2019 Audi A3 Cabriolet vs. 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The A3 Cabriolet’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

The A3 Cabriolet has a standard Secondary Collision Brake Assist, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

The A3 Cabriolet 45 TSFI has all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

Compared to metal, the A3 Cabriolet’s plastic fuel tank can withstand harder, more intrusive impacts without leaking; this decreases the possibility of fire. The Mazda MX-5 Miata has a metal gas tank.

Both the A3 Cabriolet and the MX-5 Miata have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems, rear parking sensors and rear cross-path warning.

The Audi A3 Cabriolet weighs 946 to 1288 pounds more than the Mazda MX-5 Miata. The NHTSA advises that heavier cars are much safer in collisions than their significantly lighter counterparts. Crosswinds also affect lighter cars more.

Warranty

The A3 Cabriolet comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The MX-5 Miata’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

The A3 Cabriolet’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the MX-5 Miata’s (12 vs. 5 years).

Reliability

The Audi A3 Cabriolet’s engines use a cast iron block for durability, while the MX-5 Miata’s engine uses an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

The MX-5 Miata’s redline is at 7500 RPM, which causes more engine wear, and a greater chance of a catastrophic engine failure. The A3 Cabriolet has a 6300-RPM redline.

To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the A3 Cabriolet has a standard 320-amp alternator. The MX-5 Miata’s 100-amp alternator isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Audi vehicles are more reliable than Mazda vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Audi 13th in reliability, above the industry average. With 3 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mazda is ranked 14th.

Engine

The A3 Cabriolet 40 TSFI’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 3 more horsepower (184 vs. 181) and 70 lbs.-ft. more torque (221 vs. 151) than the MX-5 Miata’s 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl. The A3 Cabriolet 45 TSFI’s optional 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 47 more horsepower (228 vs. 181) and 107 lbs.-ft. more torque (258 vs. 151) than the MX-5 Miata’s 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

The A3 Cabriolet 40 TSFI’s standard fuel tank has 1.3 gallons more fuel capacity than the MX-5 Miata (13.2 vs. 11.9 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups. The A3 Cabriolet 45 TSFI Quattro’s standard fuel tank has 2.6 gallons more fuel capacity than the MX-5 Miata (14.5 vs. 11.9 gallons).

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Audi A3 Cabriolet higher (7 out of 10) than the Mazda MX-5 Miata (3). This means the A3 Cabriolet produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the MX-5 Miata every 15,000 miles.

Transmission and Drivetrain

The Audi A3 Cabriolet comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the MX-5 Miata.

A seven-speed automatic (SMG) is standard on the Audi A3 Cabriolet, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the MX-5 Miata.

The A3 Cabriolet offers a standard sequential manual gearbox (SMG). With no clutch pedal to worry about and a fully automatic mode, an SMG is much more efficient than a conventional automatic but just as easy to drive. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer an SMG.

All wheel drive, available in the A3 Cabriolet, provides the best traction for acceleration in wet, dry, and icy conditions. In corners, all wheel drive allows both outside wheels to provide power, balancing the car. This allows for better handling. The Mazda MX-5 Miata is not available with all wheel drive.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the A3 Cabriolet’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the MX-5 Miata:

 

A3 Cabriolet

MX-5 Miata

Front Rotors

12.3 inches

11 inches

The A3 Cabriolet stops shorter than the MX-5 Miata:

 

A3 Cabriolet

MX-5 Miata

 

70 to 0 MPH

166 feet

175 feet

Car and Driver

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the A3 Cabriolet has larger standard tires than the MX-5 Miata (225/45R17 vs. 195/50R16). The A3 Cabriolet Prestige’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the MX-5 Miata (235/35R19 vs. 205/45R17).

The A3 Cabriolet’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the MX-5 Miata Sport’s standard 50 series tires. The A3 Cabriolet Prestige’s optional tires have a lower 35 series profile than the MX-5 Miata Club/Grand Touring’s 45 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the A3 Cabriolet has standard 17-inch wheels. Smaller 16-inch wheels are standard on the MX-5 Miata Sport. The A3 Cabriolet Prestige’s optional 19-inch wheels are larger than the 17-inch wheels on the MX-5 Miata Club/Grand Touring.

The Audi A3 Cabriolet’s wheels have 5 lugs for longer wheel bearing life, less chance of rotor warping and greater strength. The Mazda MX-5 Miata only has 4 wheel lugs per wheel.

The A3 Cabriolet has a standard space-saver spare tire so you can replace a flat tire and drive to have the flat repaired or replaced. A spare tire isn’t available on the MX-5 Miata; it requires you to depend on roadside assistance and your vehicle will have to be towed.

Suspension and Handling

The A3 Cabriolet has vehicle speed sensitive variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the A3 Cabriolet’s wheelbase is 11.3 inches longer than on the MX-5 Miata (102.2 inches vs. 90.9 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the A3 Cabriolet is 2.3 inches wider in the front and .9 inches wider in the rear than on the MX-5 Miata.

Passenger Space

The A3 Cabriolet has standard seating for 4 passengers; the MX-5 Miata can only carry 2.

Cargo Capacity

The A3 Cabriolet has a much larger trunk with its top down than the MX-5 Miata (7.1 vs. 4.6 cubic feet). The A3 Cabriolet has a much larger trunk with its top up than the MX-5 Miata (9.9 vs. 4.6 cubic feet).

Servicing Ease

The A3 Cabriolet uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The MX-5 Miata uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Audi service is better than Mazda. J.D. Power ranks Audi third in service department satisfaction. With a 85% lower rating, Mazda is ranked 27th.

Ergonomics

The A3 Cabriolet’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The MX-5 Miata’s power window switches have to be held the entire time to close them fully. Only its front windows open automatically.

If the windows are left open on the A3 Cabriolet the driver can close them all at the outside door handle or from a distance using the remote. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the MX-5 Miata can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The A3 Cabriolet’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The MX-5 Miata Sport/Club’s standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the A3 Cabriolet to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

The A3 Cabriolet has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. When the ignition turns off, the headlights turn off after a delay timed to allow you to securely get to your front door. The MX-5 Miata has an automatic headlight on/off feature standard only on the Grand Touring.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the A3 Cabriolet has standard extendable sun visors. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer extendable visors.

The A3 Cabriolet’s sun-visors swivel front-to-side to block glare from the side windows. The MX-5 Miata’s visors are fixed into the windshield header.

The A3 Cabriolet’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Mazda only offers heated mirrors on the MX-5 Miata Grand Touring.

The A3 Cabriolet’s standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer dual zone air conditioning.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the A3 Cabriolet Prestige has a standard Adaptive Cruise Control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

The A3 Cabriolet Prestige’s Park Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The MX-5 Miata doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Model Availability

The Audi A3 comes in convertible, sedan and station wagon bodystyles; the Mazda MX-5 Miata isn’t available as a sedan or station wagon.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the A3 Cabriolet owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the A3 Cabriolet with a number “5” insurance rate while the MX-5 Miata is rated higher at a number “10” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the A3 Cabriolet is less expensive to operate than the MX-5 Miata because typical repairs cost much less on the A3 Cabriolet than the MX-5 Miata, including $22 less for a muffler, $109 less for a fuel pump and $419 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Audi A3 Cabriolet and the Mazda MX-5 Miata, based on reliability, safety and performance.

The Audi A3/S3 outsold the Mazda MX-5 Miata by over two to one during the 2018 model year.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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