The best of the engines is the 1.4-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. The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel is very strong across the rev range. We’ve yet to try the more powerful (181bhp) version of this engine in the Cabriolet, but we’re impressed with its mid-range muscle in the A3 hatchback.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard but Audi’s automatic S tronic gearbox is an option on most engines. 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 Cabriolet’s relaxed character much better.
Audi A3 Cabriolet ride comfort
The most comfortable A3 Cabriolets are those in SE spec, because this trim level gets well-judged suspension that blends good bump and pothole absorption with decent body control. Move up to S line trim and you get a lower set-up that’s noticeably firmer at low speeds, compounded further with the bigger wheels you get. None of these firmer set-ups is unbearable, but the good news is that you can specify softer SE suspension on S line trim – and doing so won’t cost you an extra penny. The S3 is lower and stiffer even than S line models, although it comes with standard adaptive dampers, so is actually quite comfortable.
Audi A3 Cabriolet 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-road drives 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 SE suspension over the more focused Sport and S line set-ups.
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 Cabriolet 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. 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, especially if the excellent acoustic hood is installed. It’s an option on SE trim, and standard on Sport and above.
As for the engines, the 1.4 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.
This 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine has a broad spread of torque and is super smooth. It can also shut down two of its four cylinders when cruising to save fuel, keeping CO2 emissions remarkably low. This is our favourite engine.
2.0 TFSI 190
The 2.0-litre petrol has lots of power and torque; in fact, more than enough to make the A3 Cabriolet feel hot-hatch fast. It’s not much more usable in the real world than the 1.4, though, and it’s more expensive to buy and run. It’s only available with Sport and S line trims, and can have Audi’s all-wheel drive Quattro system.
2.0 TFSI 300
Unique to the high-performance, four-wheel-drive S3 Cabriolet, this 2.0-litre turbo petrol motor has 296bhp – enough to take the S3 from 0-62mph in just 5.4 sec. There’s very little turbo lag and a terrific exhaust note.
1.6 TDI 110
This is the best engine in the line-up for CO2 emissions, and so an appealing choice for company car drivers. They’ll enjoy a smooth, flexible motor that has enough low-down punch for comfortable motorway cruising.
2.0 TDI 150
We think the 2.0-litre diesel (in this 148bhp tune) is worth the premium over the 1.6 because it’s a little smoother and even more flexible. It’ll still return more than 50mpg in the real world, too, keeping running costs down. It’s available with all trim levels, while all-wheel drive can be chosen with Sport and S line models.
2.0 TDI 184
This more potent version of the 2.0-litre diesel is only offered in S line and Sport trim levels, so you have to pay a fair bit more for it. It brings a little more mid-range shove, but it’s not worth the extra cash over the 2.0 TDI 150.