New Mini Convertible vs used Audi A3 Cabriolet: which is best?

With summer drawing to an end, now’s the time to grab a great deal on a premium convertible. But should you spend your cash on a new Mini Convertible or a used Audi A3 Cabriolet?...

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Alex Robbins
26 August 2017

New Mini Convertible vs used Audi A3 Cabriolet: which is best?

New Mini Convertible vs used Audi A3 Cabriolet – driving

New Mini Convertible vs used Audi A3 Cabriolet: which is best?

The Mini Convertible disappoints somewhat when you get behind the wheel. Given the vim with which its hatchback sibling corners, the loss of its roof seems to have had quite an effect – and not for the better. Quick, inconsistent steering makes the car feel twitchy, and if you corner too quickly the Mini will push its nose wide in a rather anticlimactic way. The ride quality suffers, too, with a good deal of shuddering over all but the smoothest of roads.

It’s a shame, because the Mini has a gem of an engine – a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol that’s laden with punch, yet remains smooth and refined no matter how hard you push it. What noise it does make amounts to a delightful and charming thrum that puts a smile on your face.

The Audi A3 Cabriolet’s engine isn’t quite as characterful as the Mini’s – the engine note is a little dull, for example – but it delivers just as much grunt. In fact, it’s actually more powerful, but since the A3 is much heavier, real-world performance is roughly the same.

Overall, the A3 is the more pleasurable convertible to drive. Its handling isn’t beset by the same quibbles as the Mini’s; instead, it corners fluently and precisely, with loads of grip and impressive body control. And while the steering doesn’t offer as much feel as you might want, it’s well-weighted and precise, lending the car a greater and more satisfying sense of control.

New Mini Convertible vs used Audi A3 Cabriolet – costs

New Mini Convertible vs used Audi A3 Cabriolet: which is best?

The A3 can be had for the same sort of money as the Target Price of our new Mini Cooper Convertible, but of course it depends on how good a deal you can find. It’ll also depend on whether you’re willing to seek out a Sport model – there are actually far more S line versions around and these have stiffer suspension, so are less comfortable.

Of course, buying the A3 at a year old means you’ll have only two years of the original manufacturer warranty remaining; a brand new Mini will get you three. You can extend the warranty on the A3 once it hits three years old, of course, and it shouldn’t be too pricey – expect to pay around £400 for an extra year.

You might not need it, though, because the A3 came top out in the coupés and convertibles class in our latest What Car? Reliability Survey for cars aged one to three years old, with a score of 92.5%. The Mini Convertible didn’t feature in that survey because we didn’t obtain enough responses from owners, but the hatchback version’s score of 81% is a little behind the A3's. (For comparison, the A3 hatchback still beat the Mini hatchback with a score of 86%.)

Don’t be misled by the fuel consumption figures in our specification panel – the one-year-old A3 will have been tested under the old NEDC regime, while the new Mini has had to conform to the newer, more stringent WLTP standards. In the real world, you’ll find the A3 will fall behind the Mini, although due to its clever engine with fuel-saving cylinder-on-demand technology, it should only be behind by 1-2mpg.

Both cars will cost you £140 a year to tax, unless you can find an A3 built before 1 April 2017. If you can, your car will be taxed under the old regime and, as a result, you’ll have to pay just £30 a year.

New Mini Convertible vs used Audi A3 Cabriolet: which is best?