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First Drive: Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet car review


HOLD YOUR fire. Yes, there is a brand-new seventh generation Golf just around the corner which will eventually spawn Cabriolet and GTI versions of its own. But that’s some way off yet as the Golf VII won’t start deliveries until early next year. In the meantime, the excellent Golf VI is being given a proper send off.

Enough praise has been heaped upon the Golf GTI already. It has been the benchmark for the class over several generations as it manages to combine the everyday comfort and practicality of its humble hatch origins and yet still deliver the big thrills of a more expensive sporting car when the conditions are right. But what has never been done in the UK at least is to combine the GTI mechanicals into the Convertible body. Up until the early 1990s you could buy a MkI Golf Cabriolet badged as a GTI – but in truth it wasn’t the real thing.

This one most certainly is however. While a standard Golf Cabriolet might strike you as a car for leisure rather than pleasure, the combination of the drop-top roof and sport GTI detailing works remarkably well. Picked out in the classic Mars Red it really looks the part, with the pinstripe red across the grille, the chunky alloys and the purposeful stance. With the hood up the contrasting grey works well, and with the roof down it has that ‘drive-me’ look about it that makes you want to do just that.

Beneath the attractive exterior there are understandably few changes over the regular hatch. Under the bonnet lies the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine that does such excellent service in the hatchback, pushing out 207bhp and 206lb.ft of torque – although it is worth bearing in mind that these are GTI numbers, not the kind you’d see in a modern ‘super-GTI’ with 240bhp or more. And you can have that power delivered to the front wheels through a six-speed manual or the game-changing seven-speed DSG dual clutch automatic.

Once inside all the familiar GTI cues are there, with four tartan cloth seats (which are entirely necessary as it turns out) and plenty of red stitching to boot. You get leather on the chunky steering wheel, handbrake and gearlever, while the instruments have red needles and white illumination that signal a more exciting drive. It should go without saying by now that the cabin is first-rate: the quality is highly impressive, the impressive materials all add to the premium feel and despite the cabriolet roof there is still a respectable amount of room in the rear. You can stick two adults in the back and they will be comfortable – at least until you start to drive it like you can.

Of course for 80% of the time you’re forced to drive cars like the GTI in regular traffic, but thankfully this is no hassle whatsoever. Choose the DSG version and you have a remarkably fuss-free city car, leaving your left leg to rest and exploiting the easy low-down torque of the turbo engine to stay ahead of the queues. With the roof up visibility is reduced over the regular hatch, but this is far from being a hassle.

Better still to drop the roof, flick the DSG into manual mode and head off onto a B-road. Dropping the roof takes less than 10 seconds and you can perform the trick without stopping too as long as you’re under 18mph. Flick the right paddle twice and the gear changes are instantaneous, with a purposeful rasp from the exhaust to accompany it. The response from the turbocharged engine is virtually instant, and the torque flows in a remarkably even fashion. The GTI Cabriolet feels rapid rather than massively quick, mostly due to a weight increase over its hatchback relative all in the name of safety, but there’s huge fun to be had. Not least in the way you can carry that speed through the bends, iron-fisted grip and superb balance, and a barely detectable compromise over the fixed-roof GTI.

It might seem like something of an indulgence, but the Golf GTI Cabriolet is unbridled pleasure on so many levels. It asks nothing extra of you should you only ever use it for stop-start driving or popping to the shops, yet you can have all that fresh air and worry more expensive performance cars on the way home. And dare it be said, it’s also something of a bargain. The GTI Cabriolet costs under £2,000 more than the GT TDI version, which although a good drive and frugal doesn’t offer the same kudos or fun behind the wheel. It won’t hang around for long, so don’t miss out on a proper cabriolet for all seasons.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet, £29,310 Engine: 2.0-litre petrol producing 207bhp and 206lb.ft of torque Transmission: Six-speed manual driving the front wheels Performance: Top speed 147mph and 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds Economy: 37.2mpg Emissions: 177g/km of CO2

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power4 (higher than average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy3 (average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups2 (higher than average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats4 value verdict:    stars

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