We British are well known for our love of the sun and that's probably why the UK buys more open-top cars than every other European country, other than Germany.
German car makers make some of the best convertibles going, and it's Audi that brings us the latest entrant to the segment, the Audi A3 Cabriolet.
This is not an all-new model, but a mid-life facelift of the popular current A3. On the outside the Cabriolet gets new front and rear lights with a revised headlight LED daytime running light design, redesigned front grille, and new front and rear bumpers, as well as a choice of new alloy wheels.
On the inside the MMI controls for the infotainment system and sat-nav have been simplified with the number of buttons halved to two, while the air vents are redesigned to have even more of a turbine look.
Under the bonnet there’s a new 2.0 TFSI petrol engine developing 187bhp that can be had in either standard two-wheel drive or with optional quattro four-wheel drive, fitted with either a seven-speed manual or optional automatic gearbox.
Other petrol engines include a 1.4-litre and the 2.0-litre in the S3. There are three diesels available including a 1.6-litre and two 2.0-litres, again with the option of quattro and an automatic transmission.
The A3 Cabriolet is available in four trim levels: SE, Sport, S line and S3, all of which now come with more standard equipment including xenon headlights, smartphone interface, cruise control and automatic wipers and headlights.
There’s also an extended options list with more tech on offer, including Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit, which is a configurable digital instrument panel, as found on the TT and A4 among other models.
Other new equipment includes LED headlights with dynamic ‘sweeping’ indications (standard on the S line and S3), traffic jam assist, emergency assist, adaptive cruise control and cross traffic assist at the rear.
The version we’re testing is the 148bhp 1.4-litre TFSI petrol with a seven-speed automatic gearbox in S line trim.
What is the 2016 Audi A3 Cabriolet like to drive?
The 1.4-litre is the perfect engine for driving around town or cruising down the Kings Road with the top down, as it’s quiet and restrained. At low revs the engine provides swift enough performance, but it becomes vocal and sounds strained if you drive more enthusiastically. It has cylinder-on-demand technology meaning the engine can run on just two of its four cylinders to save fuel.
Even though it’s not the most engaging car to drive, the A3 Cabriolet is more than competent to drive. It handles neatly, controlling most body roll through corners, has plenty of grip, is keen to turn-in and has a consistent steering feel. However, the ride is far too firm, even in Comfort setting and especially on the S line sports suspension. It struggles to isolate its occupants from broken and uneven surfaces.
At times, the automatic gearbox shifted gears with a noticeable lurch, and there was more tyre noise than you’d expect from such a premium car. The worst intrusions of noise left you wondering if you had fully closed one of the small rear windows.
What is the 2016 Audi A3 Cabriolet like inside?
Audi has a reputation for well-made, luxurious interiors, and the A3 Cabriolet is no exception. It feels premium throughout with high-quality materials and good use of chrome and brushed aluminium trim.
The fabric roof raises and lowers in 18sec at the push of a button between the front seats. With the top down and windows up, there’s some buffeting of your hair and face, but an optional wind deflector (£300) eliminates the majority of this.
Our car’s sports seats were very comfortable and supportive and wrapped in optional Nappa leather, a costly £1220 extra. There’s plenty of adjustment on the steering wheel and driver’s seat, so most people should easily find a comfortable driving position. While the view out to the front and side is good, the over-the-shoulder view is obscured by the thick rear pillar of the canvas roof.
A 7.0in colour infotainment screen dramatically raises out of the top of the dash when the ignition is turned on; it is controlled via the MMI rotary dial and scribble pad between the seats. Within the central armrest are the smartphone interface connection points.
Those in the front won’t want for much more space or storage. There are two cup holders in the centre and each door will take a small bottle. However, it’s not such a good story in the back. An adult of average height will have their knees resting on the backrest of the seat in front with their head touching the canvass roof, so the rear seats are best kept for use by small children.
The boot has a letterbox shaped opening, but it is long and large enough to get in a couple of golf bags. With the top down, however, you do lose some space.
Should I buy one?
As long as you avoid firm-riding S line trim then, yes, you absolutely should. The A3 Cabriolet is a classy and composed convertible and there are few rivals that can compete with it. We'd recommend you stick with the smooth manual gearbox rather than opt for an automatic gearbox, though.
Be careful when ticking the options list, however, as the optional extras can quickly mount up. The total cost of our test car cost was more than £40,000 because it was fitted with £8000 of optional equipment including 19in alloys wheel, adaptive cruise control, technology pack, progressive steering, Audi magnetic ride, heated seats and a B&O sound system. We’d add heated seats and the wind deflector as a minimum, though.
What Car? says...
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BMW 2 Series Convertible
Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.4 TSFI S Tronic S line
Engine size 1.4-litre turbo petrol
Price from £32,125
Torque 184lb ft
Top speed 138mph
Fuel economy (official combined) 55.4mpg
CO2/BIK band 119g/km/20%