Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.6 TDI

Class-leading cabrio still has kerb appeal and great dynamics

If you want a compact convertible with classy kerb appeal, the Audi A3 takes some beating. Although it’s nearly three years old, the German drop-top still sets the standard for quality and desirability in this sector.

The open-air Audi shares many of its underpinnings with the Volkswagen Golf, so it’s no surprise to find the two models share very similar proportions and looks. Yet it’s the A3 that turns more heads, thanks largely to the premium appeal of the four-ringed badge on its nose.

Climb aboard, and you’ll discover a well built interior with good-quality materials. The dashboard is starting to look a little dated, but there’s nothing wrong with the layout, and the switchgear has a pleasingly crisp action. Despite this upmarket feel, you’ll find standard kit in short supply. Air-con and electric windows feature, but you’ll have to open your wallet if you want Bluetooth, an iPod connection or climate control.

There’s a surprising amount of space, though, with more leg and shoulder room than in the Peugeot. And the A3 maintains the advantage when it comes to roof-down luggage capacity.

As with its VW cousin, the Audi gets a fabric hood, which can be raised or lowered in an extremely swift 11 and 14 seconds respectively. Combined with the mechanism’s ability to operate at speeds of up to 18mph, it allows you to make the most of the sun’s rays or avoid getting soaked by surprise rain showers. And while our entry-level test car doesn’t have the sound-deadening acoustic hood of more expensive models, it does a good job of suppressing wind and road noise.

It’s not all good news, though, as the roll hoops compromise rear visibility and make the cabin dark when the roof is in place. Rear parking sensors are also a £305 extra on entry-level cars.

Drop the top, and you’ll have to pay £235 extra for a useful wind deflector if you want bluster-free progress – a similar unit is standard on the VW.

The Audi also had to give best to its German rival at the test track. Despite sharing the same smooth and refined 104bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine, the A3 couldn’t quite match its stablemate for in-gear pace.

On the road, however, the differences are imperceptible. In fact, the Audi boasts a sharper throttle response, which makes it keen at low speeds. But as with the VW, the A3 has to be worked hard to keep up with the 308.

A composed chassis and strong grip means the Audi feels more agile than the Pug and inspires confidence through corners.  A slick gearshift and well weighted steering complete the impressive driving dynamics.

Better still, at £22,370 the A3 is the cheapest of out trio, while its low CO2 emissions of 114g/km and rock-solid residuals make it a sensible investment.

Details

Chart position: 2WHY: It beat the Renault Megane C-C in a straight fight, and is our class favourite – but it shares similarities with its VW rival.

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