Audi A3 Cabriolet

1.6 TDi S-line

IT was, perhaps, not such a good idea to check out a cabriolet just as winter poured in with a vengeance.

Opportunities for getting the roof down were dictated by the very infrequent and fleeting dry intervals, and even then the stormy winds didn't exactly encourage open-top motoring.

However, it was enough for the A3 to make a good impression. The electronic roof operation in the S-line is, in fact, one of the niftiest around, taking a mere nine seconds from button-press to stowage completion, the return requiring just two seconds more, and all possible at speeds of up to 19mph.

This is not one of the new-fangled shifting hard-tops but a canvas roof, which reduces the technical challenges of folding it away, and here it Z-patterns neatly into its own compartment, thus avoiding the somewhat ugly, bulging backsides of coupe-cabrios and also leaving boot space unscathed at a useful 235 litres (with 674 available if you fold down the two rear seats). Neither has the system eaten into the passenger area, and rear-seat passengers have plenty of leg room.

Have the roof in place and there are more plus points. Extensive insulation in the canvas means very impressive sound-proofing, the equal of most orthodox quality cars, while the compact togetherness of the A3 Cabriolet is testament to its rigid build. The specialised reinforcements mean there is no trace of scuttle here.

The only problem is a familiar one in this style of car, and that is poor corner visibility over the shoulder and a rear mirror view that is obstructed by the roll-over hoops. So reversing requires special attention and rear sensors should really be standard, not the pay-for option that they are.

The S-line trim delivers its own lowered suspension set-up and one expects to be bumped around a bit, but in fact the A3 Cabriolet rides with more suppleness than you normally expect from a sporty Audi. What you get is comfort allied to loads of control, the rainbow's end of every car designer.

The two-door A3 looks good, too. Not only is the backside athletic, as I have already mentioned, but S-line trim delivers its own exterior special features and the car poses with some promise of action. That, it has to be said, is not forthcoming with the 1.6 turbo diesel engine.

The prime ambition of this version is to be green and economic, and power and pull of 105PS and 184lb/ft is modest - you get the general idea from the standstill-to-62mph sprint time of 12.2 seconds. Stop/start is employed and you get gear guidance from the car, not always what you would naturally choose.

Go gently and you can get more than 72mpg on the open road (along with very good CO2 emissions of 114g/km), but most, I suspect, will be giving the gearbox a good work-out to maintain some zip.

The good news is that the engine is smooth and, again, noise insulation is impressive and contributes to the fine ambience of the cabin, dressed in black with abundant brushed aluminium panels, inserts and rims. Part-leather upholstery is standard (full leather is another option) and it not only looks smart but it feels good, too, with the extended seat bolsters giving super leg support.

Cabin quality is the stamp of Audi and I am surprised to find myself quibbling with them over the dash lay-out. The centre stack has the air vents at the top, which pushes the entertainment, info and optional-satnav screen down out of eye-line. The climate control section is then at the base and just about out of sight.

However, dials presentation, split by a mini info panel which includes a digital speed reading and the gear-choice guide, is excellent, and there are audio remote controls on the feel-good chunky sports steering wheel. Other standard facilities include six airbags, a stability programme, leather grips, 18in alloys, fogs, front and back electric windows, front sports seats and wind deflector.

FAST FACTS

Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.6 TDi S-line

Price: £23,970.

Mechanical: 105bhp, 1,598cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front-wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 118mph

0-62mph: 12.2 seconds

Combined MPG: 65.7

Insurance Group: 10

C02 emissions: 114g/km

Bik rating: 15%

Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles

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