What Is It?

"Cabriolet" is one of those quaint words for soft-top or convertible. So the 2015 Audi A3 Cabriolet follows in the company's fine tradition of making elegant open-top cars. This time, the new generation of Audi A3 compact sedan provides the lower half, topped off with a fabric roof.

There hasn't been an A3 cabriolet in the U.S. before, so this is a novelty. It's a 4-seater in theory, though that might not always work out in practice. Best to leave the rear quarters for the short and nimble. The car does have decent trunk space, though: 10.1 cu ft. A long weekend's luggage for two will fit, even with the top down.

The sportier S3 cabrio is also coming over, with all-wheel drive as standard. The entry level A3 employs front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is an option for higher trim levels. Educated guesses on engine choices would be a 2.0-liter, 200-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder in the regular model, and that same unit tuned to 300 hp in the S3.

The roof is operated electro-mechanically, performing its folding/unfolding act in less than 18 seconds and at driving speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. There's also a proper glass rear window instead of a plastic one.

How Much?

We'll have to wait and see, but a 2013 BMW 1 Series Cabriolet starts at $47,600. Don't expect a bargain.

When Can You Get It?

Late 2014.

Add It to Your Shopping List Because...

The 2015 Audi A3 Cabriolet is fun and stylish. And thanks to optional head-level heating for the front occupants, it's a soft-top that can be used even on those crisp, cooler days. Other options include Audi's magnetic ride adaptive suspension, active lane assist and parking assist.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 BMW 2 Series Convertible -- This new model doesn't come out until 2014, when it replaces the 1 Series coupe and convertible. The advantage of rear-wheel drive gives it a sportier edge over the A3 cabrio.

2014 MINI Cooper Convertible -- Packed with more character than upper-class ambiance, the MINI Cooper is one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars around.

2013 VW Eos -- Cheaper and closely related to the previous-generation A3, the VW Eos has a folding hardtop instead of fabric. So it's slightly more weatherproof and acoustically insulated.

Used BMW 1 Series Convertible -- If a premium compact soft-top needs to be bought immediately or soon, this would be a good choice.

Used Audi A5 Cabriolet -- It's one size up from the A3 but still far from bulky. The A5 cabrio has graceful lines that should remain easy on the eye after several years.

See all Frankfurt Auto Show news

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Colin Ryan has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

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