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Soft top wonder

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: May 03, 2013

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DRIVING EXPERIENCE

Audi makes much of the A3 Cabriolet's lower centre of gravity compared to folding hard top cars. This is key because fitting a lot of electric motors, rigid panels and strengthening high in the body, as many folding metal hard-top models do, has all sorts of repercussions for weight distribution.

Keep the roof light and compact, as Audi has done, and the suspension isn't given quite such a poser when confronted with a corner.

A first look over the A3 Cabriolet suggests it's one of the more focused drop tops.

DESIGN AND BUILD

Straightforward conversions of compact hatchbacks rarely make elegant drop tops, though the A3 Cabriolet tries hard, looking smart with the roof down.

Roof up however, it has a compact profile that can't escape the car's fundamental short and squat footprint, even if it is 24mm longer than the A3 three-door hatch on which it's based. Still, Audi has done a good job packaging the car, the hood's compact dimensions meaning that there's enough space for four adults inside.

The hood itself can be specified in semi or fully automatic versions. A heated glass rear window is standard and the fully automatic hood can be operated via the key fob. Other highlights include the optional R8-style daytime running LEDs in the headlamp pod.

The windscreen is set at the same angle as the hatchback model, which is a welcome relief after the steeply canted screen that designers fit to hard top convertibles in order to try to shorten the roof length.

The front seats give plenty of adjustment, while providing a good deal of leg, shoulder and (when the roof is up) head room. Get into the back though and you'll find things slightly compromised by a very upright back rest. The boot offers 260 litres of luggage space, extendable to 674 -litres when the rear seat backs are folded.

MARKET AND MODEL

The standard model comes with the semi-automatic roof with electric windows all round. Go for the Sport and you'll get the fully automatic acoustic roof, 17-inch aluminium wheels, front fog lights and sports seats and suspension. Place an order for the S line variant and there's a sports pack and body styling included.

SUMMARY

The main reason people buy convertible cars is because they want to look great and any car buff can reel off a string of very successful convertible models that looked fantastic but were actually utter dogs to drive and own.

The A3 Cabriolet turns that established logic on its head, plus it's one of the very best four seater compact cabriolets to drive. If you need more than two seats and can't decide between a mainstream family hatchback-based convertible or a bigger one with a prestige badge, then this car can't be ignored. You could find it to be just about right.

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