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Audi A3 Cabriolet convertible (2008 – 2013) expert review

By Andy Goodwin, 29th June 2010

The verdict

The Audi A3 Cabriolet boasts great build quality, decent practicality and solid used values. It’s a classy little cabriolet that will appeal to a wide range of customers.

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Expert rating:

3.9

Pros

  • Great build quality
  • More spacious than rivals
  • Used values are strong

Cons

  • Less engaging to drive than rivals
  • 1.6-diesel is hard work
  • Some models have a harsh ride

Full Review

1. Exterior

The Audi A3 Cabriolet bucked the trend for folding hardtop convertibles, instead using a soft top available in black, blue and red. This improves interior space, with the pliable material able to extend further back over the rear seats, before dropping sharply towards the boot. The A3 Cabriolet looks expensive courtesy of its intricate front and rear LED lights, excellent build quality and a range of classy exterior colours and alloy wheels. Aluminium trim can be fitted to the roll bars, door handles, window frames and hood edge as an option.
Our Rating: 4

2. Interior

While the Audi A3 might currently be Audi’s smallest and most affordable cabriolet, it certainly doesn’t have a low rent interior. Every button and switch feels reassuringly solid and the dashboard and seats are attractive and supportive. The emphasis is placed firmly on discreet quality, so there’s little drama and nothing appears over-designed.
Our Rating: 4

3. Practicality

Audi offers two versions of the soft top, both capable of opening in nine seconds and closing in 11. The semi-automatic version has a lever to lock the front of the hood in place and has two layers of material, while the fully-auto model does away with the lever and has a three-layer ‘acoustic’ hood to further reduce road noise. A quick hood makes a big difference with only a brief stop needed to go from shade to sun. There’s a 260 litre boot, with the rear seats folding 50:50, increasing to 674 litres. Rear headroom is better than its folding hardtop competitors.
Our Rating: 4

4. Ride and Handling

Extra strengthening measures have been fitted to keep the A3 Cabriolet taut, despite it loosing its metal roof. In normal driving the experience is typically Audi, with little body roll and a good ride, which can become firm when larger alloy wheels are fitted. The accurate steering becomes heavier at higher speeds – to aid manoeuvring around town and stability on the motorway – but lacks the feel found in the rear-wheel drive BMW 1 Series Convertible.
Our Rating: 3

5. Performance

The entry-level petrol is a 1.2-litre TFSI turbo with 105bhp, reaching 62mph in 12.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 118mph. The 158bhp 1.8-litre TFSI and 197bhp 2-litre TFSI, cover the same markers in 8.2 and 7.4 seconds respectively, hitting 135 and 144mph. Audi offers its latest 104bhp 1.6-litre TDI diesel in the Cabriolet – it’s a clean, quiet engine, but needs to be revved hard. It gets to 62mph in 12.2 seconds and can hit 118mph. The tried and tested 140bhp 2-litre TDI suits the Cabriolet well, reaching 62mph in 9.7 seconds, with a top speed of 127mph.
Our Rating: 4

6. Running Costs

All A3 Cabriolets feature engine stop and start system and brake energy recuperation technology – which uses braking energy to charge the car’s electrics to aid efficiency. The star of the show is the 1.6-litre TDI, with emissions of 114g/km and average economy of 65.7mpg, although this proved difficult to replicate during our test. The 2-litre TDI is frugal too, returning 53.3mpg. The 1.2-litre TFSI is the best petrol, managing to be both clean (132g/km) and economical (49.6mpg). Insurance ranges from group 17 to 30 and it’s expected the Audi A3 Cabriolet will retain a high proportion of its value when it’s time to sell.
Our Rating: 4

7. Reliability

Audi fitted the first ever diesel in a cabriolet back in 1995, and have proved to be leaders in the technology ever since. The petrol engines should be bullet proof too, and are widely used throughout Audi’s model range. Build quality is excellent and the hood feels like it’s made to last.
Our Rating: 4

8. Safety

A full set of front and side airbags and stability control (ESP) are all fitted as standard. Roll hoops are permanently fitted behind the rear seats. The A3 Cabriolet has not been crash tested by Euro NCAP, but the hatchback received four out of five stars.
Our Rating: 3

9. Equipment

Standard, Sport, S Line and Technik models are available. Standard features include 16-inch alloys, air-con, ISOFIX front passenger seat, and a CD player. Sport adds 17-inch alloys, lowered suspension, an MP3 compatible CD player, an SD card reader, sports seats, dual-zone climate control, a wind deflector, fully-automatic hood and exterior aluminium trim. S Line offers a bodykit, 18-inch alloys, part-leather front seats, brushed aluminium trim and a front centre armrest. Technik is available in 1.8- TFSI and 1.6-litre TDI models and includes 17-inch alloys, iPod connectivity, upgraded trip computer, rear parking sensors and fully-automatic hood.
Our Rating: 4

10. Why buy?

The Audi A3 Cabriolet is a very classy small car, which many younger and older drivers alike would be proud to own. The acoustic hood and diesel engines also make it a good long distance cruiser, with as little cabin noise as folding hardtop rivals, more interior space and a faster folding action.
Our Rating: 4

Expert review 3.9stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior4
  • Practicality4
  • Ride and handling3
  • Performance4
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability4
  • Safety3
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?4

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:
A3 Cabriolet 1.2 TFSI
Clever tech means cheap road tax with decent power
Best-seller:
A3 Cabriolet 1.8 TFSI Sport
Sweet engine and good spec for the most popular A3 Cabriolet
Blow the budget:
A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TFSI S line
More power and S line kit make it the money-no-object choice

Audi offers two versions of the soft top, both capable of opening in nine seconds and closing in 11