Audi A3 sports performance
The best of the engines is the 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol. The 2.0-litre turbo is gutsier still, but not worth the sizeable step up in price. The entry-level 1.6 diesel isn’t as fast as the bigger engines, but it seldom feels underpowered, unless the car is fully loaded.
The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel is very strong across the rev range, making it tempting for those who want decent performance and low running costs. The more powerful (181bhp) version of this engine is certainly punchier on the move but doesn’t make enough of a difference given the amount it costs.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard but Audi’s automatic S tronic gearbox is an option on most engines and standard with quattro four-wheel drive. It offers super-fast shifts but is a little jerky at low speeds, particularly when parking.
There’s also an S3 version that has a 306bhp turbocharged petrol engine and four-wheel drive. It offers astonishing performance, with acceleration times that can rival a Porsche Boxster; but, for us, the calmer engines suit the A3 Cabriolet’s relaxed character much better.
Audi A3 sports ride
The most comfortable A3 Cabriolets are those in Sport spec, because this trim level gets well-judged Dynamic suspension that blends good bump and pothole absorption with decent body control. Move up to S line trim and you get a lower Sport set-up that’s noticeably firmer at low speeds, compounded further by the bigger wheels.
None of these firmer set-ups is unbearable, but the good news is that you can specify softer Dynamic suspension on S line trim – and doing so won’t cost you an extra penny. The S3 is even lower and stiffer than S line models, although it comes with standard Adaptive Magnetic Ride dampers, so it is actually quite comfortable. This adaptive set-up is available on lesser models (apart from the 1.6-litre diesel), but we’d just stick to Dynamic and save our money.
Audi A3 sports handling
The A3 Cabriolet changes direction eagerly. Its steering is precise and gives you plenty of information about what’s going on between the wheels and the road, even though it’s not the most rewarding system we’ve ever tried.
The car has plenty of grip for those twisting B-roads in the country, allowing you to press on if you so desire. Fortunately, there isn’t too much body roll, even when you choose the standard Sport suspension over the more focused S line set-up.
Regardless of which suspension you go for, Audi offers an Adaptive Magnetic Ride system as an option, but the mix of comfort and body control is so good on the standard set-up that we really wouldn’t bother paying the extra.
Audi A3 sports refinement
With the roof down and the windows up, occupants in the front are well protected from buffeting, so long as they erect a rather inelegant wind deflector over the rear seats that’s a reasonably priced option. It can’t be fitted if there are people sitting in the back, though. Without it, things become a bit blowy for everyone.
With the roof up, the A3 Cabriolet keeps its occupants well isolated from outside noise because all versions get an excellent acoustic hood installed as standard.
As for the engines, the 1.5 and 2.0 turbo petrols are particularly smooth and hushed, but even the diesels aren’t too vocal once you’re up to motorway speeds. It’s worth remembering, however, that larger wheels do bring a bit more road rumble. The more modest 16in and 17in rims keep the noise to a minimum. The standard gearbox is a six-speed manual that has a slick, positive action, while the optional S tronic automatic gearbox can be jerky at low speeds.