Style matters in the convertible market and Audi has ensured the new A3 Cabriolet lives up to expectations. It has lost the frumpiness of the hatchback-based outgoing model, with more balanced proportions thanks to its A3 Saloon foundations, and a fabric hood that retracts fully into the boot.
It’s an altogether more premium model and must stand a good chance of beating the 3,000-unit typical annual UK sales of the current soft-top A3. Pricing is competitive, starting at £25,790, which is slightly higher than the cheapest BMW 1 Series Convertible. That will get the customer a 1.4-litre TFSI petrol with 138bhp and up to 56.5mpg and 114g/km CO2 emissions thanks to clever technology that shuts down two of the engine’s four cylinders when cruising.
The other powertrains offered at launch will include a 1.8-litre TFSI petrol automatic with 178bhp and a 148bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel manual with 110g/km CO2 emissions and 67.3mpg. We drove the latter one and found it very refined and quiet. It’ll be perfectly suited to company car user-choosers, who are expected to be almost a third of A3 Cabriolet customers. The 1.4-litre, more focused on retail customers, wasn’t available at the press launch.
In line with the three other A3 models, the A3 Cabriolet has three trim levels: SE, Sport and S Line. Basic equipment includes alloys, DAB digital radio, automatic lights and wipers plus a fold-away display screen. Its electrically operated fabric hood, with a heated glass rear window, opens in 18 seconds and can be operated at speeds up to 31mph. When retracted, it still leaves 287 litres of boot space, or 320 litres with the roof up. Optional on the SE is a more sound-absorbent acoustic hood, which comes as standard on Sport and S Line trims.
Sport and S Line gain lowered suspension, although standard dampers are a no-cost option, plus larger alloys, sports seats, dual-zone climate control and Audi’s adaptive dynamics system. S Line also gains embossed part-leather upholstery, bodystyling, xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights and a sports steering wheel.
Audi dealers have opened their order books, but won’t have cars for customers until April. After the initial appearance of cars in showrooms, S Tronic (twin-clutch automatic) versions of the diesel, manual 1.8-litre and a 1.6-litre diesel will be available in time for the summer. A more powerful version of the 2.0-litre TDI with 182bhp will be available with either front wheel-drive or quattro all-wheel-drive.
What’s been said about the Audi A3 Cabriolet
Like the rest of the A3 range, the Cabriolet is easy to drive. The major controls, as well as the switchgear, are solid yet light in operation. More impressive is the ride on broken surfaces, with none of the shaking and wobbling that used to afflict all cabrios.
You buy a convertible like this new Audi A3 Cabriolet for style above all else, so taking the sharp-looking A3 saloon and slicing the top off gives the Cabriolet loads of kerb appeal. It doesn’t come cheap, and rivals are more fun to drive, but it’s a comfortable, practical and spacious way of making quite a style statement.
It’s a stylish product, well executed inside and out… If you aspire to a premium open-top driving experience, Audi’s latest drop-top should be on your shortlist.