VOLKSWAGEN GOLF CABRIOLET REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small two-door cabriolet.
Price: $39,490 (plus on-roads) $49,790 as tested
Fuel Economy (claimed): 6.5 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 9.8 l/100km
Let’s face it, the biggest deal when buying a convertible is how it’ll make you look.
With that in mind there are three things you need to know about the Golf Cabriolet: it doesn’t have the gawky roll-over hoops of upmarket cousin the Audi A3; it doesn’t have the long boot of its big sister, the VW Eos; and, best of all, gone is the basket handle roll-over hoop of every Golf Cabriolet before it.
So this one makes the Golf’s family members look like ugly step sisters.
But the Cabriolet’s winning style - like all rag-tops - comes with a security compromise (at least against the Eos) with a fabric roof in place of a slash-resistant tin top.
Other than that, it’s all upside, with typical VW on-road dynamics and the renowned 118TSI engine mated to the optional sharp-shifting seven-speed DSG.
Quality: The dashboard layout is lifted straight from the Golf hatch, for which you’ll find little to find fault with. We can’t help but be impressed by the classy finish, impressive materials and the many tactile delights layered through the switchgear.
Nestle yourself in under the roof and you could otherwise think you were in a fixed roof coupe, with a perfectly trimmed, luxurious looking, cloth-lined, three-layer fabric roof.
Comfort: Up front there’s also little to complain about, particularly with the optional leather-trimmed sports seats featuring lumbar support as fitted to our test car.
The seating position is a little lower than the hatch, but not so much so that getting in and out is a chore.
Even back seat passengers gave a big thumbs up to a sculpted rear bench that is ‘almost’ generous for leg and head-room. Width takes a hit though to allow for the roof mechanism.
Equipment: The Cabriolet may be bested by the GTI and R as range-toppers, but with a long equipment list it wants for little.
There are automatic lights and wipers, trip computer, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, cooled glovebox, Bluetooth telephony and audio and CD/MP3 audio with six speakers and USB/aux-in and iPod connectivity.
There’s also the nifty roof - fully automatic and able to be stowed in just nine seconds.
Optional equipment fitted to our test car included satellite navigation featuring a 30Gb audio hard drive, bi-xenon headlights with LED running lights and cornering illumination and Vienna cool-leather upholstery, nifty equipment all, but enough to add $10,300 to the price of the Cabriolet in conjunction with metallic paint.
Storage: Top up or down there’s 250 litres of luggage space, and that’s pretty roomy. On the downside, instead of a boot lid you get more of a portal which makes loading and unloading and back-bending chore.
Top marks for being able to fold the rear seats from inside the boot though.
Inside there are long door bins, lidded cupholders (with VW’s nifty bottle opener) and a small centre cubby.
The glovebox offers a bit of storage room, but the centre console will accept a phone or MP3 player but not much else and, disappointingly for a drop-top, can’t be locked.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: We have said it before, and it’s worth repeating: the 118TSI engine is a very good thing. It is lively and eager but still smooth and sophisticated. Match that to a quick-witted transmission and there’s a swag of potential for a rewarding drivers car.
Without a roof some might expect some compromises to body integrity. But the Golf Cabriolet impressed with excellent body control and a rigid chassis that meant none of the scuttle shake that is evident in the more expensive Eos.
Refinement: The engine gets a big tick for its smooth, free-revving nature and linear power delivery. We like the DSG transmission too - once it picks up speed - with gear changes so quick they’re almost imperceptible.
Left in ‘drive’, the DSG gearbox will always seek out the highest gear it can in the name of economy, but with 240Nm of torque from 1500rpm to 4000rpm it doesn’t pose an issue.
Quicker downchanges however would be welcomed, but the package works very well when on the move.
Moving off from a standstill however is still a weak point for the DSG system; this particular car was worse than any we’ve driven so far. At times the bunny-hopping and roll-backs were utterly embarrassing.
Suspension: Golf Cabriolet models come with a firmed-up sports suspension tune as standard; it stiffens the ride a little, but not jarringly so. More than anything it shows off the commendable chassis rigidity of the Golf’s underpinnings.
Like the hatch, suspension componentry features a MacPherson strut front-end and four-link independent rear.
Braking: Four-wheel disc brakes with ventilated front rotors provide strong stopping performance. The pedal feels a little firm underfoot initially, but provides a well judged setup.
ANCAP rating: 5 stars
Safety features: Standard safety equipment includes dual front and side/side airbags, plus a driver’s knee airbag, safety-optimised front head-restraints, ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist as well as anti-slip regulation and electronic stability/traction control.
Roll-over protection is provided by strengthened A-pillars up front and two pop-up roll-over bars that deploy from behind the rear seats within milliseconds.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Vehicle warranty is three years/100,000 kilometres.
Service costs: Service costs may vary so consult your Volkswagen dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
In Sport guise the engine is right up there with the Golf for zesty performance. The 207 CC offers a more secure folding hard top, but has a tiny rear seat and is a manual-only proposition. (see 207 reviews)
MINI Cooper Cabrio 1.6 Auto ($43,255) - MINI offers style supreme over just about any other small car you care to mention; but it‘s a pricey little unit and to make the most of its options list you’ll need to be prepared to spend even more.
Show it a winding stretch of tarmac however and the MINI might just have it over the Volkswagen for handling, even with a duller engine doing all the hard work. (see Cooper reviews)
Fiat 500 C Abarth Esseesse ($38,990) - Not a true cabriolet, with fixed roof rails and a fold away fabric centre panel, but one for sun-seekers all the same.
The smooth-road handling is sublime and the rorty Esseesse engine is a masterwork of small car performance.
Sadly the automated five-speed box is not a patch on the VW’s brilliant DSG; ride is as firm as you’ll find and the steering can feel pretty lifeless (see 500 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Volkswagen’s Golf Cabriolet makes a welcome return and this generation is a definite pleaser with svelte style and some clever solutions to the issue of soft-top motoring.
The Golf Cabriolet brings a lot of big car engineering into a small car package without the associated price tag.
While a folding metal roof might hold some security benefits, the clever packaging and weight advantages of this folding fabric roof get a hearty thumbs up from us (and from all who took a top-down spin with us).
With a healthy equipment list and Volkswagen’s enjoyable 118TSI twincharged engine up front, the Cabriolet satisfies from cafe to coast line.
Our sole suggestion might be to consider the six-speed manual, but in every other way the Golf Cabriolet scores a big tick of approval.
- Golf Cabriolet 118TSI 6 Speed Manual - $36,990
- Golf Cabriolet 118TSI 7 Speed DSG - $39,490
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