BMW 2 Series Convertible vs Audi A3 Cabriolet

Can BMW’s new 2 Series Convertible prove a hit with Brit drop-top fans this summer, and beat its Audi rival?

Summer is here, so what better time to put two small, four-seat cabriolets head-to-head? The latest mid-sized drop-top to hit the market is BMW’s 2 Series Convertible, which blends the elegant styling of its two-door coupé brother with that all-important ability to lift the lid when the sun shines brightly.

Best convertibles to buy

However, there’s a fly in the BMW’s ointment – the Audi A3 Cabriolet, which was crowned Best Convertible at our 2014 New Car Awards. 

The brands are competing in the same sector, and both offer punchy performance and affordable costs with the diesels we’ve lined up here. With its rear-wheel-drive chassis the 220d Convertible promises balanced handling and decent performance, but the hi-tech, front-wheel-drive A3 2.0 TDI Sport is no slouch.

Both have plenty of badge appeal and, thanks to their electrically operated fabric roofs, surprising refinement, too. There’s only £105 between them (although the Audi has an S tronic dual-clutch box), so the decision will come down to personal choice.

Yet at around £30,000 neither is cheap, and options quickly push up costs. But soft-tops have never been easier to live with, so we put them through their paces to determine the convertible king.

BMW 2 Series Convertible review

Audi A3 Cabriolet review

Read individual reviews by clicking the links above, and scroll down to see which stylish drop-top wins this test...

Head-to-head

Electric roof

It’s all about the soft-tops with these cars. Both feature power-folding hoods that can be operated at speeds of up to 30mph – but the A3’s operates marginally more quickly, taking 18 seconds to the 2 Series’ 20 seconds. If you don’t want the top down, you can lower all the windows to leave a big void.

Refinement

A fabric roof can be a big source of extra road and wind noise compared to a hard-top, not to mention a large area that lets heat out. To boost refinement and comfort, BMW and Audi use clever three-layer acoustic hoods that trap more heat and filter out noise. Both are quiet on the move.

Details

Smaller details might be secondary concerns when buying a soft-top, but neat features such as climate control memory and neck heaters can make the difference. As a result, the Audi comes out on top for attention to detail and usability.

Verdict

1st place: Audi A3 Cabriolet

The A3 Cabriolet's broad appeal means it beats the BMW. It’s better to drive, more comfortable and spacious, cheaper and, with superb residuals, will depreciate less. It might cost slightly more to run than the 2 Series, but with less power its performance is still impressive – and the chassis is better. You needn’t make many concessions for running a convertible when it’s this good.

2nd place: BMW 2 Series Convertible

It has more firepower and a bigger boot, but the 2 Series Convertible isn’t as well rounded as the A3 Cabriolet. It’s a vast improvement on its predecessor, with more flowing proportions and enough tech to match the Audi. However, the body control isn’t as good, so it feels less planted. Add in its more cramped, less slick interior, and the Audi stays on top.

Other options for the same price…

New: VW Golf Cabriolet GT 2.0 TDI DSG

Price: £29,325 Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 148bhp

Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet

As it’s based on the Mk6 car, rather than the latest Mk7, the Golf Cabriolet isn’t as stylish as these convertibles, but it’s a practical, smart alternative. In high-spec GT trim you get plenty of kit, plus it shares its 2.0 TDI with the Audi.

Used: BMW 420d M Sport Convertible

Price: £30,000 Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 181bhp

Like the look of the 2 Series, but need more practicality? This budget will get you into a nearly new 4 Series Convertible. The 420d delivers similar power, although with a bigger boot and cabin, plus lots of style, it’ll be easier to live with.

Key specs:

 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TDI Sport 150 S tronicBMW 220d Sport Convertible
On-the-road price/total as tested£30,455/£38,685£30,560/£40,930
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£15,246/50.1%£14,901/48.8%
Depreciation£15,209£15,569
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,338/£2,675£1,342/£2,684
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,688/£2,814£1,496/£2,494
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost25/£377/D/£11027/£371/D/£110
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£285/£428/£285£425 (5yrs)
   
Length/wheelbase4,421/2,595mm4,454/2,690mm
Height/width1,409/1,793mm1,403/1,774mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,968cc4cyl in-line/1,995cc
Peak power148/3,500 bhp/rpm187/4,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque340/1,750 Nm/rpm400/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission6-spd auto/fwd6-spd man/rwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel50 litres/space saver52 litres/run-flat
Boot capacity (hood up/down)275/320 litres280/335 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,480/500/1,800kg1,610/470/1,500kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient10.9 metres/N/A10.9 metres/0.31Cd
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (unltd)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealersVariable/121Variable/153
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.13th/26th^14th/22nd^
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./starsN/AN/A
   
0-60/30-70mph8.7/8.4 secs8.0/7.6 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th3.5/5.4 secs3.3/5.0 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th7.7/10.8 secs6.5/8.3 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph139mph/1,950rpm140mph/2,050rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph49.9/36.7/9.3m51.8/38.1/8.9m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph74/54/66/74dB74/55/65/71dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range39.0/8.6/429 miles44.0/9.7/503 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined51.4/65.7/60.1mpg51.4/74.3/64.2mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined11.3/14.5/13.2mpl11.3/16.3/14.1mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket194/124g/km/22%172/124g/km/22%
   
Airbags/Isofix/rear park sens./cameraFive/yes/£345/£275Four/yes/yes/£330
Automatic box/stability/cruise controlYes/yes/£225£1,550/yes/£690*
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/£1,115/£295£590/£1,150/£295
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go£550/£1,100/£425£550/£590/£350
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth£495/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes

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