Audi A3 Cabriolet

The German joins BMW in launching a drop-top version of its entry-level model.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Audi has a history of building stylish convertibles, and here is another fine example. The fantastic fabric hood is slick and operates incredibly quickly. When in place, it provides coupé-like sound insulation, too. The Cabriolet is good-looking, with a host of neat visual updates. But it’s not as entertaining to drive as its BMW 1-Series rival, and the punchy 2.0-litre turbo engine of our car comes at a price. The 2.0 diesel would be a fine buy.

bosses at Audi have already widened the A4 line-up – now, it’s time for them to expand the A3 range as well! The new Cabriolet variant goes on sale in March, priced from £20,740.

The drop-top arrives five years after the A3 hatch, and hits showrooms hot on the heels of the 1-Series Con­vertible. Even before turning a wheel, though, the Audi has scored a victory over the BMW – because it’s equipped with the world’s fastest folding car roof.

Incredibly, the multi-layered fabric hood takes only nine seconds to open, and a further two to close again.

The operation is fully automatic with the Sport model – other versions need the driver to undo a clip first – and is controlled by a switch on the centre console, or via the key fob. Once stowed, the lid folds flush with the bodywork. What’s more, it can be activated at speeds of up to 20mph.

The Cabriolet is a stylish machine, and debuts design touches that will appear across the A3 range later this year. There’s a new single-frame grille and a racier lower split­ter, while the Sport can be specified with R8 supercar influenced LED running lamps. Neat A5-style tail-lights finish off the rear. Whether the hood is up or down, this car has plenty of visual appeal.

Inside, there’s space for four people, although adults will be cramped in the back. Legroom is particularly tight.

Two variants are available – the entry-level model and flagship Sport. The latter, an extra £1,850, features sports suspension, the fully automatic roof and 17-inch alloy wheels.

On the move, the Cabriolet doesn’t feel quite as agile as the hatchback – it’s heavier, thanks to some chassis strengthening that was added to cope with the loss of the roof. Our range-topper’s 15mm lower suspension and big alloys gave a firm ride.

But the handling is composed, and the Cabriolet is sturdily built. There’s no scuttle shake with the roof down and, when it’s in place, the top’s multi-layered design keeps the cockpit as quiet as the hatchback version.

Engine choices comprise 1.9-litre and 2.0 diesels, plus 1.8 and 2.0 turbo petrol units. The bigger petrol model is quick but frugal, returning 37.1mpg. However, with a price tag of £25,500, it’s far from cheap.

Rival: Saab 9-3 Convertible It’s one of the longest-running cabriolets on the market. And with plenty of badge prestige, sleek looks plus a neat folding fabric roof, the 9-3 Convertible has plenty to recommend it. However, it’s not as good to drive as the Audi, and lags behind on build quality.

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