Audiâ€™s smallest four-seater cabrio is the full package
While this is being written there is ten-tenths low cloud as there seems to have been for about the last century. Some light rain, damp and lowish temperatures. Itâ€™s not easy in such circumstances to imagine driving along in a car with the roof down, the sun shining in and a warm breeze lifting the cap from your head to deposit it over the nearest hedge.
But were you to be able to imagine such a scenario, with a laughing, attractive companion next to you â€“ their hat never gets blown off â€“ then the Audi A3 Cabriolet makes a very suitable vehicle for what seems right now to be an unattainable dream. But warm weather and sun will come, and then top-down motoring makes a lovely combination.
And letâ€™s not let this dream get too out of hand, we want something realistic, that we can take the children or friends in the back for this picnic weâ€™re going on. In the sun, with the warm breeze and, after weâ€™ve stopped and found it, our rather stylish cap.
If we were to have the car laden with four people and the sort of wicker hamper that grand country houses used to take on picnics then the 1.6-litre diesel engine might feel a touch too little, although otherwise itâ€™s fine. At the same time the 2.0-litre petrol engine will give more than enough, so thatâ€™s too much in terms of cost. So, being just right and in the middle, weâ€™d choose the 1.5-litre turbo petrol option.
In the same way, thereâ€™s a 181bhp version of the 2.0-litre diesel, but thatâ€™s also probably a bit over the top so if you want a diesel weâ€™d stick with the 148bhp version of that same engine. The six-speed manual gearbox is slick and quick, but you can have the S tronic auto box if you want, and thatâ€™s very fast to change, very snickety-snick.
If you want the lemonade and the cucumber sandwiches to arrive neither shaken nor stirred weâ€™d actually go for the Sport spec. That allows the Dynamic suspension to provide a great compromise between absorbing bumps and keeping the body firmly under control. The S line trim makes things considerably firmer, with a risk that the ginger beer will explode amusingly when you come to open it.
You could choose the optional Adaptive Magnetic ride, but to be honest handling and ride are so good as standard that we wouldnâ€™t bother. Ride quality is comfy enough, and steering is very sharp although inevitably without a great deal of feedback. You can hustle down country roads in a thoroughly enjoyable way, and you wonâ€™t make little Emily throw up in the rear, no matter how many pork pies she ate.
With the roof up the car is pretty quiet as the acoustic hood does a great job, and with it down thereâ€™s not a lot of buffeting so long as you have the optional wind deflector fitted. The problem is you can only have this up if there are no rear occupants, and without it you do get a bit of wind swirling around, enough to worry those with jaunty caps or toupees.
The engines are fairly hushed although unsurprisingly itâ€™s the petrol versions that are the quieter, but we might be tempted to stick with smaller wheels as they improve handling and cut down on road noise in the cabin.
That Audi cabin is of course very well made, beautifully well made, and the driver will have few problems getting comfy thanks to all the adjustment. Visibility is excellent, apart from rearwards, thanks to a small window in the rear but rear parking sensors as standard will certainly help. Or you just put the roof down.
Should you be unsure how to get to your designated picnic location the optional Technology Package, which includes sat nav, will be handy, working through the standard 7in infotainment screen that rises handily from the top of the dash. There is good connectivity and the sound system is good, although the optional B&O gives you 13 speakers to get everyone in the mood on the way â€“ an audiobook of Winnie the Pooh going down to the woods today, or something.
While the front two seats are great, the rear two are really best for children, particularly with the roof up. There isnâ€™t a lot of space for stowage and oddments, so that means everything really does need to go in the boot. The problem is that the boot only really works with the roof up. At that point you could slide in the big wicker hamper. But with the roof down, youâ€™d struggle as the space left has a lot less height to it. This may affect your hamper decisions.
Audi A3 Cabriolets arenâ€™t cheap to buy, but residuals are strong, so youâ€™ll keep more of your money when selling and, if buying on PCP, youâ€™ll get a low payment offering. Check out the PCP deals and you might be surprised how low the payments can be.
With efficient engines, the car offers sensible tax payments and running costs. And you donâ€™t need to go to the top variants to get sensible kit. Weâ€™d choose Sport trim as that gives you the acoustic roof, DAB radio, sat nav and dual-zone climate control.
And of course you want to keep everyone safe as you cruise down the country lanes in the sunshine, with everyone laughing and happy and without a care in the world (hey, itâ€™s lovely in my world). The A3 hatchback (they havenâ€™t tested the Cabriolet) got five stars, the maximum, from Euro NCAP in crash protection, and there are numerous systems to keep you from having an accident in the first place.
Although itâ€™s quite expensive, the Driver assistance package is quite impressive as it adds in all manner of safety tech, including adaptive cruise control, Audi parking system and active lane assist. After all, you donâ€™t want to end up with egg sandwich on your face.