When you’re in the market for a convertible in the sub-$50,000 bracket there’s a healthy spread of options from many automakers, some better than others of course. But if build quality and image are prerequisites when choosing a new topless car then one that warrants closer scrutiny is most certainly the Audi A3 Cabriolet. Pricing starts off at $38,350 for a front-wheel drive with a turbocharged 2.0-liter and a choice of dual clutch automatic transmissions and while that’s the entry model, it’s by no means a cheap car – this is an Audi. Throw an acceptable amount more money into the mix and you’ll see the same 2.0-liter making not only more power, but it can also have that power directed to all four wheels.
Inside the convertible Audi A3 you’re greeted with typically Audi build quality and everything looks solid and purposeful. The design and layout of the dashboard is rather plain looking and while it may be nitpicking, it looks like the center air vents and the screen on top have been swapped around; it always looks like the screen was an afterthought. The multifunction steering wheel is nice and chunky, but it’s beyond that where your attention will be.
The Audi Virtual Cockpit is what the company calls it’s gauge cluster and it’s a customizable digital screen that not only shows the relevant gauges and driving info, but it will display navigation, the phone and parts of the entertainment. Seating is for four and you can actually fit four full-sized adults, although you would still arrange for the shortest of the four to take the back seat. Trunk space is limited, but cabriolet buyers know this up front.
When doing normal driving duty, you’d likely not notice the difference between the front-wheel drive and the Quattro all-wheel drive models because that extra grip from the rear wheels will only kick in at the limit. There is more power in the Quattro though so there it does offer a better feel in acceleration. The suspension is compliant enough to make bumpy roads feels good and it’s firm enough to never make you question the car’s handling ability. When you option the plus package that adds the sports seats, you will also be given sports suspension to firm things but just that little bit more.
Sharing the chassis with many other cars known to have good handling shows, and the steering feedback is sharp and offers a decent amount of connection to the road. The front-wheel drive models are mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission automatic transmission and the Quattro models feature a 6-speed speed variant both of which are faster when needed and almost imperceptibly smooth during daily travel duty.
There’s a single engine option for the Audi A3 Cabriolet but it’s found in two states of tune. The lower power version is only in the front-wheel drive trim and there the turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder makes 186 hp with 221 lb-ft of torque, which is good enough for a 6.9-second 0-60 mph run and returns a combined 28 mpg. When you want the Quattro all-wheel drive you get more power to distribute through more wheels and so that sees the power move up to 220 hp with 258 lb-ft of torque, which drops the 0-60 by a full second and has a 130 mph top speed. The 6 and 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmissions feel much the same and they work fast and smooth.
The instrument cluster in the Audi A3 Cabriolet is a 12.3-inch digital screen that displays all driver information as well as navigation if optioned, it’s one of the nicest clusters available and probably the best in this segment. Safety features include systems like Audi Pre-sense front that readies the car for impact if on board radars detect a reason. Active lane assist and adaptive cruise control make long distance driving less of a chore. Rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring are part of the package too along with the usual things like ABS and EBD along with a full compliment of airbags.
The Audi A3 Cabriolet is a good all round car; it has a good amount of features, active and passive safety systems are among the best on the market and it has the good old German build quality making it a solid and dependable car. The dimensions are good for an open top car and it’s a great daily driver. You can’t go wrong with one but that Audi badge does mean you’ll pay more than you would for similar offerings from rival automakers, but then again people buying an Audi are more than happy to pay a premium for the four linked rings on the grille.