The Audi A3 Cabriolet is the fourth member of the rapidly expanding A3 family, and it joins the pair of hatchbacks and new saloon from next April (although you can order one now). It has switched from the previous hatchback shape to a saloon bodystyle, boosting boot space by 60 litres to 320 litres when the top is up. The new A3 Cabriolet does use the shorter wheelbase platform of the three-door hatch, rather than the longer version shared by the five-door and saloon, to keep the proportions compact.
When the sun comes out, a small switch in the centre console drops the canvas top into a compartment above the boot in a little under 20 seconds. Usefully, you can do this at speeds of up to 31mph, should the weather turn. With the side windows up, and the collapsible but unattractive wind deflector clipped into place above the rear seats, wind buffeting is well managed - although you do notice what a good job the roof was doing of keeping noise down. If it’s cold, the optional hot air blowers, mounted in the top of each seat back, keep your neck nice and warm.
The Audi A3 Cabriolet is lighter than before, but it doesn’t feel much stiffer. There’s a noticeable wobble from the rear-view mirror, and while the steering remains linear and accurate, you can feel the wheel moving around in your hands.
The diesel engine offers plenty of torque, but it’s quite a noisy unit. If you don’t do many miles, we’d steer clear and go for the smoother, quieter petrol instead. That torque also means you’re stuck with the jerky six-speed S tronic gearbox, if you opt for an auto, rather than the smoother-operating seven-speeder. The gearbox never seems to be in the right gear at the right time either, and it feels like the tuning hasn’t quite been finessed enough to take the car’s extra weight into account. The manual arrives in April, with the S tronic available from the summer.
The S line car we tested comes as standard with Drive Select, which helps give the car a decent ride by adapting the damping to suit. It does have a tendency to bob forwards and back over bumps whatever the mode, but the trade-off is a more compliant ride to suit the fact that this A3 has been tuned for comfort rather than a sharp drive.
The view from the driver’s seat is now very familiar – the same minimalist dashboard, solid-feeling surfaces and comfortable driving position are carried over from the rest of the range.
Up front, headroom isn’t compromised by the new canvas top, although you do notice that the screen’s pillars seem more prominent than usual, as they’re beefed up to withstand a roll-over impact. Rear seat space is pretty tight for both head and legroom, although the two rear seats are sculpted into a comfy shape.
With the roof in place, the new A3 Cabriolet is extremely quiet and refined – the triple-layer insulation smothering the clatter of the diesel engine and the road noise, which works its way up from the 18-inch wheels and tyres of our test car. The roof’s design doesn’t compromise the car’s looks too much, as it can with some soft-tops, ensuring the car still looks sleek, even when the British weather does its best to spoil things.
The switch from hatchback to saloon bodystyles has sharpened the looks of the latest A3 Cabriolet, and that gives it loads of showroom appeal. It’s not an especially sharp drive, especially with the diesel, but it’s comfortable, quiet and feels like a very polished addition to A3 family.