment and specification is SE trim. It adds rear parking sensors (something well worth the investment I feel), cruise control, 3D look inlays and leather-like upholstery.

The S-line spec adds part-leather-upholstery, sports steering wheel, 18ins alloys, special body styling, LED daytime running lamps.

Prices start from €35,910.

My side of the road

It is great to see we are going to get more stop-off and rest stops on our major arteries.

They are badly needed and will help save lives by reducing the number of tired and sleepy drivers.

But before we do we, should appoint someone to make sure the smaller ones are not turned into the unsightly, unhealthy and downright off-putting messes that some of our existing parking areas are in danger of becoming.

I don’t mean  the nice, well-kept petrol station/restaurant places. They are excellent. I mean the unserviced, pull-in-and-stop parking spots.

 We must be the messiest group of people on the road anywhere. The heaps of. . . whatever. . . we leave behind us say everything. We show little respect for others or the countryside. We are a disgrace. So let’s have more rest and refreshment areas. We need them. But I’m not so sure some of us deserve them.

What do you think?

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