Hard top or soft top? That is the question. At least it is if you’re buying a convertible.
Many manufacturers prefer retractable metal roofs which have the benefit of being secure and giving the car a saloon-car look.
But Audi designers are in a minority. They insist on using canvas, albeit in a very hi-tech way. The benefit is that it is lighter and can be folded up smaller so it takes up less space.
Audi are firm believers in the maxim that a convertible should look like a convertible.
If canvas sounds old-fashioned, then think again. It comes in three layers and is designed to be durable and sound absorbing. More than that, it folds in 18 graceful seconds.
The new A3 Cabriolet is the 50th model in the Audi range (I counted them) which encompasses saloons, estates, supercars and an endless list of SUVs. Everything except people-carriers.
It is a premium range but prices are, on the face of it, relatively affordable from £25,790 to £32,420. But extra-cost specification will soon nudge up the price. The test version was £27,820 but features such as auto-dimming rear view mirror (£245), a technology package incorporating sat nav (£1,495) and Bang & Olufsen stereo (£750) pushed the price up to £37,355.
Still, at least you can make the car truly bespoke and only pay for features you actually want.
Deliveries for the A3 Cabriolets start this month and they are expected to build more success for Audi. Sales continue to grow, thanks to the way Audi continues to come up with new models.
A3 Cabriolet comes with the ultra-efficient 1.4 TFSI with cylinder-on-demand (which saves fuel), the powerful 1.8 TFSI and the frugal 2.0 TDI, tested here.
To be honest, the 2.0 TDI is the pick of the bunch. It’s quick, slick, refined and frugal and it makes the car easy to drive, yet quick when required. It has shortcomings. The boot is bigger than expected but it has a narrow opening making loading difficult and rear seat space is limited. But it has a perfect suspension set up. Firm, but not too firm.
The A3 Cabriolet has been on a diet.
In entry-level form, it weighs 1,365 kilograms – 50 kilograms less than its predecessor, despite its larger size. In common with A3 hatchbacks, the new Cabriolet will be available as SE, Sport or S line specification. Standard equipment at entry level includes the hood in black, plus 16in alloy wheels, air conditioning, the MMI radio incorporating an 11 millimetre-thick powered folding screen, Audi Music Interface iPod connection, DAB digital radio, a Bluetooth interface, preparation for SD card-based navigation and a light and rain sensor package. Sport and S line versions upgrade to the acoustic hood and sit 15mm lower on 17in and 18in alloy wheels, thanks to sports suspension.
Both can also be equipped at no extra cost with the SE version’s comfort-oriented standard suspension, while S line models can be taken to the other extreme with S line sports suspension lowered by 25mm and also available at no cost.
Shared Sport and S line features also include sports seats, the Audi drive select adaptive dynamics system with five operating modes, dual-zone climate control and a high-resolution colour driver’s information system. The 2.0 litre TDI engine is familiar and it is a fine engine, managing 60mph in nine seconds yet returning 76mpg on a run.
There is no doubt that the A3 is a rather imposing vehicle these days and has a similar style to the A4. It has been much improved in terms of looks and the ride and handling is astonishingly better. Familiar but very much improved.
Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TDI Sport PRICE: £27,820. Test version added metallic paint (£520), driver assistance package (£1,300); leather upholstery (£795); technology package (£1,495); interior lighting package (£225); wind deflector (£290); Bang & Olufsen sound system (£750) ENGINE: A 1,968cc four cylinder unit generating 150ps via front wheel drive via six-speed gearbox PERFORMANCE: Top speed 139mph, 0 to 60mph in 8.9 seconds COSTS: town 55.4mpg; country 76.4mpg; combined 67.3mpg EMISSIONS: 110g/km WARRANTY: Three years, 60,000 miles