VOLKSWAGEN GOLF CABRIOLET REVIEW
What’s hot: Sensational 1.4litre TSI twin-charged engine; clever folding roof
What’s not: Pricy options
X Factor: That Volkswagen drivetrain and sports-car-like handling
Vehicle style: Small two-door cabriolet convertible
Price: $36,990 (manual)
Fuel economy (claimed): 6.6litres/100km
Fuel economy (tested): 9.9litres/100km
After eight years missing in action, Volkswagen’s Golf Cabriolet has returned with a great new powertrain and a seriously-clever folding fabric roof.
The booming German brand launched the original Golf Cabrio back in 1979 (it sold here until 2003), and the new one, the fourth-generation 2012 model, is one class act.
It is surprisingly spirited courtesy of its supercharged and turbocharged engine, and, with the roof up, things are so quiet and refined you’d never know it was a soft top.
Quality: Volkswagen puts a lot of work into its interiors. The Golf Cabriolet’s interior is clean and classy with excellent ergonomics. Soft-touch plastic for the dash sets the new model apart from the hard-plastic crowd.
Comfort: We drove the leather-trimmed version (black cloth is the standard fare) and while the cow-hide adds to the interior’s prestige, it comes at a $3300 premium.
With excellent hip-and-thigh bolstering, the seats, even for the rear passengers, are comfortable and supportive when the going gets spirited. (Also, even with the front seats set for six-footers, there is reasonable rear-seat leg room.)
Equipment: The manual version we tested had plenty of the optional fruit such as leather trim ($3300), satellite navigation ($3000) and metallic paint ($500).
Standard features include a great-to-hold, fully adjustable, leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel, electro-mechanical power steering, hill-start assist, rain-sensing wipers, an automatically dimming interior rear-vision mirror, and 17-inch alloy wheels shod with 225/45R17 rubber.
Also on the menu is cruise control, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, dual-zone climate-control air-con, and automatic-dimming headlights with coming/leaving-home functionality.
The super-clever electro-hydraulic black-fabric roof weighs 52kg – around half the weight of the Eos’s folding metal unit. It can open in nine seconds at speeds of up to 30km/h; closing takes 11 seconds.
Another of the roof’s clever design features is that unlike most cabrios, it doesn’t need the extra complication (or weight) of a cover when it’s folded down. The result is that the Golf Cabriolet is not as hippy as some of its ilk.
Storage: Inside are front cup-holders, door-pockets and glove box; the boot has 250litres of cargo space even with the roof folded down.
There are bag hooks in the boot as well and 50/50 split-fold rear-seats add significantly to the Cabrio’s cargo capacity.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The 1.4litre 118kW ‘twincharged’ petrol engine is right up there with the world’s best engines – a fact confirmed by a heap of world engine awards.
Its 118kW arrives at 5800rpm and maximum torque of 240Nm is on tap from a relaxed 1500rpm all the way to 4000rpm.
Matched with VW’s slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission, the result is a sporty little driver’s car that delivers all the fun of the fair.
While my co-driver and I returned 9.9 l/100km on test (VW claims 6.6 l/100km), we were pushing things pretty hard. Gentler punting would no doubt see the Golf achieve VW’s claim.
The short gear-shift is positioned perfectly at hand and the whole drivetrain package combines to produce almost sports-car-like handling.
Suspension: The sports suspension is based on an independent MacPherson-strut front set-up and independent four-link rear.
Some may prefer a softer, more compliant suspension tune, but it’s not a view I share: I thought things were just sporty enough without being too harsh. That said, rough-surfaced bitumen can unsettle the Golf Cabriolet’s firmer set-up.
Refinement: The new Golf Cabriolet shines in this department. Noise, vibration and harshness levels (NVH) are remarkably good and wind noise is low.
With the roof down and the side windows up, wind buffeting is also low and passengers can carry on a conversation without it becoming a shouting match.
Unlike soft-tops of old with their flimsy perspex rear window, the Golf’s is glass.
Brakes: There are discs all round and no worries about the Cabriolet’s stopping prowess.
ANCAP: Not yet tested; 5-Star EuroNCAP rating.
Safety features: Five airbags (driver- and front-passenger, driver’s knee airbag and front side/head airbags), safety-optimised front head-restraints, ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, anti-slip regulation and electronic stability/traction control.
A standout Golf Cabriolet safety feature is the car’s active roll-over protection system (two “protection modules” that remain hidden away, popping up in a millisecond when the system detects a possible rollover).
The A-pillar has also been strengthened for occupant protection.
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 dual-clutch auto): More powerful, more expensive, superbly built, and, like the Golf Cabriolet, a buzz to drive. But VW wins comfortably on bang for buck. (see A3 reviews)
MINI Cooper LCI 1.6i Cabrio ($40,350 manual): Fun style, a little more expensive but less power, and, again yes, a buzz to drive. It’s a clean sweep - VW wins again on bang for buck. (see Cooper reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT OVERALL
The Golf Cabriolet is Volkswagen Australia’s 10th new model launch for 2011.
It comes with a winning and addictive combination: a cracking 1.4litre TSI engine and six-speed manual box, plus the ease of dialling up sporty, wind-in-the-hair motoring at the touch of a button.
The new car will do nothing to diminish Volkswagen Australia’s reputation. At $36,990 (plus on-roads) for the manual, the Golf Cabriolet is very good buying.