When it seems like every second week brings a whacky new niche model based on a premium hatchback platform, it’s good to sit behind the wheel of the oldest spin-off in the motoring world – the convertible.

Audi’s A3 Cabriolet reached our shores late last year in time for a summer holiday for those brave enough to bare their bonces to our harsh sun and we spent a week lathered in sunscreen to see if Audi’s niche obsession has delivered on the basics.

The Cabriolet range starts at $47,600 for the 1.4-litre turbo petrol Attraction, before climbing to $51,900 for the 2.0 TDI or 1.8-litre petrol Ambition pairing. Another $3000 adds Quattro all wheel drive to the 1.8 petrol-powered model.

Our test car was the Ambition 2.0 TDI. Standard equipment includes an eight-speaker stereo with Bluetooth, USB and MMI control, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, front and rear fog lamps, paddle gearshift, auto wipers and lights, leather trim, power doors, mirrors and roof, sport seats and tyre pressure monitoring.

Added to the Ambition trim level was the $2000 Technik package which brings upgraded MMI with scratchpad, colour central screen between the dashboard dials, self-parking with rear-view camera and an upgraded sound system.


The $1350 Style package adds Xenon “plus” headlights, LED daytime running lights, sport suspension and five spoke rotor alloys with black and silver finish.

We also had metallic paint ($1150), seat heating with (really loud) neck warmers for $1250, acoustic hood ($450) and LED interior lights ($400).

Predictably, this Audi is fine-looking – if sober – inside and out. The front end is pure A3 back to the A-pillar, with a silver finish around the windscreen to start setting things apart. From there back is a long pair of doors and a very gently rising waistline ending in a flat boot deck.

As with most Audis, it’s classy and sharp, with trademark LED daytime running lights and taillights. The black fabric roof with glass rear window looks great with most body colours and gives our white car a strong look.


The cabin is, again, pure A3 at the front with the narrowing hips forcing the outboard rear seats together to squeeze out the middle seat. Even those with modest vertical inches to their name will be able to see out when the roof is down, although with the roof up it’s a bit dark.

The boot is the only real problem. Trips to Ikea or Bunnings are pretty much out, but a few bags of shopping can be slotted in beneath the bulge that contains the roof and its machinery.

The A3’s five star rating for the hatchback hasn’t been specifically tested on the cabriolet but stands intact with dual front and side airbags with knee airbag for the driver, hoops that pop out behind the rear passengers if the car thinks passengers are about to get a tarmac haircut, stability and traction control, ABS, brake force distribution and brake assist.

There’s also a reversing camera and front and rear sensors. The camera is important, it’s not at all easy to see behind when reversing.

The Technik package adds two speakers to bring the count to ten, all controlled with the MMI in the console and the retractable screen in the dashboard. Technik also upgrades the sat-nav with a few more features including a touchpad on the MMI dial. Sound is very good and there’s enough grunt for when the roof is down and the speed is up.

Powered by Audi’s excellent the 2.0 TDI, there’s 110 kW and 320 Nm available, the torque from a reasonably lazy 1750rpm. Luckily, nobody buys one of these for a searing 0-100km/h as 8.8 seconds, which is now considered adequate.

The six-speed dual-clutch transmission comes with stop-start and has a claimed figure of 4.7 litres per 100km.

The overwhelming impression of the A3 Cabriolet is one of Clooney-esque smoothness. The 2.0 TDI is distantly grumbly at idle but quiet on the move while the six-speed dual-clutch transmission is well-matched for cruising about.

With the roof down, the refinement continues with very little in the way of wind noise until speeds trip over the 80 km/h mark. Tyre noise is well-checked, too.

Every passenger we had (convertibles in summer suddenly increase your number of very good friends) remarked on how lovely a car it was to ride in.

The bodyshell copes well without the metal roof, with just the mildest of shimmies over rough surfaces and no extra movement from the steering column over really rough stuff.

Putting the foot down in the twisty stuff won’t get you much other than safe, progressive understeer and/or screaming passengers, so if you want more from your cabriolet, you’ll want to upgrade to the super-stiff S3 variant. You’ll still have screaming passengers, however, and the lovely ride will be completely absent.

While Audi claims 4.7 L/100km, a mix of steady driving, a spot of highway cruising and a good chunk of urban shunting about delivered an average of just on 7.2 L/100km, a fair effort when you consider the air-conditioning also had to work hard in non-stop, dripping humidity.

The Audi A3 has a refined, coupe-like ambience with the roof up along with a comfortable, breezy attitude with the roof down, the A3 drop-top is definitely one of the good ones.

Despite having sport suspension, the ride is comfortable, the diesel exactly the right engine for the car’s intended and it’s got all the things that make Audis great places to be. It’s a fine car and it needs to be – BMW is coming out swinging this year, and the 2 Series Convertible is on its way.

LIKES: Feel-good factor, easy attitude, great looks
DISLIKES: Tiny boot, iffy reversing camera vision, sometimes weird packaging of options.

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