What is it?
The new Audi A3 cabriolet, now based around a dimensional architecture better suited to the task of providing room for four, their luggage and accommodating an elaborate fabric folding roof.
It’s also stiffer than before, a fact that’s impressively apparent when you close the roof on the move, which is possible at up to 31mph. The A3 cabriolet’s new-found extra length also produces better balance and more elegant proportioning than previously.
The car is based on the slightly broader, track-widening MQB architecture used by the A3 saloon, making it 28mm wider as well as 183mm longer than the old convertible, its wheelbase stretched by a more modest 17mm. All of which yields more rear seat room and usefully more luggage space.
True, the boot is decidedly burrow-like, but it grows by 60 litres roof-up to provide 320 litres, and 15 extra litres roof-down for a 275 litre total. You get an active rollover protection system and a lid that performs its acrobatics in 18 seconds, but it’s a pity that the desirable folding windbreak is an option. A neck-warming seat ventilation system is also a box-tick away.
There are three engine options at launch, starting with the 138bhp cylinders-on-demand 1.4 TFSI tested here, the 148bhp 2.0 TDI and a 178bhp 1.8 TFSI, which can only be had with a seven-speed S tronic DSG transmission.
The 1.4 TFSI is expected to take a 30 per cent slug of sales – not least because of its impressive 114g/km of CO2, which is just behind the diesel’s 110g/km – although the 1.6 TDI will take the same share when it arrives later, together with a 182bhp 2.0 TDI.
As with the A3 hatch, you can choose from three grades of suspension stiffness and ride height, allowing you to agonise over the play-off between aesthetics and ride comfort. You can also stuff 19in alloys beneath the Cabrio’s arches, although the test car sat on 18ins, with 10mm lower sport suspension.
What’s it like?
It’s a measure of this car’s structural stiffness that at a good 25mph on an undulating ‘B’ road you can raise the roof, and see the metal tongues of its latching system accurately engage with the header rail.
Were this a car suffering back-roads flex, there’s a danger they’d miss as the windscreen shimmied. Not that this cabriolet is completely purged of open-top shake – you can feel faint tremors through the steering wheel and occasionally sense the body’s quivering shifts, but it’s entirely rigid enough for purposes less urgent than clipping apexes and feeling red-mist surges.
Which is not meant as criticism – this is a cabrio, not a roofless sports car, and while it corners with cleanly confident precision, it’s not a car of vibrant verve. Steering that politely distances you from the contact patch action and an engine that only revs to 6300rpm confirm that. The 1.4 musters more than workmanlike urge and a little bit of twin cam fizz, but it’s happier mid-range than at high revs.
All of which underlines this A3’s mission as a briskly capable alfresco cruiser. And very pleasant it is too, especially with the windbreak in place. Drop all four windows with the one-shot switch and you can enjoy the outside world – without being blasted by it – and a car of satisfyingly relaxed civility. It’s that bit more civilised if you choose the 2.0 TDI over this 1.4 TFSI, not only because its stouter torque curve eases the business of wafting but also because this heavier powertrain produces a smoother ride.
Those in the rear will enjoy a comfortable ride too. There’s adequate room despite side panels that close in on you, and the backrest’s not too upright either, a frequent cabrio failing.
Roof up, the Audi’s headlining and sealing are thorough enough to allow you to forget that it’s a convertible (at least until you reverse, when the letterbox slot rear window is a reminder), although there’s mild wind roar at speed. And as with the A3 hatch, the Cabrio’s interior is satisfying for both its logical layout and high-precision finish.
Should I buy one?
If you can afford to spend more, perhaps not, because the 2.0 TDI makes for a more companionable powertrain than the 1.4, both for its extra mid-range zest and its slightly superior ride. But the 1.4 TFSI nevertheless makes a good all-rounder, and you can also enjoy the intrigue of having it run on two fuel-saving cylinders.
Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.4 TFSI
Price £25,790; 0-62mph 9.1sec; Top speed 135mph; Economy 56.5mpg; Co2 114g/km; Kerbweight 1365kg (excl driver); Engine 4 cyls in line, 1395cc, turbocharged; Power 138bhp at 5000rpm; Torque 207lb ft at 1500-3500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual
What is it?