£26,875 - £40,670 Price range
41 - 70 MPG
The A3 Cabriolet is a four-seater and space for those in the front is good, but the rear seats are less usable. Fit and finish of the interior is impeccable and the materials used are more expensive than those in a VW Golf Cabriolet. The Cabriolet can now also be specified with Audi’s superb Virtual Cockpit display, which can form a 12.3-inch sat-nav screen where the instrument binnacle used to be. Thanks to a fabric roof instead of a metal one, the A3 Cabriolet has a decent boot too.
Removing the roof of a car has a negative impact on ride and handling, but the A3 Cabriolet does a good job of minimising body roll and the inherent shakiness of cars of this type. The fabric roof provides good noise isolation even at high speeds.
Another benefit of the Audi badge is the great range of engines it brings. From a very frugal 1.6-litre diesel to an impressively fast 2.0-litre petrol in the S3 Cabriolet. Our pick would be the 1.4-litre petrol for it’s mix of talents.
Being a premium convertible, the Audi gets plenty of equipment as standard. Entry-level cars come with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, DAB digital radio for the eight-speaker stereo and air-conditioning. In 2016 standard equipment grew to include auto lights and wipers, xenon headlights and cruise control
The rest of the Audi A3 line-up has been praised for bringing a high-class feel to the entry-level premium car market, and the A3 Cabriolet shares that quality.
This means you get metal knobs, soft dashboard plastics, swathes of silver trim and white LED displays. The cloth roof comes in two versions: SE models (that’s Audi-speak for entry level) get a normal cloth roof, and Sport and S-Line versions get an ‘acoustic’ roof that keeps more noise out of the cabin. It’s also available as an option on the SE. All roof options can be opened and closed in 18 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph.
Audi’s showpiece colour media screen raises from the dash every time you turn on the ignition, and you control it using a metal-rimmed dial on the centre console. It operates the radio, browses your media devices and can programme the optional sat-nav.
Audi A3 Cabriolet passenger space
Most critics say that the A3 Cabriolet is a lovely place to sit if you’re in the front, but a cramped experience for people in the rear two seats, where legroom and shoulder-room are at a premium.
The front seats are large, comfortable and four-way adjustable so a good driving position is almost guaranteed while the front passenger can stretch their legs. Slightly thicker A-pillars than in the regular A3 take a way some of the all-round visibility, but it’s still better than a BMW 2 Series.
Audi A3 Cabriolet boot space
Turning the A3 Saloon into a Cabriolet has compromised boot space: there’s room for 320 litres of luggage with the roof closed, and 275 with the roof down. This is much more than in the previous A3 Cabriolet, but the shape of the boot with the roof collapsed is only suitable for soft bags. The A3 is beaten by the 2 Series Convertible that has a bigger boot at 335-280 litres. The Vauxhall Cascada has more capacity than both at 380-280 litres.
Critics agree that the A3 Cabriolet rides well for a car that’s had its roof structure removed. Some complain that you get a slight movement through the car’s chassis over bumpier roads, but the general consensus is that the car handles bumps acceptably.
However, the ride quality does depend on which suspension setup you order. The Sport and S-line trim levels come with firm sports suspension that lowers the car by 15mm, but most reviewers say you should take Audi up on its free offer to downgrade to SE-spec non-sport suspension, because it makes the ride far less jittery. If you plump for the 296hp, four-wheel-drive S3 Cabriolet then you will be stuck with the firm suspension, but it seems more appropriate in that sporty version.
Few will find the A3 Cabriolet an exciting car to drive fast around corners, but in its role as a warm-weather cruiser, not many cars equal it for the money – the A3 is quiet, even with the roof down. There’s an optional wind deflector that reduces wind noise even more, but it sits across the rear seats, turning the A3 into a two-seater.
The A3 Cabriolet is available with three diesel and three petrol options. All of them are advanced and powerful with the 1.4-litre petrol having cylinder deactivation technology.
Audi A3 Cabriolet diesel engines
The two 2.0-litre diesel options have either 148hp or 181hp and both offer fuel economy of more than 55 mpg and also more punch than the 1.6-litre, 108hp diesel – although the smaller engine is the most frugal, getting fuel economy of 72.4mpg and annual road tax costs £20.
However, it’s also the slowest in the line-up with 0-62mph taking 11.4 seconds – hardly impressive in a sporty convertible. The 148hp engine cuts the acceleration time by two seconds while the 181hp version is actually fairly rapid taking 7.9 seconds to get from 0-62mph.
Audi A3 Cabriolet petrol engines
The quieter petrol engines lend themselves more naturally to the open-top driving experience, and the 1.4-litre, 148hp engine can pull the Cabriolet from a standstill to 62mph in 8.9 seconds while returning 57.6mpg and is cheap to tax at £20 a year. If that’s not quick enough there’s a 178hp 1.8-litre petrol that is more expensive to run with fuel economy of 42.2mpg and an annual road tax of £180, and a rapid 296hp 2.0-litre version in the S3. You can get most options with an S-Tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox, and all 2.0-litre models are available with Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive.
The real-world recommendation from most critics is the smooth 1.4-litre petrol, which has smart Cylinder on Demand (CoD) technology to improve fuel economy. This works by turning off two of the engine’s four cylinders when you’re not accelerating hard.
The A3 Cabriolet hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP yet, but the A3 hatchback scored five stars when it was tested in 2012. The cabriolet has the usual range of electronic and physical safety measures, such as electronic stability control and airbags, but its cleverest safety feature is its spring-loaded roll-over hoops, which keep the occupants off the road if the car rolls over.
On the old A3 Cabriolet the roll-over hoops were permanent fixtures, but on the new A3 Cabriolet they’re hidden behind the rear seats. Once the car starts rolling over a spring is released and they fire into position, ready to save the occupants’ scalps.
Audis are never cheap, but the high-quality interior is apparent even on entry-level SE models. As usual with Audis, you can easily add thousands to the list price by going into the options list.
Audi A3 Cabriolet SE
SE models get Bluetooth, air-con, stop/start technology and the 5.8-inch dash-mounted screen as standard, though you can increase that to seven inches if you opt for the £1,495 Technology Pack.
Audi A3 Cabriolet Sport Nav
The Sport trim level adds climate control, sat-nav and the acoustic roof among other less significant equipment such as aluminium trim inserts and chrome front fog light surrounds.
Audi A3 Cabriolet S-line Nav
The S-Line trim level gets you the look of an S3, without the increased running costs of a 300hp petrol engine. You get a more aggressive bodykit, larger wheels, sporty suspension, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and bright xenon headlights.
The A3 Cabriolet marks a significant improvement over the old model, and ranks as one of the finest non-sporty convertibles you can buy for under £30,000.
As long as you don’t expect sportscar-sharp handling, and don’t regularly transport six-foot folk in the back then you won’t find a real rival with the same quality feel. The closest competitor is Volkswagen’s Beetle Cabriolet, but that can’t match the A3’s equipment offering, refined driving experience or premium look.
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