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Following on from the core hatchback model and the new-for-this-generation four-door saloon variant, Audi has introduced the new Cabriolet to its lower medium A3 range.
The formula for the open-top is much the same as that for Audis of old. At the behest of its customers, the German firm continues to eschew metal, folding hard tops in favour of a traditional fabric item. The roof itself folds down electronically in just under 18 seconds, which can be done on the move at up to 31mph.
There are also two versions of the roof: the standard item and a better-insulated one, which offers greater refinement with the lid up. Mid and top-spec Sport and S-line trim levels get this thrown in, but it's an option with the entry-level SE model.
The 150hp 2.0 TDI diesel is likely to be the biggest initial draw for fleets with an official 67.3mpg and 110g/km, followed by a 140hp 1.4 TFSI petrol with 'Cylinder on Demand' technology, which shuts down two of the engine's cylinders when they're not needed to boost efficiency. There's also a range-topping 1.8 TFSI petrol with 180hp and capable of 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds.
The cleanest engine of the lot joins the range in April 2014 in the form of the 99g/km 110hp 1.6-litre TDI diesel, while a higher-powered 184hp version of the 2.0-litre TDI unit will appear later in the year. Audi's quattro four-wheel drive system is now available for the first time, too.
Based on the A3 saloon platform rather than the hatchback's, the new car has a bigger boot and a longer wheelbase than the previous A3 Cabriolet, and promises more space for rear passengers. It's not what you'd call roomy in the back, but as four-seat convertibles go, there's a reasonable amount of space - enough to accommodate children or smaller adults in acceptable comfort.
To drive, the Cabriolet is much the same as fellow A3s in the line-up: comfortable, sure-footed and very refined for a convertible. In a similar vein to the A3 hatchback, the convertible is lighter than its predecessor (by 60kg), which has created sharper handling and a noticeable difference between the two generations.
It isn't exactly a sporting car, though. The Cabriolet is more posey soft top, a rival to the likes of the BMW 1-series and VW Golf Convertible, than proper open-top sports car such as the Mazda MX-5.
BusinessCar tested the 1.6 and 2.0-litre TDI versions, both of which pulled well and proved surprisingly quiet for open-top diesels. The smaller engine naturally struggled a little at higher A-road and motorway speeds, which is where the 2.0-litre comes into its own.
Rivals are thin on the ground in the premium, four-seat convertible sector, so the Audi appears expensive next to the equivalent VW and Vauxhall competitors. It's a bit nearer the BMW 1-series (itself about to be replaced by the 2-series) but it's also by far the cleanest and most economical of anything in the segment.