Bright outlook as new Audi A3 drops top and goes sunny side up
- Credit: Audi
Audi gives an early taste of summer with its new A3 Cabriolet, Motoring editor Andy Russell enjoys this new ray of sunshine.
It is said the sun shines on the righteous and it seems that Audi can do no wrong with its ever-growing model range.
Only Audi could launch its new A3 Cabriolet in the UK in March and enjoy clear blue sunny skies and temperatures of 18C so dropping the roof was a no-brainer rather than the usual no chance!
Audi's range now totals 48 models, with a lot more to come, as niche models continue to plug gaps in its range and the market. It has helped make it the fourth biggest-selling brand in the UK, all the more impressive given it doesn't have a top-10 seller, which emphasises the line-up's broad appeal.
The new A3 Cabriolet which completes the premium compact line-up – Audi's most successful when it comes to winning awards – joining the three-door hatchback, five-door Sportback and four-door saloon.
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The new A3 range has been designed from the outset to have four body styles – and eight models if you take into account the high-performance S3. That means that, unlike the previous A3 Cabriolet – a rather squat hatchback-derived soft-top – its successor was built into the new range from the outset and has the better-balanced proportions of the saloon so it looks sleeker and more dynamic.
It may have the proportions of the saloon, and shares its wider tracks and technical platform, but the cabriolet has the shorter wheelbase of the three-door hatchback which endows it with a bigger boot than before and a more rigid body, the latter most important to maintain strength on a car without a fixed roof.
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You only have to drive the new A3 Cabriolet to see how effective that has been. With the soft-top roof up or down – Audi prefers to stick with a lighter fabric roof for the sake of economy and emissions and it also makes it instantly recognisable as a convertible – you would be hard-pressed to know it was a cabriolet. There are no creaks, rattles or hints of the body flexing over grotty surfaces, while wind and road noise kept well in check.
Though not quite as entertaining to drive as a fixed-roof A3, the cabriolet rides well and handles confidently. If smooth progress is your priority, Sport and S line can be had with the comfort-oriented standard SE suspension while S line can be taken to the other extreme with S line sports suspension rather than the standard sports set-up at no extra cost. That said, the ride with sports suspension did not feely unduly firm and gives good body control through corners.
This really is a no-compromise convertible – as good to drive when cold and wet as hot, sunny and dry.
The fully-automated roof opens and closes in under 18 seconds, and at up to 31mph, so that's a boon with our unpredictable weather. And the roof neatly stows away under a panel when open so is out of sight.
Even with the roof down, and the test car not having the optional wind-deflector fitted, the A3 Cabriolet is a quiet, civilised cruiser rather than a conversation-killer.
Though a four-seater, legroom is limited in the back – just about enough for four average-sized adults – but the saloon-inspired styling sees the boot grow to 320 litres, compared to the previous model's 260 litres, with the roof up. With the roof down there is still 275 litres but the boot is shallow under the pull-down roof storare compartment. Rear seat backs split 50/50 for longer loads.
Three engines are offered from launch – the frugal 140PS 1.4 TFSI turbo petrol manual which shuts down two of the four cylinders under light engines loads, a 180PS 1.8 TFSI with S tronic automatic transmission and a 150PS 2.0 TDI turbo diesel manual. They will be joined by a 110PS 1.6 TDI and 184PS 2.0 TDI and more manual and automatic gearbox combinations.
The S3 quattro uses a 300PS 2.0 TFSI petrol unit with auto box.
Audi's new A3 Cabriolet is stylish, desirable and good to drive – you'll take a shine to it.