From launch, there are three different engines to choose from – two petrol and one diesel. Two further diesel options join the range in February 2014, a 1.6-litre TDI and a more powerful version of the existing 2.0-litre TDI.
Initially, all A3 Cabriolets are front-wheel drive but from the early part of 2014 four-wheel-drive ‘quattro’ versions will be available with the top 2.0-litre diesel or 1.8-litre petrol engines.
Opening the range is a 1.4-litre ‘TFSI’ (Audi shorthand for turbocharged with direct injection) unit with 138bhp. It’s paired with a six-speed manual transmission and can accelerate the A3 from 0-62mph in 9.1 seconds.
It’s capable of averaging a very tidy 56.5mpg and emits only 114g/km of CO2 thanks to a useful party trick – a ‘Cylinder-on-Demand’ (CoD) function shuts down two of the engine’s four cylinders when not under heavy load, thus helping to save fuel.
The most serious Audi A3 Cabriolet performance figures belong to the 1.8-litre TFSI with 178bhp. This gets the convertible from 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 150mph.
It’s available with Audi’s seven-speed ‘S tronic’ transmission only. This is a twin-clutch transmission, which means it uses two clutches to enable faster and smoother gear changes. The gearbox can enter a freewheeling mode while coasting if the ‘Efficiency’ mode in the Drive Select system (explained in the handling section below) is fitted to help save fuel. This is quite an odd feeling in practise, especially when travelling down steep hills as the car builds up speed unusually quickly without natural engine braking.
The 1.8 TFSI engine is not available for SE trim derivatives.
From launch, the sole diesel offering is the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI. It’s available with a manual transmission only. It’s a smooth engine, with plenty of pulling power on tap for overtaking or lugging up hills thanks to 320Nm of torque. Like many diesels, it’s not the most pleasant sounding engine in the world at high revs when the roof’s down, but at speeds its commendably quiet.
We’ve also driven the 1.6-litre TDI engine, which is scheduled to reach the UK market in the first quarter of 2014. It too is very quiet – impressively so – and smooth although its slight lack of mid-range pulling power means you’ll sometimes need to drop a gear to merge smoothly with traffic when changing lanes on the motorway, or travelling uphill, for example. Performance is otherwise perfectly adequate for most situations and it offers excellent economy figures.
See the Running Costs section for details on fuel economy and emissions for the Audi A3 Cabriolet engine range.
Don’t expect a scintillating driving experience – the convertible A3 is no sports car, but it is stable, safe and more rewarding than you might expect on a favourite road.
Some convertible versions of fixed-roof cars feel slightly sloppy and inaccurate due to the extra flex in the bodyshell created by lopping off the roof, but the A3 Cabriolet doesn’t feel hugely different from the Saloon it’s based on.
That is to say it’s very good, with lots of grip and excellent body control.
Audi’s ‘drive select’ system is fitted to Sport and S line variants, which allows the driver to select from various parameters of responsiveness for the steering and engine, among other factors. It’s possible to mix and match different modes, so, for example, if you like the alert throttle response in ‘Dynamic’ mode but don’t enjoy the heavier power steering setting that’s also selected as a result, you can swap it for a lighter setting.
‘Progressive steering’ is available as an option, which varies the steering ratio for lighter steering when parking and more direct steering at speed.
There are three suspension options, with the option of a firmer, sportier setup and lower ride height available depending on which trim grade you go for. The car handles very well even with the most pliant ‘comfort’ setup, and if your regular journeys include bumpy roads that’s probably the one to plump for unless you prefer the sportier appearance of a lower ride height.