From £29,0707
Audi has given its A3 Cabriolet a mid-life refresh. We drive it for the first time on UK roads.

What is it?

The Audi A3 Cabriolet feels like it’s been with us for ages, however the guillotined version of Audi’s bestselling Audi A3 hatchback only arrived on these shores in 2008 and was the headline act of the second-generation’s mid-life facelift.

At the time the all-new A3 Cabriolet ticked all the boxes for badge-hungry, fashion-conscious socialites, despite having more than a passing resemblance to a Victorian pram. Skip forward a generation and it's time for the third-generation A3 to go under the knife for its mid-life nip and tuck, and the Cabriolet with it.

The third-generation Cabriolet is a rather grown-up, elegant and sophisticated two-door drop-top and this mid-life facelift only builds on what has gone before. You should be able to pick out the facelifted model easily enough as the front and rear lights are redesigned, including a revised daytime running light design. The bumpers are new, as is the front grille, and there are new alloy wheels available.

There’s one new engine added to the line-up of six: a new 2.0 TSFI petrol. A 1.4-litre and the 2.0-litre in the S3 complete the petrol line-up, while you can choose a 1.6 TDI or from two variants of the 2.0 TDI if you want a diesel. Lesser-powered engines are front wheel drive and fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox, although you can opt for quattro all-wheel drive and S Tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission.

All trims get additional standard kit including Xenon headlights, cruise control, automatic rain sensors and headlights and Smartphone interface. LED headlights with dynamic 'sweeping' indicatiors (standard on the S line and S3) and Audi’s Virtual Cockpit are available for the first time. You can also now opt for more security features than before, including traffic jam assist, emergency assist, adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic assist.

We tested the 1.4 TFSI fitted with a seven-speed S tronic gearbox in S Line trim. Our test model wore more than £8000 worth of optional equipment, including 19in alloys wheel, adaptive cruise control, technology pack, progressive steering, Audi magnetic ride, heated seats and a B&O sound system, which leaves this car chiming the till at more than £40,000.

What's it like?

It’s hard to continue throwing superlatives at Audi’s interior design and build quality without sounding like a broken record, which is to say that the A3 Cabriolet’s cabin is beautifully made, easy to navigate and very neatly styled. The dash’s circular air vents are restyled and have a turbine appearance; the MMI system controls are simplified, with the number of toggle controls halved to just two.

The driving position is a good one. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake, while there’s plenty of seat adjustment to ensure you can get comfortable. Visibility is, however, restricted over the shoulder due to a thick rear pillar.

Access to the rear is gained by tilting and sliding the front seat forward, providing a reasonably sized gap, although once slotted in, adults will struggle for space. Our S line model's sports seats may have further accentuated the situation, but knee and leg room is very limited, as is roof-up head room. The back seats are therefore best used for short journeys with the top-down or for children. The boot has a narrow pillar-box opening but is quite long so should take a couple of suitcases or golf bags. Lowering the roof does pinch boot space, however.

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Driving the Cabriolet is a little disappointing and not helped by the S line’s sports suspension. The ride, even in Comfort setting, is too firm and fidgety, although it corners well with little body lean. Front-end bite, however, is excellent and you’ll need to push it hard for grip to give way to controllable understeer. The steering is direct, keen to turn in, consistent and well weighted but fails to provide any feedback and as a result feels numb.

Pootling around suits the 1.4-litre engine’s character perfectly. It’s quiet, smooth and refined at lower speeds, but starts to feel strained and overly vocal when pushed. While its 148bhp results in a 0-62mph of 8.9 sec, it feels swift but never quick. Cleverly, the engine shuts down two of its four cylinders when they’re not required, in order to save fuel. Gear changes from the seven-speed S tronic auto ’box are quick enough but not the smoothest, so you’ll know when it’s happening.

With the fabric roof up wind and road noise makes its presence felt in the cabin, to the extent that you’ll keep checking that the small rear windows are fully closed. The soft-top, which drops into the boot by holding a button between the front seats, takes 18sec to disappear. With the top down and windows up, there’s some buffeting of your hair and face, but an optional wind deflector - at £300 - eliminates the majority of this.

Should I buy one?

Audi hasn’t tinkered much with the successful recipe that is the Audi A3 Cabriolet. It’s now a little more stylish and has additional standard kit, more safety features and new tech.

However, it still fails to entertain keener drivers and the refinement of this engine and gearbox combination disappoints - although this is unlikely to stop the stampede of buyers. A BMW 2-Series Convertible is better to drive, or if you don’t need the back seats, it’s worth considering an Audi TT instead.

Matthew Griffiths

Audi A3 Convertible 1.4 TSFI CoD S Line S Tronic

Location Worcestershire; On sale Now; Price £32,125; Engine 1395cc, turbo, petrol; Power 148bhp; Torque 184lb ft; Gearbox 7-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1470kg; 0-62mph 8.9sec; Top speed 138mph; Economy 55.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 119g/km, 20%

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bowsersheepdog 1 July 2016

Roof with a view

While I love a Caterham 7, an Ariel Atom, a Mazda MX5 or a TVR Griffith, to give a few examples, I have never ever looked at the convertible version of an existing model and thought yeah, I'd rather have that one than the original. That goes for everything from a MKI Golf to a Pagani Zonda. I can imagine being quite happy to drive many versions of the A3, but none without a roof.