The Audi A3 Cabriolet is a new open-top version of our 2013 Car of the Year.
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.
We've yet to try the stiffer suspension options, but based on our experience of the A3 hatch and saloon, these are probably best avoided.
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.
Instead, the main drawback of the extra weight is the effect it has on performance. We tried a 123bhp 1.4 petrol turbo engine (that won’t be coming to the UK), and it feels notably slower in the Cabriolet than the 120bhp version of the same engine that we’ve raved about in the A3 hatchback.
True, it's always smooth and quiet, but you have to work it that bit harder to get up to speed, while fast A-road overtakes require a couple of downshifts and plenty of revs.
A 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 feels strong, too, pulling hard from low revs 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 Golf 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 speeds of 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 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 do 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 car was fitted with Audi's thicker acoustic hood, a £220 option on entry-level cars and standard on higher trims. At that price, we'd reccommend spending the extra if you have to.
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 the two in the back will find their knees are pressed up against the seats in front.
Headroom isn’t great with the roof closed, either, but 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 (multimedia interface) 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 refined by open-top standards. It’s even good value, especially when you take into account likely levels of depreciation.
Based on our experience with other versions of the A3, we suspect the 138bhp 1.4 turbo petrol will be 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 get your order in before the A3 Cabriolet arrives in the UK next spring.
What Car? says…
Specification 1.4 TFSI 125 (not available in UK)
Engine size 1.4-litre turbo petrol
Price from na
Torque 148lb ft
0-62mph 10.6 seconds
Top speed 131mph
Fuel economy 52.3mpg
CO2 emissions 126g/km
Specification 1.4 TFSI CoD 140
Engine size 1.4-litre turbo petrol
Price from £25,790
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
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
Torque 251lb ft
0-62mph 8.9 seconds
Top speed 139mph
Fuel economy 67.3mpg
CO2 emissions 110g/km