Open gallery Close by Matt Prior 13 November 2013 Follow @matty_prior Share
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This is the Audi A3 cabriolet, the latest arrival in the third-generation A3 line-up, and it’s an important model for the German manufacturer.
While not a mainstay of the firm’s premium compact range, which now includes a saloon bodystyle as well as the existing Sportback, three-door hatch and hybrid model, it’s a steady seller in the UK.
It’s a considerable improvement over the previous generation of Audi A3 CabrioletTim DicksonChief sub-editor
As with the latest A3 hatch, the new cabriolet is based on the Volkswagen Group’s modular MQB platform architecture, and is powered by a range of updated but familiar and essentially off-the-shelf VW Group engines.
Measuring up the Audi A3 Cabriolet
At 4421mm in length, this version of A3 soft-top is slightly longer (by 183mm) than the model it replaces, as well as being 28mm wider (at 1793mm). However, with a 15mm reduction in overall height, from 1424mm to 1409mm, the new A3 cabriolet is more squat and purposeful-looking than before, and has what Audi describes as a ‘coupé-like stance’.
Despite the increases in length and width, the A3 cabriolet is actually lighter than before, thanks in part to the new MQB architecture and aluminium-hybrid body construction (which includes an aluminium bonnet), and also to revisions to the range of engines. The body-in-white weighs 30kg less than before, and the entry-level model has a kerb weight of just 1440kg. The third gen A3 received a mid-life facelift in 2016, focusing directly on improved interiors, more standard equipment and a more defined exterior.
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Powering up the Audi A3 Cabriolet
The engine range, same as the rest of the A3 range, consists of three petrol and three diesel options. The entry-level 1.4 TFSI has been replaced by a 1.5 TFSI unit, which produces 148bhp and 184lb ft and promises a 0-62mph time of 8.9sec. From what we have seen, it is an exceptionally refined powerplant which is incredibly quiet at idle and around town, and therefore suggests it would ideally be suited to drop-top use.
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The second petrol in the line-up is a 2.0-litre TFSI, which produces 188bhp and 236lb ft. While its gutsier delivery and claimed 0-62mph time of 7.3sec (6.9sec if you opt for the quattro version) is better suited to the idyllic sporting ethos of top-down motoring, although it’s not a big seller in the UK. The same 2.0-litre unit has been given a working over by Audi Sport who has managed to eek out 305bhp for the S3 version which tops the range.
The diesel options consists of a 108bhp 1.6-litre unit, which heavily focuses on economy and low emissions making it perfect for the hatch and the saloon but less so for a top-down cruiser. The rest of the range consists of a 2.0-litre oilburner in two variants – 148bhp and 181bhp – both of which are available with Audi’s quattro four-wheel drive system.
Cruising in a drop-top Audi A3
On the road, the A3 cabriolet is a competent if not exactly engaging steer. The inevitable compromises of the cabriolet’s roof removal are dealt with in reasonable fashion, although there’s no hiding the fact that some rigidity and ride refinement have been sacrificed.
Scuttle shake is kept to a well concealed minimum but there’s detectable movement through the body when dealing with larger intrusions and over more challenging road surfaces. It’s never terrible, but there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re dealing with an essentially compromised chassis. If the option of lowering the roof is an acceptable trade-off, however, you should have no cause for serious complaint.
That roof, incidentally, which opens and closes in 18 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph, comes in two versions. Entry-level SE models get a standard hard-wearing fabric roof, but a more sound-absorbent ‘acoustic’ soft-top is available as an option, or as standard on higher spec models.