This March will see the launch of Audi's A3 Cabriolet in Ireland. Motors went to the compact premium car's European launch centre in the south of France to put it through its paces.
A3 Cabriolet's exterior is beautifully proportioned. While the front overhang has been shortened compared to the outgoing version, the rear overhang grows. This is down to the fact that the A3 Cabriolet is now based on the A3 Saloon's platform, making it more coupé convertible in appearance.
You'll be surprised at what you can squirrel away in the Cabriolet. The boot is no longer a small opening with very limited space behind it. There’s 320-litres available with the roof up and 280-litres when down. You can tip the rear two seats down to reveal up to 680-litres of load space.
Inside the cabin it is pure Audi. There is of course an additional button that lowers or raises all the windows with one touch. My favourite button has three intensity settings and is used to activate the optional neck heater built into each front seat. Similar to Mercedes SLK's 'Air Scarf' this clever bit of engineering blows warm air from the seat back up towards your neck. When combined with the optional heated seats this option makes the Cabriolet a true 'year round machine'.
Up front there is plenty of space and all the controls are easy to use and well positioned. In the back there is more legroom - but it is still not Adult friendly. The automated five-layer cloth roof mechanism can be raised or lowered in about 18 seconds, making it traffic light friendly. It also operates at speeds up to 50kmh. Audi says Cabriolet drivers want cloth roofs, not metal, as they want the world to know they are in a convertible. With the roof up it is a remarkably quiet experience. An optional acoustic lining is available too. A3 Cabriolet's doesn't have any visible roll over protection but should sensors in the car detect a potential roll over they deploy two metal posts that pop up behind the rear head restraints that act as roll hoops.
The range initially will feature the lively 1.4 TFSi COD and 1.8 TFSi petrol units and the new 150hp 2.0 litre TDI. Further engines will follow including what we believe will be the best seller the 125hp 1.4 petrol unit. The majority of sales will be front-wheel drive cars but all-wheel-drive Quattro will be available.
We took the 125hp version for an extended drive in the hills above Monte Carlo and were impressed by the car's level of refinement. The engine coped with hairpin climbs without complaint and while 200nm of torque won't set the world on fire the 1.4-litre was perfectly fine, especially as the roof was down and the scenery glorious. A3 Cabriolet was precise and there was virtually no ‘scuttle shake’. Next we took the 2-litre TDI with optional DSG auto gearbox for a spin around the streets of the principality and beyond. 340nm of torque clearly made the driving experience more relaxed but overall unless you do high annual mileage there really is no need to look beyond the cheapest petrol version.
A3 Cabriolet is a very handsome machine that drives well and has excellent proportions. The entry-level petrol engine suits the car well and allows any extra funds to be used on extras like the neck and seat heater and maybe larger alloys or even the stunning matt grey paint.
Audi is still finalising prices but we expect the range to start at just under €36K. Audi Ireland expects to sell between 35 to 50 units in 2014.