2014 Audi A3 Cabriolet review

  • New open-top Audi A3 driven in UK
  • Fabric hood retracts at up to 31mph
  • On sale now, priced from £25,790

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The Audi A3 Cabriolet is a new open-top version of our 2013 Car of the Year.

Like its predecessor, it has a fabric hood rather than a folding metal hard-top, which makes it a direct rival for the likes of the BMW 1 Series Convertible and the VW Beetle Cabriolet

The new A3 Cabriolet goes on sale next April with a choice of three turbocharged engines: a 138bhp 1.4 petrol (which can deactivate two of its four cylinders when cruising to save fuel), a 178bhp 1.8 petrol and a 148bhp 2.0 TDI diesel.

Other engines will follow, including a 103bhp 1.6 diesel and a more powerful 2.0 TDI with 181bhp.

What’s the 2014 Audi A3 Cabriolet like to drive?

Chopping the roof off a car often ruins the way it drives, but this isn’t the case with the A3 Cabriolet.

It doesn't shake or shudder along the bumpy roads anywhere near as much as some open-tops. In fact, on SE suspension – the softest of three available set-ups – it's remarkably comfortable.

The stiffer suspension set-up on Sport and S Line versions only highlights broken Tarmac. However, if you do choose one of the these trims, you can still revert to softer SE suspension for no extra cost. 

The necessary structural reinforcements have added quite a bit of weight to the A3, but it still controls its body movements well through corners and has precise and consistently weighted steering.

The extra weight hasn't had too dramatic an affect on performance, either. The entry-level turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol has to be revved to make quick progress, but it pulls smoothly from low revs if you need it to. Importantly, too, it remains quiet – even when running in two-cylinder mode. 

If performance is paramount, the better bet is the 178bhp 1.8-litre turbo petrol, which is just as smooth and quiet but delivers effortless acceleration whatever gear you're in.

The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel is also strong, pulling hard from low down and staying smooth at higher revs. The optional S tronic automatic gearbox is best avoided though; it doesn't shift as smoothly or as intelligently as the best modern autos.

Thankfully, that extra weight hasn't harmed CO2 emissions and fuel economy too much; in all forms the A3 Cabriolet is considerably more efficient than its closest rivals, the 1 Series Convertible and Beetle Cabriolet.

What’s the 2014 Audi A3 Cabriolet like inside?

The fabric hood takes around 18 seconds to do its business and can be operated at up to 31mph.

With the roof down and windows up, those in the front are well protected from buffeting – as long as you erect a rather inelegant optional (£290) wind deflector in the rear seat compartment. Obviously, though, you can’t fit this deflector if there are people sitting in the back, at which point things become a bit blowy for everyone.

However, those sitting in the front can warm the backs of their necks using the optional active seat ventilation. This system works in a similar way to Mercedes’ Airscarf, blowing warm air out of the front seats just below the head restraints.

Put the roof up and the A3 Cabriolet keeps occupants pretty well isolated from outside noise. As with other versions of the A3, there's some road noise heard in the cabin, but never enough to annoy. 

This was helped by the fact that our test cars were all fitted with 'acoustic' hoods, a £220 option on entry-level cars and standard on the higher trims. 

As with the previous A3 Cabriolet, there isn’t a huge amount of space in the back. Four adults will just about fit if the driver isn’t too tall, but those in the back will find their knees are pressed up against the seats in front.

Headroom isn’t great with the roof closed, either, although the A3 Cabriolet has a bigger boot than the Golf Cabriolet (there’s 275 litres of space with the hood down and 320 litres with it up), and split-folding rear seats come as standard to help you carry long items.

The Cabriolet has the same smart cabin as other versions of the A3; every switch feels substantial and nicely damped, and the materials throughout the cabin are wonderfully classy, so anyone downsizing from a more expensive open-top – such as an Audi A5 or Mercedes E-Class – won't feel at all shortchanged.

It's pretty high-tech inside, too, because like the A3 hatchback, the Cabriolet comes with the latest version of Audi's MMI infotainment system. This has the central control dial that Audi drivers will be familiar with, but the shortcut buttons have been replaced by raised toggle switches, which are easier to use without studying the buttons. 

The A3 Cabriolet is available in the same three trims as the A3 hatchback: SE, Sport and S line.

SE models comes with 16-inch alloys, air-conditioning, a DAB radio, Bluetooth and automatic lights and wipers, while upgrading to Sport trim gets you that better insulated acoustic hood, 17-inch wheels, sports seats, dual-zone climate control and lower sports suspension (although this can be deselected).

S line models add even bigger, 18-inch alloys, part-leather seats, xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and various sporty-looking touches. You can also have even stiffer suspension than on the Sport model for no extra cost.

Should I buy one?

There aren’t many sub-£30k convertibles we’d strongly recommend buying, but the new A3 Cabriolet is definitely one of them.

It’s good to drive, classy inside and exceptionally refined by open-top standards. It’s even good value – especially when you take into account likely levels of depreciation.

The 138bhp 1.4 turbo petrol is the pick of the range, but all of the engines we've tried so far offer strong performance and good fuel economy.

Unless you regularly need to carry four adults, then, there aren't many reasons you shouldn’t buy one.

 

What Car? says…


Rivals:

BMW 1 Series Convertible

Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet

 

Specification 1.4 TFSI CoD 140
Engine size 1.4-litre turbo petrol
Price from £25,790
Power 138bhp
Torque 184lb ft
0-62mph 9.1 seconds
Top speed 135mph
Fuel economy 56.5mpg
CO2 emissions 114g/km

Specification 1.8 TFSI 180 
Engine size 1.8-litre turbo petrol  
Price from £28,790 
Power 178bhp 
Torque 184lb ft 
0-62mph 7.8 seconds 
Top speed 150mph 
Fuel economy 46.3mpg 
CO2 emissions 142g/km

Specification 2.0 TDI 150
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £27,240
Power 148bhp
Torque 251lb ft
0-62mph 8.9 seconds
Top speed 139mph
Fuel economy 67.3mpg
CO2 emissions 110g/km

 
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