Audi A3 Cabriolet (2008-2013) review
With its spacious cabin and fast-folding fabric roof, the 2008 Audi A3 Cabriolet is as desirable as it is practical
The Audi A3 Cabriolet rivals the BMW 1 Series Convertible and Volkswagen Eos, and although it looks a little ungainly from some angles, there's no doubting its quality. The cabin is classy and feels very well made, while the canvas roof does a good job of minimising road and wind noise – in fact, it's just one decibel louder than the hatch on the motorway. Large windows mean there's lots of light and visibility, although the twin roll hoops badly restrict the view out of the rear window. There's a range of efficient engines, and every model came well equipped. All but the standard spec model come with a fully-automatic roof that folds whisper-quietly in less than 10 seconds, and at speeds of up to 19mph.
Our choice: 2.0 TFSI Sport
Engines, performance and drive
Audi says it has stiffened the structure of the open-top A3, but it still lacks rigidity. It's prone to tremors on rough surfaces, which rattle the A-pillars and steering wheel. This harms the car’s overall comfort – suspension is supple, but the A3 Cabriolet isn’t as relaxing as it could be. The handling isn’t very incisive, either – it's nose-heavy, the steering isn’t particularly sharp and the brakes are soft. But it will cruise quietly over smooth surfaces and the canvas roof does a good job of minimising road and wind noise. Luckily, the range of engines are much better. There's three petrol and two diesel engines to choose from, with the petrols ranging from a 104bhp 1.2 TFSI to a 198bhp 2.0-litre. The diesels are a 1.6-litre with 104bhp and the excellent 2.0-litre TDI with 139bhp.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
All engines are relatively economical. The most efficient is the 1.6 TDI which can go from 0-62mph in 12.2 seconds, return fuel economy of 65.7mpg and emit 114g/km of CO2. The more powerful diesel still returns 53.3mpg and emits 139g/km, while the mid-range 1.8-litre petrol returns 42.2mpg and emits 156g/km of CO2. Residual values are strong, as this car performs better on the used car market than the BMW 1 Series Convertible, Volkswagen Eos and Volvo C70 - helping to protect your investment.
Interior, design and technology
The Audi A3 Cabriolet looks very similar to its hatchback siblings of the same era. New lamp clusters do help it to stand out, but the most striking aspects are the tiny rear deck and huge roof – which seems to have been designed for a much larger car (indeed, it is longer than the roof on the larger A4 Cabriolet). In profile, it makes the A3 look top-heavy, and highlights the abrupt tail. At least cabin quality is as good as any direct rival.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The A3 comes with a semi-automatic roof as standard, which is upgraded to a fully-automatic hood on Technik, Sport and S line models. The latter option means the roof folds flat at a touch of a button in less than 10 seconds, and at speeds of up to 19mph. The narrow boot opening is awkward to use, but the load area itself is quite generous for a convertible. Audi has fitted split-fold rear seats too. This means the 260-litre boot will expand to 674 litres.
Reliability and Safety
The Audi A3 finished 38th in the 2011 Driver Power reliability survey. The Cabriolet feels like it's built to last, and the cabin upholds Audi’s standards for solid build quality. The A3 Cabriolet hasn't been crash tested, but the three-door hatchback received a four-star Euro NCAP rating when it was tested in 2003. It comes fitted with driver, front passenger and side airbags, as well as electronic stability control and ABS. The cabriolet adds roll over protection bars mounted behind the front seats too.