Long-term tests

Audi A3 cabrio

A great track day let our drop-top shows its class.

  • I know some colleagues disagree with me, but with its bright white paint and red roof, I think it’s one of the best-looking convertibles on the block. It never ceases to amaze me how much attention you get in the car – and the roof mechanism is so quick!
  • Despite the dealer confirming there isn’t a fault, the gearbox is annoying. I still think reverse gear is far too jerky – especially when you’re trying to gently squeeze into a parking space. The wind deflector is fiddly to fit and remove as well.

It's always irritating when the weather doesn’t allow you to drop the top on a convertible, and I certainly suffered this summer! There were only a handful of occasions when I could enjoy some wind-in-the-hair fun in our A3 cabrio.

Fortunately, one of those was when Audi invited me to attend one of its Advanced Driving Experience days. This meant I got to enjoy a bracing early morning top- down drive to Rockingham race track, Northamptonshire. Cruising is when the Audi is at its best. Buffeting is kept to a minimum and refinement is excellent.

Audi’s driving events take place in two parts – the first, held at nearby Silverstone, deals with improving day-to-day basic driving skills, while the Rockingham section moves on to more advanced car control and safety training.

Being the only girl at an event like this is something I’ve got used to over the years. We’d be driving an Audi TT, the RS4 and the gorgeous R8. As none of these cars is a stranger to me, I did feel I had a slight advantage over the boys. But how would they compare to my A3 cabrio?

First up was braking into a corner in the RS4. The instructor watched with a beady eye, giving tips as we went. It was no surprise to find the sports saloon a top performer, but I have no complaints with my drop-top’s display on the road, either. Next up was ABS braking in the TT, then last but not least, fast laps in the R8. It was fun and very educational, and by the time I got back into my A3 I’d learned an awful lot, and was fully prepared for the journey home. These courses are run throughout the year and are open to anybody – you can get details from Audi UK.

Regrettably, there have been a few niggles with my A3, which I asked my local dealer Walton Audi, in Surrey, to sort for me. Condensation in the rear light clusters, a paintwork defect and a jerky reverse all needed attention.

The Audi dealership experience wasn’t totally hassle-free, however. Booking the car in on a Saturday morning took longer than expected, due to a lack of staff, and then my car didn’t appear on the system, even though I’d phoned earlier in the week. Thankfully, once at the garage, everyone was very helpful and a new rear light was ordered and fitted under warranty.

Further inspection of the defect in the paintwork led to a diagnosis that it had been caused by fuel drips from the cap, so it could be polished out. The reverse gear was checked and no problem found. The dealer also explained that the jerky response in reverse is a trait of the S tronic gearbox, so I will just have to get used to it.

It’s all back to normal now and I’m just hoping for some more crisp, sunny autumn days when I can get wrapped up and go topless…

Second Opinion

At the risk of enraging Lesley (never a good idea!) I’m not a fan of our A3 cabrio. The styling is just too ‘girlie’ to be true, especially in that ‘stand out from the crowd’ white-and-red colour scheme. I’ve driven lots of automatic Audis in my time, but the transmission on this version isn’t one of the best. And unlike the beautiful A4 convertible, the A3 is incredibly tight on space, too. If I was in the market for a small soft-top, I’d bite the bullet and go for a MINI Convertible every time.

David Johns Editor in chief

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