What's good? Fun to drive. Classy inside. Extremely refined.
It's strange - if you're looking for a premium convertible that costs under £30,000, the only real contenders for your money are the Golf Cabriolet and the A3 Cabriolet. Both of these are the same car, really. The only difference is a bit of leather and a bit of rubber here and there. Of the two, the Audi is most desirable, though, so is it worth the extra?
There are many people in the Autoweb camp that aren't won over by any of the recent visual changes to VAG cars. I am one of them - the Seat Leon whilst it used to be very unique is now pretty boring, and the Volkswagen Golf MK7 looks worse than the MK6. But, in the case of the A3, things are better.
So how is the A3 Cabriolet to look at?
First of all, the Cabriolet has a fabric roof, just like its predecessor. Second of all, the Cabriolet features the A3 saloons rear lights and not the hatchbacks. These two elements combine together to create a vehicle that looks nothing short of gorgeous - in SE trim, which has the smallest alloys, it looks fantastic and in S Line trim it looks really mean. I can't wait to see what an S3 version looks like.
From the front, this looks like any A3. The only giveaway is the black fabric roof. However, the side profile has its own visual flair, as does the rear.
When car manufacturers chop the roof off a car, this often results in a change in the way the standard car drives. Not so in this car. The A3 Cabriolet is just as rigid as the hatchback which means there's no body roll to speak of. The version I recommend, SE, has the softest suspension of the range and it proved to be remarkably comfortable during my test drive. It handled rough services with ease and there wasn't a crash when going over potholes.
The lowest specification engine available in this car in the UK is a 140 bhp 1.4 TFSI, but this isn't recommended for ladies who want to have a little bit of fun now and again. A better bet would be the refined but powerful 1.8 TFSI which boasts 178 bhp - in the real world, that's plenty of grunt for relaxed motorway overtaking and safe country lane manoeuvres. The 1.8 TFSI also undercuts the popular 2.0 TDI, and it has no DPF to clog up.
On the move, the A3 Cabriolet is a wonderful place to relax. The seats are very comfortable and there's lots of space in the cabin. Speaking of which...
The all-new Audi A3 is class-leading in terms of interior quality, and I can safely say that the A3 Cabriolet is sub-£30k convertible class-leading. Every switch feels extremely robust and of a top quality, and media controls all have a satisfying click. The materials throughout the cabin are extremely classy and you feel like you're flying first-class a lot of the time. This means that anybody downsizing from, say, an A5 convertible will not be disappointed as far as interior quality is concerned.
The A3 Cabriolet also benefits from Audi's latest Multimedia Interface (MMI), which is much more intuitive than BMW's iDrive.
Boot capacity isn't one of the A3 Cabriolet's strong points, though - there’s 275 litres of space with the hood down and 320 litres with it up. Thankfully, it does benefit from split/fold seats, and so longer items can be transported.
Rear leg room is good, but not mind-blowing, although there's plenty of room in the back for a couple of fussy children.
As noted above, there are a variety of engines available in the A3 Cabriolet. Although I didn't get chance to extensively test them out for running costs, here is what you need to know:
1.4 TFSI CoD 140 - 56.5 mpg combined and 114g/km CO2. On-the-road £25,790.
1.8 TFSI 180 - 46.4 mpg combined and 142 g/km. On-the-road £28,790
2.0 TDI 150 - 67.3 mpg combined and 110 g/km. On-the-road £27,240.
So, just like the regular A3, the best bet for drivers after a car that's not going to cost an arm and a leg to run is the 2.0 TDI. I still maintain however that if you're looking for a fun drive, the 1.8 TFSI is your best bet, although it does cost more to tax and returns worse fuel economy. It also costs more. In truth, all of these A3's drive well, and regardless of engine choice, they offer a fantastic drive.
Trim and Equipment
The Audi A3 Cabriolet will be available in the usual Audi trim levels - SE, SE ACT, Sport, S Line. There may also be a Black Edition and even an S3 version released during 2014.
The best value for money is, as always, SE trim. In the Cabriolet, standard equipment includes a 4-spoke leather trimmed multifunction steering wheel, front and rear floor mats, a light and rain sensor pack, air conditioning, heated electric mirrors, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity. Sport trim is a good option for those with a little more to spend. In addition to all of the above, you will get dual-zone climate control, aluminium inlays, and a unique 3-spoke steering wheel. S Line doesn't get much more other than sportier seats and a unique steering wheel. Oh, and lots of S Line badges.
Lowly SE trim for me is where it's at. It keeps costs low and it has the best chassis for comfort. Plus, you can always buy aftermarket alloys to beef it up anyway.
We don't readily recommend sub-30k convertibles here at Autoweb, but we're inclined to do so here - the Cabriolet takes everything that's great about the regular A3 but takes away the roof. The result is almost an entirely new car - it handles extremely well and it has its own character. Downsides? There aren't any, really. I recommend going for the 1.8 TFSI in SE trim to keep driving fun but costs low.