THERE was a convertible Golf in Volkswagen's range even in the days of the model’s first incarnation, so a soft top version is nothing new. But the last time a Golf went without a proper roof was in the ‘90s, so this is a bit of a reinvention.
Volkswagen already has the Eos, which is a convertible Golf-sized car based on the Golf chassis, but its roof is an electric folding hard top, whereas the Golf’s is canvas.
All Golfs major on sophistication, stability and general solidity, but the drop-top has to add style without ruining the hatchback’s best features. That it does with ease. It looks relatively long, but it looks exactly how its target audience will want it to; fresh, modern and well-proportioned, but distinctively Golfish.
In the range there’s a selection of petrol and diesel engines, along with a choice of six-speed manual and seven-speed DSG gearboxes. No flappy paddles here though; the optional DSG system works solely from the gear selector. There’s the traditional ‘D’ for Drive, and then ‘S’, presumably for Sport. That keeps the revs higher, and speeds up both the gear change and the throttle response, the latter largely as a result of the engine already spinning at higher speeds.
Strangely, for a company that has so many engines at its disposal, the mid-range – and probably most popular – SE model is only offered with a 1.6-litre diesel, and for a car that’s unlikely to be doing heavy business mileage the ‘twincharged’ petrol engine (available only on expensive GT models) would make more sense. The 1.4 TSI engine has both a turbo and a supercharger, giving 158bhp in an engine that would usually struggle to top 100bhp. It also makes it a bit more characterful, with the turbo whistling away at low to medium revs.
It’s very linear and smooth, but not really engaging beyond the occasional chirp from the turbo. With an average fuel economy of around 40mpg, though, it’s great for Sunday drives without ending up on first name terms with the local petrol station staff, and in terms of sound and smoothness it’s much more befitting of the convertible lifestyle than a diesel. It costs a lot less to buy, too.
Cabin appearance and quality is typical VW in that you wouldn’t call it exciting, but nor is there anything wrong with it. The materials are generally solid, the overall effect is of classy understatement and the optional leather seats are very luxurious.
Unfortunately, the folks in the front two seats have to choose between rear seat passengers and maintaining their hairstyles, because you can’t have both. The Golf has a wind break that reduces wind buffeting to a light massaging on the top of your head, but it extends across the rear seat space to rise up behind the fronts. The ample legroom in the back is ultimately wasted if you value your curls or your coif.
The Golf Cabriolet is more about style than sportiness, and in that it succeeds. It’s not a car for really keen drivers, being quite prone to understeer under spirited cornering, and tending to shimmy sideways over mid-corner bumps. The steering also gets a bit vague as the car loads up its suspension, and there’s not much feedback or feel. But for a moderately brisk run out to the countryside for an ice cream and a bit of fresh air, the canvas top Golf is right on the money.
In terms of standard equipment the Golf follows the normal rules of VW engagement. Go for the middle spec, SE, and you’ll have everything you need – except a petrol engine. The options list is pretty well populated, should you wish to plumb its depths. An excellent sat nav system is a highlight, albeit a pricey one. GT models have sportier seats with more lateral support, as well as a few other racy touches.
The Golf Cabriolet, like almost every other Volkswagen ever, is about confidence without arrogance. It does it effortlessly, being great looking, available in a good range of colours and, well, being a Golf. It’s a sure-fire winner for VW, whatever happens. While wannabe Lewis Hamiltons would do better to go for a Mazda MX-5, very few people who really want the convertible Golf will be disappointed.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet GT 1.4 TSI DSG, from £26,595 on the road.
Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged and supercharged petrol engine producing 158bhp.
Performance: Top speed 134mph, 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds.
Transmission: 7-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox driving the front wheels.
Fuel economy: 44.1mpg.
CO2 Rating: 148g/km.
- Power3 (average performance)
- 0-60 mph
- Economy4 (better than average fuel economy)
- Insurance groups2 (higher than average costs)
Motors.co.uk value verdict: