New opening for VW Golf Cabriolet
Iain Dooley says the new soft-top Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet perfectly complements its tin-top Eos coupe-convertible cousin.
Too much choice is never a bad thing, which is why there's no harm in having two convertible models in your line-up. If you're Volkswagen that means the upmarket Eos and, now, the Golf Cabriolet.
Why two similar cars? Crucially, the team behind the Golf opted to stick with a fabric folding roof. Although there are advantages to a metal folding roof, a fabric one often needs less space when folded and can be a little lighter. The advantages are obvious – more boot space and the potential to eek out a bit more economy respectively.
To make a hatchet job of a recent VW advertising tag line, the cabrio version is like a Golf, but not a Golf. Obviously the roof is something of a giveaway, but the car's designers have cleverly engineered a rear end that is both practical and easy on the eye. So often a stumbling block in the drop-top world, the Golf's rump is, well, anything but a rump or afterthought. It will also take a fair amount of luggage or shopping, too.
The main attraction here is the Golf's open-air experience. And, like many Golf qualities, it's something the car does extremely well. Don't for one minute think that the fabric roof is something of a compromise – VW has engineered it to shut out a considerable amount of exterior noise. On the move with the roof up the car feels as close to a Golf tin-top hatch as is possible. Tyre, engine and wind noise are all impressively suppressed, while the cabin ambience is the standard issue familiar dark but classy kind.
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With the roof down the Golf is transformed into an equally refined but more enjoyable experience. How you get there is also impressive. The powered roof needs nothing more than for the driver to press and hold a switch near the handbrake. There are no fiddly catches to wrestle with, and you can even operate the roof at a few miles an hour if rain catches you by surprise. There's no need to be parked up with the handbrake on, making the experience a grown-up and undemanding one.
Another plus point of the Golf is the lack of an unsightly hump behind the cabin. The car's roof sits almost flush with the boot deck, and also doesn't need a separate cover for protection from the elements. All in all the performance is as you'd expect from a VW, but it still manages to surprise and delight every time you get behind the wheel.
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What's unlikely to come as a surprise is the way the Golf Cabriolet drives. It behaves very much like the hatchback, which is no bad thing. A compliant ride and drama-free handling are matched by an air of refinement that's hard to find elsewhere in this class.
There's no question that the car's engine line-up plays a part in this polished performance. The petrol engines offered (1.2 TSI, 1.4 TSI, 2.0 TSI) all boast exceptional levels of refinement and ability, while the range-topper is no slouch if you want the driving experience to be quick rather than just brisk. The diesels (1.6, 2.0) are, predictably, more economical but refined enough to not spoil the open-air experience. Stop-start and brake energy recovery systems are present as part of VW's eco-minded Bluemotion package.
In the real world, the 1.2 TSI petrol version is surprisingly capable and would best suit low-mileage urban dwellers, with the 1.6 TDI diesel delivering a similar performance but greater economy – ideal for undemanding longer journeys. Any other unit is really just icing on the cake. The same is true of the transmission options. The manual is smooth and precise while the DSG automatics are super smooth.
And although the Golf Cabriolet appears to have been positioned lower than the Eos in VW's pecking order, there's no shortage of standard kit. A fully-featured audio unit including Bluetooth, air-conditioning, that electrically-operated roof and alloy wheels are all part of the basic package. For everything else, the Cabriolet mirrors the regular Golf line-up.
After a noticeable absence the Golf Cabriolet is back. Boasting familiar looks and a mature, rounded performance, the car is everything a Golf fan seeking a drop-top would want. In short, the open-air Golf makes an understated but welcome return.
Price: Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet 1.2 TSI, �20,720. Range up to �26,595
Engine: 1.2-litre, 105bhp, turbo petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual driving the front wheels
Performance: 0-62mph 11.7 seconds; top speed 117mph
CO2 Rating: 139g/km