The Numbers

Attraction - 1.4-litre, 4cyl turbo petrol, 103kW, 250Nm, 7sp dual clutch, 0-100km/h 9.1secs, 4.9L/100km

The Topgear Verdict

A more sophisticated, ‘grown-up’ take on the compact cabrio from Audi, delivering solid value and excellent dynamics.

2014 Audi A3 Cabriolet

So, what is it?

A four-seat cabriolet version of Audi’s third-generation A3, completing the line-up of body variants alongside the existing sedan and ‘Sportback’ hatch.

Audi makes no bones about the fact this is a “style driven model”, but there’s no risk of form overwhelming function, with a choice of three drivetrains and two spec levels on offer.

Entry point is the front-wheel drive (FWD) Attraction, powered by a 1.4-litre 103kW/250Nm turbo petrol four matched with a seven-speed dual clutch ‘box.

Premium variant is the Ambition, offered with a choice of 1.8-litre 132kW/250Nm turbo petrol four, in FWD (7sp) or Quattro AWD (132kW/280Nm, 6sp) versions, as well as a 2.0-litre 110kW/340Nm turbodiesel four, driving the front wheels only through a six-speed dual clutch transmission.

Why should I care?

This car is the first in the VW Group to sit on a ‘convertible’ version of the German giant’s versatile MQB platform, set to also underpin upcoming replacements for the current Golf Cabriolet and EOS roadster.

It offers an inexpensive way into a premium German soft-top, undercutting BMW’s 118d and 125i by a sizeable margin. And with that car in transition to fresh 2 Series variants, the Audi has a market niche virtually to itself for the last half of the year.

What's new about it?

Aside from the fresh engines, the new A3 Cab is 183mm longer overall, and 28mm wider than the car it replaces, with the wheelbase stretched by 17mm. Most of the new sheet metal is behind the rear wheels, for a more balanced, classical cabrio stance.

One of the most significant technical changes is its new ‘K-fold’ roof mechanism, claimed to be lighter and more space-efficient than the superseded model’s ‘Z-fold’ top. It can be raised or lowered in 18 seconds, at speeds up to 50km/h.

Thanks to the extensive use of ultra-high-strength steel, and new panel joining techniques, the car is also lighter and torsionally stiffer. An alloy bonnet does its bit for the weight reduction campaign, and at 1380kg the new A3 Cabriolet is 60 lighter than the previous version.

That's all fine. What's it like to drive fast?

Despite its relatively modest power output, the 1.4-litre Attraction boasts a flat plateau of maximum torque from just 1500 through to 3500rpm. Zero to 100km/h in 9.1secs isn’t going to win any trophies at your local street drags meeting, but it’s willing at city speeds and a relaxed highway cruiser.

Not surprisingly, the 1.8’s extra 29 kilowatts deliver a little more urgency under the right foot, but given the peak torque figure is identical (+30Nm in the quattro), there’s not a massive amount between them. Claimed 0-100km/h is 7.8secs for the 1.8 and 7.6secs for the quattro.

We’re yet to steer the diesel, but a 36 per cent increase in torque (to 340Nm) is not to be sneezed at. Claimed 0-100km/h is 8.8secs.

A moderate amount of vibration comes up through the body and steering on rougher secondary roads, but that goes with the convertible territory. Steering feel is excellent, as is overall stability. Both gearboxes are beautifully smooth and responsive, while braking power (front discs are ventilated – 288mm Attraction / 312mm Ambition) is impressive.

And driving from home to the office in the city?

You have to pick your moment for a pleasant roofless commute. Nothing like a grunting Kenworth or three to take the smile off you open-top face. And with roof raised the A3 is a quiet and civilised four seater.

An optional ‘acoustic roof’ ($500) benefits from denser foam as well as specific joints and seals to further reduce high-frequency noise.

Ambition spec includes the ‘Audi Drive Select’ system, switchable through comfort, auto, dynamic and efficiency modes, for the desired level of throttle and steering response.

Standard kit includes dual-zone climate-control air, cruise control, eight speaker (multi-compatible) audio and leather trim, delivery the required amount of comfort and premium feel.

Is there anything bad about it?

The S3 version is several months away.

How much would I have to pay for one? And is it worth the coin?

Pricing starts at $47,300 for the Attraction, rising to $51,900 for the Ambition 1.8 petrol or 2.0 diesel, and finishing with the 1.8 quattro at $54,900. Far from small change, but solid value in this part of the market.

Style, Technik, Comfort, Assistance and S line option packs bundle related features.

Would you take the A3 Ambition 1.8 quattro or BMW125i?

The BMW’s faster in a straight line, but the Audi has the edge on value. The Audi takes a Bavarian battle by a bratwurst.

Reviewed by: James Cleary

Driven: June 18, 2014