FEATURING some new engines, new colours, snazzy wheel designs, updated technology and some sharply styled design traits, the latest Audi A3 range has really upped the ante in the compact hatchback segment.
There are three and five-door versions and an array of body styles to choose from such as three-door hatches, five-door Sportbacks, saloons and cabriolets with prices starting from £19,365.
In addition, customers can select from four trim levels called SE, SE Technik, Sport or S line.
Audi now claims that the A3 range has the widest choice of models in the premium compact segment.
From the outside, enhanced design changes are instantly noticeable with a new single frame grille along with new headlights with LED daytime running lights as standard which give the car a more aggressive appearance.
There are also 3D-effect rear lights, a new rear bumper with wider rear diffuser, and smart alloys in 16, 17 or 18-inch sizings (19-inch is also an option on some versions). Matrix LED headlights are also offered for the first time on cars of this class.
Move inside and the premium label that Audi likes to use to describe its cars is very justified with the very finest materials and techno treats all packaged neatly together to create an upmarket and very easy-on-the-eye interior that boasts innovative technology at every turn.
Try as you might, you will struggle to find any sharp to tacky surfaces even if you go digging for them.
New features include the option of Audi's virtual cockpit which was first seen on the latest TT sports car.
This excellent system allows the driver to personalise and adjust a 12.3-inch high resolution display which replaces the conventional instruments.
In addition, the steering wheel on the latest A3 is new along with fresh air vent designs, improved infotainment and the option of a wireless charging function.
New engines include a 1.0 TFSI three cylinder powertrain and a newly developed 2.0 TFSI option. Add in the option of manual or automatic gearboxes plus front wheel or quattro all-wheel-drive and that list of model variants adds up to a staggering 127 models.
The A3 was first introduced back in 1996 and over the years it has become a firm favourite and now enjoys the position of best-selling Audi model in the UK.
With rain clouds on the horizon, it probably wasn't the best idea to try out two of the cabriolet models, but with a roof that can be raised or lowered in 18 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph, we were sure a sudden shower wouldn't catch us out.
The cabriolet model appeals to a fairly niche market and last year sold 3,814 TFSI petrol units in the UK. The most popular was the car powered by the 1.4 150ps engine in S line trim and it was that updated version in dazzling Vegas Yellow that we tried out first.
The car, featuring fuel-saving cylinder-on-demand technology, was priced at £31,440 - a price-tag that increased to £40,280 with options added.
It can sprint from 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds and tops out at 138mph. According to official figures it can deliver combined fuel economy of 54.3mpg with carbon emissions of 119g/km. It featured a seven speed S tronic automatic gearbox with steering wheel-mounted paddles.
Once behind the beautifully-styled sports steering wheel, everything inside the latest A3 seems perfectly positioned for driver usability.
The controls are simple to operate as too is the newly designed multi-media interface and that virtual instrument panel can very simply and quickly be adapted to suit the driver's requirements.
The acceleration through the gears is nicely responsive with a constant supply of power on tap at all times which helps make light work of overtaking at short notice.
The steering is precise and excellent road holding means tight bends can be attacked with confidence.
However, visibility is pretty limited which is true to cabriolet form but that aside the ride, handling and driving dynamics were difficult to fault.
I would say that the 19-inch wheels were probably an overstatement. They certainly looked fabulous, but that vanity came with a price. It made the ride a tad bouncy at times even when the car was in 'comfort' driving mode.
In ‘dynamic' setting it was not really that suited to any pitted or uneven road surfaces - which are difficult to avoid these days.
Next up was the cabriolet powered by a 2.0 150ps diesel engine in S line trim with a six-speed manual transmission.
This car was priced at £31,340 (£41,705 with options fitted) and it can sprint to 62mph from a standing start in 8.8 seconds. It maxes out at 139mph, has combined economy of 61.4mpg and emissions of 117g/km.
Once again it had those massive 19-inch wheels which wouldn't be my first choice especially as they tend to add something in the region of Â£1,100 to the asking price.
That said, the car again proved to be fabulous fun to drive and delivered on all counts.
The acceleration was constant and the A3 can cruise effortlessly at motorway speeds while offering all the appeal of wind-in-the-hair summertime driving. To keep turbulence low inside the cockpit the car an be fitted with a wind deflector across the back of the rear seats.
Being a cabriolet the boot space is less than other A3 body styles, but it can accommodate 320 litres of luggage - a capacity that is increased to 678 litres with the rear seats dropped flat.
And being an Audi, all A3s are packed with a comprehensive list of safety equipment which have helped it achieve the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP safety ratings.
In introducing the latest A3 range, Audi claims it is "advancing the advanced and the segment leader just got even better".
After a day behind the wheel of the stunning cabriolet the only complaint I had was not with the car but the good old British weather.