Audi A3 Cabriolet (2014-2020) Review
Four seats, open-top driving thrills and an upmarket badge all at a reasonable price make the Audi A3 Cabriolet a tempting package
Strengths & weaknesses
Four-seater convertibles are a comparatively rare sight in the UK, particularly at the more affordable end of the spectrum, which is where the Audi A3 sits, despite its posh badge. Most convertibles at this sort of price point are two-seaters, such as the Mercedes SLK and Mazda MX-5.
The Audi A3 Cabriolet treads a different path, however, offering wind-in-the-hair motoring and reasonable room for four (although front-seat occupants are better catered for than rear-seat passengers), all at a reasonable price for a cabriolet with a premium badge on the bonnet.
Based on the A3 family hatchback, the soft-top version was offered with a broad range of petrol and diesel engines, as well as a super-fast four-wheel-drive S3 model with a potent 300hp (and later 310hp) 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine.
The interior of this A3 Cabriolet is one of the smartest, most elegant and best-quality interiors around, with plush materials and an attractive design. As a result, the cabin is one of the A3 Cabriolet's biggest selling points.
This era of A3 also benefited from Audi’s smart Multi-Media Interface (MMI) media system, which has a tactile rotary knob that allows you to control most of the car’s entertainment system settings (or sat-nav, where fitted), without having to prod the screen. This is useful because it allows you to easily adjust things like the radio or other settings for the car without having to take your attention away from the road, as is the case with most touchscreen setups.
The fact that the media system’s screen also rises out of the dashboard not only means it’s tidily hidden away when not in use, but also that it’s set quite high, close to your eyeline as a driver - another feature that minimises distraction.
The folding roof itself is a more traditional fabric setup, rather than the folding metal format found in cars such as the Volkswagen Eos, yet the cabin still feels impressively serene with the roof raised. The process of raising and lowering it is an easy one, too - it’s electric, so can be raised and lowered in 18 seconds at the touch of a button, and at up to 31mph, so you don’t even need to find somewhere to stop if you get caught in a sudden downpour.
An update in 2016 brought sharpened exterior styling and improved technology (including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity), as well as some newer, more efficient petrol engine optionsm, so you may well want to go for a post-2016 model.
Should I get an Audi A3 Cabriolet?
✔ Elegant good looks inside and out
✔ Wide variety of engine choices
✔ Simple and effective electric fabric hood
✘ A lot of wind-buffeting with the hood down
✘ Ride feels harsh on models with larger wheels
✘ Rear seats not the most spacious
Audi has a long history of creating elegant-yet-understated convertibles and the A3 Cabriolet fits into that tradition well. It’s a smart, well-built convertible that should impress the neighbours as well as delivering open-top motoring fun.
While it’s not as spacious as the larger Audi A5 Cabriolet, the soft-top A3’s rear seats are still reasonably comfortable for two adults, although only for shorter journeys. The A5 is a lot more expensive, too, so while it's a great car, you'll have to pay much more to get an equivalent version of this bigger model.
Cabriolet models aren’t always as good to drive as hatchbacks or saloons because the lack of a fixed roof makes their structure weaker, which can result in them being less comfortable and less fun to drive. The A3, however, reduces this issue to an absolute minimum. In fact, it feels more solid - and fun to drive as a result - than the BMW 2 Series Convertible, which is its closest rival.
- Models explained
- Trim levels
- Best A3 Cabriolet for
- Should I buy used?
- Boot space
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Audi A3 Cabriolet
All A3 models come with a digital radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity (post-2016 cars also have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration), air-conditioning, electric windows and alloy wheels. Higher-spec Sport models get a few extra luxury touches, such as extra sound insulation for the fabric hood and a leather steering wheel.
Step up to the top-spec (aside from the high-performance S3) S line and you get larger alloy wheels and a stiffer, more sporty suspension setup, although it was possible to have this swapped out for a more comfort-focused suspension when the car was ordered new.
Engines include 140hp and 150hp 1.4-litre petrol units, and a 180hp 1.8-litre option. Following the 2016 update, a 1.5-litre 150hp petrol and a 2.0-litre petrol with 190hp replaced the 1.4-litre and 1.8-litre models.
Diesel options include a 115hp 1.6-litre 'TDI', which majors on fuel economy over performance and 2.0-litre engines with 150hp and 180hp. The larger engines offer notably more power but are still impressively economical, making them more appealing than the smaller diesel engine.
Audi S3 Cabriolet
The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine in the S3 Cabriolet is the same as you’ll find in the equivalent saloon and hatchback versions, with a 300hp power output in pre-2016 models and 310hp in later examples.
The way the soft-top S3 drives is somewhat different, however. It’s heavier and has softer suspension than either the sporty hatchback or saloon, so it delivers a less agile-feeling driving experience as a result.
It’s also only available with a six-speed 'S tronic' automatic gearbox, too, while there was a manual gearbox available with the Sportback hatchback and S3 Saloon. The seven-speed automatic in the post-2020 S3 is much smoother - this older six-speed unit can feel a little unresponsive in comparison.
|SE||Limited stock: Digital radio, stability control, air-conditioning and electric windows - as well as a fully electric fabric folding roof - are standard-fit on the most basic Audi A3 Cabriolets.|
|Sport||From £12,190: Upgrading to Sport (or not - this was the entry-level trim after 2016) adds to SE spec levels with a fabric hood that has more sound-deadening, more seat adjustment and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.|
|S line||From £11,492: S line brings larger alloy wheels, stiffer suspension, and a sporty bodykit, but the extra kit of this model isn’t necessarily worth the extra outlay for many drivers.|
|S3||Limited stock: As well as more racy styling, four-wheel-drive and a 300hp-plus 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, the S3 is very fast indeed, even in Cabriolet guise.|
The smooth and efficient 1.5-litre petrol engine introduced into the range in 2016 and badged as the ‘35 TFSI’ is deeply impressive and its quiet, relaxed nature suits a car like the A3 Cabriolet. With 150hp, versions with this engine are capable of going from 0-62mph in around 9.0 seconds, so they're not the fastest, but this engine has enough power for comfortable long-distance motorway cruising or picking up speed without fuss on country roads.
That it’s also capable of achieving fuel economy of around 50mpg is really a bonus, and renders the diesel-powered versions practically irrelevant for drivers who cover all but the very highest mileages. If you do rack up tens of thousands of miles every year, you may prefer the more economical diesel, for its lower fuel bills, but even then, the 35 TFSI is worth considering.
You can pick from a reasonable range of engines with the A3 Cabriolet, with a variety of fuel-efficient diesels or smooth, refined petrol models.
It isn’t a bargain-basement car in terms of price, whichever model or trim level you go for, but the A3 Cabriolet is a high-quality, premium product and that posh badge and image will make for relatively low PCP finance monthly payments (as these are affected just as much by what a car is expected to be worth at the end of the contract as its initial price). As a result, monthly finance costs should be manageable.
|Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0 TDI SE: SE spec was dropped as part of the 2016 refresh, so you’ll have to find an older one - but then that will be cheaper, making it even better value. Find one with the 150hp diesel and you’ll get great fuel-efficiency, too.|
|Audi A3 Cabriolet 35 TFSI Sport: The Sport trim level means nicer seats and a more sophisticated hood with extra sound-deadening, while the 150hp 1.5-litre engine has more than enough pulling power.|
|Audi S3 Cabriolet: 310hp means plenty of pace, while the standard-fit four-wheel-drive means plenty of grip and secure handling. The soft-top model is heavier and less fun to drive than its saloon and hatchback equivalents, however.|
|Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.6 TDI: The relaxed performance of the bigger 2.0-litre diesels is absent with the 1.6-litre engine, all for not that much extra advantage in terms of fuel economy.|
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In terms of direct rivals, the A3 Cabriolet doesn’t have that many. Its closest competitor is probably the BMW 2 Series Convertible, which is just as smart-looking but not quite as spacious and actually not quite as good to drive.
If an upmarket badge isn’t especially important to you, there's also the option of the VW Golf Cabriolet or the similar VW Eos, which came with a folding hard-top - although both of these cars were discontinued in 2016, so you'll only be able to find older models.
There are plenty of used A3 Cabriolets out there - both older models and the upgraded post-2016 cars. Earlier models will typically be cheaper, and these are the ones that are available in the entry-level SE trim. Go for one of these, though, and you will have to sacrifice the option of choosing the more modern petrol engines - and the 1.5-litre ‘35 TFSI’ in newer cars is probably the pick of the bunch for A3 engines.
What’s more, earlier models don’t get full smartphone integration - Apple CarPlay and Android Auto only came in with the 2016 update - so holding out for a newer model could be a wise move.
Go for an S3 Cabriolet if you have your heart set on a high-performance soft-top, but if it’s driving fun you’re after, the hatchback versions of the S3 are more enjoyable and should be easier to find second-hand, too, which gives you greater choice.
Audi A3 Cabriolet practicality: dimensions and boot space
At 4.4 metres long, the Audi A3 Cabriolet is a touch longer than the current A3 Sportback, and longer than its contemporary three-door A3 equivalent (by 20 centimetres). It’s also 10 centimetres longer than the five-door Sportback from the same era. Meanwhile, the A3 Cabriolet is 1.8 metres wide (which increases to 2 metres once you add in the door mirrors). This makes it relatively manageable in tricky car parks or narrow city streets - certainly more so than a larger convertible such as the Audi A5 Cabriolet.
The 1.4-metre height of the A3 Cabriolet makes it a couple of centimetres lower than the fixed-roof models. This helps to make it look suitably sleek with the roof up, but does compromise headroom a little, especially for rear-seat passengers. If you expect to often carry tall passengers in the rear seats with the roof up, the A5 Cabriolet is a better choice.
|Length 4,423mm||Width 1,793mm|
|Height 1,409mm||Weight 1,380kg - 1,570kg|
Ultimate luggage capacity probably isn’t your priority if you’re considering a convertible car, but the A3 Cabriolet is more practical than many. Its 320-litre boot outshines the 280 litres you get in the BMW 2 Series Convertible, for example.
That said, it is 60 litres less than you have in the A3 Sportback, despite the longer bodywork of the A3 Cabriolet. That’s largely down to the fact that the folding fabric roof has to have somewhere to go - which means that rear seat space and boot space are inevitably a little compromised.
|Boot size 320 litres|
Audi rarely receives excellent results in reliability or owner satisfaction surveys. Taken as a whole, this version of the A3 (sold up until 2020) came 55th out of 75 models in a recent Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, where it rated below average for build quality and reliability.
That said, you should find that the A3 is unlikely to suffer from major issues, being based largely on tried and tested tech shared with other brands within the VW Group - such as Volkswagen, Seat and Skoda.
The A3 Cabriolet came with a standard warranty for three years or 60,000 miles, along with a three-year roadside assistance deal. That’s pretty standard for most new cars sold in the UK, though it does lag behind the seven-year 100,000 mile cover offered by Kia and the potential 10-year warranty provided by Toyota.
However, it is possible to upgrade for a relatively small cost to an extended warranty, which gives you cover up until the car is five years old or it passes 90,000 miles.
|3 years||60,000 miles|
AVERAGE REPAIR COST PAID BY WARRANTYWISE: £643
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If you can afford a later A3, then the ‘35 TFSI’ introduced in 2016 is a great all-rounder, thanks to its well-judged balance of price, performance and fuel economy.
If you really must have the fastest A3 Cabriolet out there, then the S3 version is your only choice. It offers between 300hp and 310hp depending on the age of the car (newer versions had more power) and four-wheel-drive so you can make the most of that power in all weathers, without unduly spinning the wheels, which would be likely in an equivalent two-wheel-drive model.
*Representative PCP finance - 2018 Ford Fiesta 1.0 ST-Line Hatchback:
|PCP representative example||APR rates available|
|Cash price £12,000||APR 7.90%||Value of loan||From|
|Fixed monthly payment £218.12||Annual mileage of 8,000pa||£25,000+||6.9%|
|Total cost of credit £2,755.55||Term 48 months||£12,000-£24,999||7.9%|
|Optional final payment £4,285.79||Loan value £12,000||£8,000-£11,999||8.9%|
|Total amount payable £14,755.55||Deposit £0||<8,000||9.9%|
BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.
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