What is it?
It’s an Audi A3, and there’s no mistaking it for anything else, not even any other Audi, thanks to its compact dimensions (at 4,421mm, the A3 Cabriolet is 35mm shorter than the A3 sedan). It shares its entire front fascia with the A3 sedan, as well as its tail-lights and even its 17-inch alloy wheels. The obvious differences, of course, are the fabric roof and the fact that two doors are missing, but you’ll also notice that the frame for the windscreen is now finished in brushed silver; a nice stylistic touch. It looks particularly good with the roof folded away, as this makes it appear longer than it actually is. In fact, it managed to draw attention from all and sundry like a proper sportscar normally would.
There are four seats in the cabin, but let’s call it a 2+2 rather than a four-seater, because the two rear seats are narrow and only useable if the front seats are set a fair bit forward, and even then it’s a squeeze. That said, the front half of the cabin is pretty much identical to a top-spec A3 sedan. It’s upholstered in the sportier black leather trim, fit and finish are top notch, and it’s loaded up with equipment, including dual-zone climate control, a touchpad for the MMI system, and the optional Bang & Olufsen audio and satellite navigation on our test car. One thing that is missing, however, are powered front seats, which is a glaring omission on such an expensive car.
The other big problem with convertibles is, of course, that the boot space is compromised by the folding roof. That’s the case here too, but considering how compact this car is, 320 litres of storage is not too bad. And though the load area is not very tall, it is just as wide and long as in the sedan, so while large suitcases will be a problem, you can easily get a few soft bags in there without issue.
What is it like to drive?
Step into the driver’s seat and one quirk typical of most four-seat convertibles strikes you immediately – the top of the windscreen is lower and stretched further back than in the sedan, and while it doesn’t block your view, it does fall into your field of vision; something taller drivers will need to get used to. This is done, of course, to reduce the area the folding roof has to cover. Speaking of which, with the roof up, headroom all round is a bit tight, and the cabin feels a bit too ‘cozy’. But then, we are talking about a compact convertible here, and this is a small sacrifice to make for being surrounded by limitless sky with the roof folded away.
There will be no diesel version of the Audi A3 Cabriolet. The only motor it comes with is the 1.8 TFSI turbo-petrol engine, which sends its 177bhp and 25.5kgm through the front wheels via a seven-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch gearbox. That’s fine by us, as this powertrain is what cemented the A3 sedan as one of our favourite cars to drive in 2014; the diesel version just isn’t as much fun. As ever, the 1.8 TFSI is super smooth and refined, spins quite freely and builds its power in a beautifully linear surge. There are, however, three differences to the driving experience compared to the sedan. For one, you can option a sports steering wheel on the A3 Cabriolet that comes with paddles for shifting gears manually, rather than just using the gearlever as you have to in the sedan. Secondly, the soft-top gets as standard Audi’s Drive Select driving modes – Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual – that alter the powertrain responsiveness as well as steering weight. And finally, with the roof folded, you can hear more of the otherwise silent motor when you open it up a bit, which only adds to the thrill. It makes a pleasing purr at high revs, and in Dynamic mode, delivers a subtle ‘whump’ from the exhaust with every upshift. Lovely.