VOLKSWAGEN GOLF CABRIOLET REVIEW
What’s Hot: 'Hatch' rigidity and handling; terrific price, terrific fun
What’s Not: The DSG transmission is good, not great; awkward getting stuff out of the boot
X-Factor: A 'rag-top' that's as snug as a folding tin-top, looks better, and weighs less
Vehicle Style: Small two-door cabriolet
Price (DSG transmission): $39,490 (manual: $36,990)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 6.6 l/100 km
Fuel Economy (tested): not recorded
But if the $10k-odd price advantage it holds over each of those doesn't do it for you ('cause you have your own money tree in the backyard), then its spunky, hunkered-forward, darty lines will. The new Golf Cabriolet is a very appealing little boat.
And in case you're concerned you'll be out looking for ballet pumps the day after you take it for a test drive, don't worry, there's a bit of razor to its low-slung stance and in the way it drives.
Best of all, top up or top down it's a lot of fun at the wheel.
VW Australia has priced it to smash the Euro flip-top competition; it will do it in a canter.
Quality: Is there such a beast as a poorly-executed VW interior? I think not.
The leather-trimmed (an option) interior of the DSG Cabriolet we were piloting was as good as you'll find: everything placed just right, 'cold' metal garnishes, soft-feel tactile surfaces, smart switch-gear and, throughout, the integrity of a vault.
You can't fail but be impressed: it's a cut-above for its $40k price-point.
The electrically-operated folding top - snug insulated 'double-skinned' fabric - looks and feels very classy. Locked in place, you could be in a hatch, such is the tight fit.
It folds in just 9.0 seconds - and you can 'pop' the top at up to 30km/h - forming a neat flat 'deck' behind the rear seats.
Comfort: Although you sit very low (much lower than in a Golf hatch) and with the knees canted upward slightly, the seats are nicely shaped and with plenty of adjustment (and with a reach and rake steering wheel) to get set and comfortable at the wheel.
Rear seats are also shaped and legroom isn't too bad - a Collingwood six-footer (5'11'') we slipped into the back had room for his knees behind the driver.
Equipment: The 118TSI Cabriolet comes in Golf Comfortline specs (but with a few extra trinkets): there are "Seattle" 17x7-inch alloys, sports-tuned suspension and daytime driving lights. Automatic headlights with coming/leaving home illumination, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and rain-sensing wipers are standard, as is dual-zone climate control, multi-function steering wheel, trip-computer, cruise control, Bluetooth and midi-connectivity (USB).
Although the options list is short, it's a tad costly. We had the Bi-Xenon headlamps with 'dynamic cornering' function ($2100), 'cool-leather' trim ($3300 ), sat-nav ($3000), and rear-view camera with sensors ($1400).
Storage: Like the Golf, there are handy nooks for drinks and other travel essentials throughout the cabin.
The boot though is a tad compromised. It's big for a cabrio - 450 litres roof up or down, but it's a bit awkward getting things into and out of: you have to slide things in thanks to the intrusion of the roof cavity. The loading lip though is low, as is the floor.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The engine and transmission set-up is the very familiar VW-group petrol 1.4 litre 118TSI and seven-speed DSG.
It's simply a jewel. With twin huffers, one a supercharger, one a turbo, it will happily spin its head off, producing a very eager 118kW and 240Nm of torque. Throttle response is instant - there's no turbo lag - and it makes all the right sounds deep into the 6000rpm redline.
It's a quick little car in anyone's language, and powered just right. The seven-speed DSG can be manually operated, but we mostly left it to it's own devices in 'sport'. Our only minor niggle is that, when really hustling, we'd prefer quicker down-shifts in sport-mode (for the launch out of a corner or overtaking).
Refinement: Once deployed, the double-skinned electric folding roof provides a very cosy and quiet interior. There is very little wind noise, even at high speed, and little ambient noise. For refinement and 'the best of both worlds' motoring at a price, the Golf Cabriolet sets a very high standard.
NVH generally is low, road noise is unobtrusive, and the sound system is clear and sharp. That's another box ticked.
Suspension: With Macpherson struts up front, and independent four-link rear, it's typical Golf fare underneath, but with the 'sport' suspension tune.
Some 'cabrios' feel loose in the body on ragged Australian roads; there are no such complaints here. Thanks to some very robust reinforcing underneath, the bodyshell feels as rubbery as a brick.
The ride, as a result, is flat, flex-free and uncompromised, with no vibration or scuttle-shimmer apparent in the rear-view mirror even over coarse rippled tarmac.
All up, the Golf Cabriolet has a surprisingly well-sorted, sporting ride. There's a bit of jiggling and fidgeting over rippled or rough tarmac but you can spear it around a winding road with absolute predictability; a quick dab on entry will tighten the line and settle the balance, and the very short tail stays perfectly behaved.
Top up or down, the fun isn't dimished. And, in case you do find the limits to its capabilities, there is a reinforced A-pillar, cross-member and 'roll-over protection modules' ready to deploy in milliseconds.
Braking: Braking performance is exactly as you'd expect it: pedal feel is super, the Golf Cabriolet will pull up on postage stamp and arrow-true for 'panic' stops,
ANCAP rating: 5-Star Euro NCAP
Safety features: There are front, front side and head airbags, and driver's knee airbag standard. As is ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assist, 'safety optimised' front head restraints plus head restraints for rear passengers, traction and stability control.
The big plus though is the active roll-over protection system which combines a rigid A-pillar plus two roll-over 'posts' that deploy in milliseconds in the event of roll-over.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Service costs: TBC
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Audi A3 1.8TFSI S-Tronic Attraction Cabrio ($50,500): It's more powerful than the Golf Cabriolet, but, exclusive badge aside, that's about where the advantage ends.
For its considerable price margin, the Golf is our pick. (see A3 reviews)
BMW 120i Convertible ($55,480 automatic): Less power than the Golf but much, much more expensive.
It's rear drive, that's a plus, and superb at the wheel. Its price knocks it out of the ring in this company. (see 1 Series reviews)
MINI LCI 1.6i Convertible ($42,650 automatic): This is a tight call - each is fun and funky, and far from shabby at the wheel.
For the extra room, sharper price, easier access and more eager performance, we'd give the nod again to the Golf. (see Cooper reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Chapel Street, Double Bay, anywhere where breezy style rules, will be swarming with the new Golf Cabriolet. This low-slung, sharp little convertible can make even a traffic jam interesting, fun and sexy (if the sun is shining).
That it's got razor balance at the wheel and is very well-built and well-featured is no surprise - Volkswagen rarely gets that part of the equation wrong.
Its price... now that's the surprise.
At under $40,000, if you're in the market for a stylish, fun, fabric-top, the Golf Cabriolet buys itself. Anything comparable is $10k away. And ditto for most folding tin-tops. Don't take our word for it though, check this one out.