The Audi A3 Cabriolet is the best compact convertible there is. It’s effortlessly stylish, dripping with quality and it’s fun yet comfortable to drive. While that’s all a good drop-top needs, the A3 provides much more besides. Thoroughly recommended.
At this price, the only real rival to the Audi A3 Cabriolet is BMW’s 2 Series Convertible, and the two are very evenly matched when it comes to costs. While the 2 Series is a fraction cheaper to buy, we’d expect general running costs to work out almost the same, thanks to strong fuel economy from the Audi’s petrol engine. That said, you can get the 2 Series with a more efficient diesel, which is no longer an option in the A3, so that might be a better bet if you do big miles. If you don’t mind a two-seater rather than four, you could also look at the Mercedes-Benz SLC, which is also very similarly priced, and will hold onto its value well too. It won’t be cheap to insure or service/repair though.
Expert rating: 4/5
Reliability of a Audi A3 Cabriolet
The flawless fit and finish in the Audi A3 Cabriolet’s cabin suggests that it’s built to exacting standards, but even so, Audi’s reliability record isn’t what it should be. The company is languishing near the bottom of Warranty Direct’s manufacturer standings, and has been in the bottom three of JD Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study for several years in a row. But we should mention that BMW is down there too. The three-year/60,000-mile warranty is about par for the course when compared with other prestige brands, but it’s nothing special compared with what some manufacturers are offering.
Expert rating: 2/5
Safety for a Audi A3 Cabriolet
The A3 is getting on a bit in car terms, and while it was right up with the safest cars back in 2014, standards have moved on a bit since then. Still, you get front and side airbags, plus one for the driver’s knees, and an impressive three Isofix child seat mounting points, one in the front passenger seat and two in the back. There’s also a pop-up bonnet that protects pedestrians, along with rollover protection that deploys supports from behind your head should the car turn over. But if you want some of the latest active safety systems, like automatic emergency braking, you’ll have to pay extra for it. That’s a shame when it’s standard on most newer cars these days.
Expert rating: 3/5
How comfortable is the Audi A3 Cabriolet
The materials used inside the cabin are dripping with quality, while the assembly is bulletproof and all the various switches work with neat precision. The standard infotainment system also adds a rather high-tech feel. The screen features sharp, attractive graphics, and with clear, intuitive menus and a simple collection of knobs and buttons to navigate them, using the system is a piece of cake. As an option, you can specify Audi’s Virtual Cockpit system, which replaces the traditional dials with a large configurable information screen, and the unconventional way it works takes some getting used to. Finding a comfortable driving position is also made easy by the huge range of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel. However, rear visibility is rather limited when the roof is in place.
There’s plenty of space up front and the rear seats aren’t too bad for room, either – the knees and hairdos of six-foot adults will press against the front seats and the roofline, but it’s still impressive that six-footers will fit at all. The boot is reasonable, too. With the roof up, you’ll get 320 litres of usefully square-sided space. When you want to drop the roof, you have to pull down a load cover from the top of the boot. That shrinks the size down to 275 litres, and makes the load area rather shallow. You can drop the rear seat to boost the total luggage area, but the aperture between the boot and the main cabin is very narrow. The fabric roof raises or lowers electrically in 18 seconds, and can be operated at speeds of up to 31mph, which is handy if you’re caught in a sudden downpour.
Like its hatchback siblings, the Cabrio’s suspension comes in a choice of flavours. The Sport model’s is the softest, and therefore, the best. The ride is comfortable enough to suit pretty much any buyer, yet the car still feels very sharp in the corners, with excellent suppression of body roll, lots of grip and steering that’s weighty and direct. Audi Drive Select, which changes the behaviour of things like the steering and throttle according to which driving mode you select. S line models come with Magnetic Ride, which uses adaptive dampers to let you tailor the behaviour of the suspension depending on the driving mode selected. It works, and it works well, making the car very surefooted.
Expert rating: 5/5
Features of the Audi A3 Cabriolet
There are two trim levels to choose from on the A3 Cabriolet, unless you ramp up the cost and performance with the S3 model (reviewed separately). The Sport trim comes with 17-inch alloys, air-con, DAB radio, Bluetooth and automatic lights and wipers, as well as climate control and sports seats. If you want to upgrade further though, the range-topping S line car has LED headlights, a sporty body kit and leather upholstery, and rides on bigger 18-inch wheels. It’s well equipped, but it’s quite a price hike too, so you’ll need to ask yourself if the extra creature comforts are worth it.
Expert rating: 4/5
Power for a Audi A3 Cabriolet
Audi has ditched the diesel engines that used to be available in the A3 Cabriolet, so now your choice is between two petrol engines. The turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol with 150 horsepower – labelled the 35 TFSI – delivers impressive pace and flexibility. And, because it shuts down two of its four cylinders under low load, it still returns impressive economy. There’s also a 190-horsepower 2.0-litre petrol, known as the 40 TFSI, which we’ve yet to try. Depending on the engine, you can also choose between manual and twin-clutch gearboxes. There isn’t a bad choice to be made here, so it’s just a question of whether you prefer a traditional gear lever or flappy paddles.