Volkswagen's soft top Golf Cabriolet has been updated. Is it still a tempting choice? Jonathanh Crouh decides.
Ten Second Review
Now that Volkswagen's Golf Cabriolet has elbowed aside its Eos stablemate and stands alone as Volkswagen's mainstream convertible offering, it's been usefully updated, with a smarter look and Euro6 efficiency. Though it's remains based on the old-generation MK6 model Golf design, it still has much to offer.
Volkswagen's Golf Cabriolet. How do you see it? Historically, the first four-seater convertible of the modern era? Affordable fashion statement in Thatcher's Britain? Last of the sensibly priced soft tops before metal folding roof coupe cabrios took over? An open-topped Golf is all of these things - and more in the current improved guise we're going to look at here. It was first launched in 2011 and initially sold alongside Volkswagen's hard folding-top Eos model but these days shares convertible showroom space with the Wolfsburg brand's Beetle Cabriolet. The Golf though, has been the company's mainstream seller in the soft-top market and it's quickly become one of Europe's favourite open-topped cars. To keep its appeal fresh, the brand has updated this model, delivering a smarter look and more efficient Euro6 engines, plus buyers can nw configre their cars more individually. It all sounds quite promising.
Volkswagen tends to sell Golf Cabriolets that are a generation behind their tin-top stablemates, aware that a soft-top design must have a longer shelf life than a conventional hatchback. The brand doesn't say so, but it's probably also aware that the dynamic expectations of customers in the cabriolet sector are lower. In other words, they won't notice if handling isn't pin sharp as long as the ride's good, the car doesn't crash through potholes and the body doesn't flex all over the place. Sure enough, this Golf isn't quite the enjoyable steer its hatchback cousin can claim to be but it's otherwise fine in all of these areas. You don't get the sophisticated MQB platform that makes a MK7 Golf hatch so good, but the Golf MK6 underpinnings that are provided are still quite serviceable, with a supple multi-link suspension set-up front and rear. Under the bonnet, the engine line-up has been brought up to Euro6 standards, with six units still on offer. Things kick off with a 105PS petrol 1.2 TSI unit, and if you need more power, there's a 1.4 TSI powerplant on offer, with either 125PS or 150PS: this variant provides the option of DSG auto transmission if you want it. You have to have the DSG 'box in the top petrol model, the 2.0 TSI 220PS GTI version. If you want a diesel, there's the choice of a 110PS 2.0-litre unit which can also be ordered with 150PS and also gets an auto option.
Design and Build
Let's start with the aesthetic changes: they don't amount to very much. This improved version gets a sportier front bumper, smarter side sills and sporty accents on the rear bumper. Inside, there's a redesigned steering wheel and classier trim elements, along with upgraded designs for the cloth and leather seats. The important stuff hasn't changed though, namely the electric roof mechanism. The upper side of the hood's leading edge (that's the segment that directly mates to the windscreen frame) covers the entire top surface of the roof storage box, eliminating the need for a fiddly tonneau cover. This in turn means that the roof can swing open in only 9.5 seconds (it takes a couple of seconds longer to close) and can operate either way at speeds of up to 18mph. And luggage space? Well like me, you might well be approaching this car thinking that use of a fabric hood rather than a metal folding top would mean a larger boot - but it isn't that simple. With the roof down, you get 250-litres of luggage capacity, which isn't huge. Still, we all have to pay for our pleasures. As for back seat room, you have to be pretty agile to get at the rear chairs with the roof up, despite the easy-entry function that sees the front seats slide forward as you fold them. Once you're installed in the back though, it's actually reasonably spacious, with decent adult head and legroom that'll be fine for short to medium-length journeys and ideal for children. The only issue here is really elbow room, given that the sides of the cabin curve inwards to accommodate the roof mechanism.
Market and Model
The Golf Cabriolet is offered in the UK with a choice of trim levels - S, SE and GT - plus a GTI flagship variant. All enjoy a typically healthy dose of standard kit and this car can now be configured even more individually. Besides six fresh exterior colours, there is an additional soft-top colour and six new wheel designs. There's extra hi-tech too, thanks to the addition of the company's latest 'Composition Colour' and 'Composition Media' radio/infotainment systems. As a supplement to 'Composition Media', Volkswagen's 'Discover Media' navigation package is available. These set-ups can be programmed to work with your smartphone thanks to the company's 'Car-Net' app. This includes a 'Guide & Inform' feature that allows the use of Internet-based information channels, which include Online Traffic Information, News, a Vehicle Status Report and Weather. In addition, drivers can discover restaurants, museums or cinemas in unknown surroundings or access information on free parking spaces in car parks and integrate them in the navigation system's route guidance. As customers would expect from any car in the Golf family, the Cabriolet continues to be equipped with some serious safety equipment. This includes an active roll-over protection system, ABS, ESC, airbags all round and a full complement of airbags.
Cost of Ownership
Thoughh the platform this car sits upon may be a little old, the upgraded Euro6 engines bolted onto it certainly aren't and even the smallest entry-level petrol unit has a lot to be said for it. It's a 1.2-litre engine which sounds thoroughly underwhelming but it's fitted with a turbocharger which plumps the power up agreeably. This unit manages up to 55.1mpg on the combined cycle and up to 117g/km of CO2. For the 125PS petrol 1.4, the figures are as much as 53.3mpg and up to 121g/km, while for the 150PS version of this engine, you're looking at up to 54.3mpg and 120g/km. The 2.0 TSI GTI model manages 43.5mpg and 152g/km. As for the diesels, well predictably, it's the 2.0 TDI 110PS model that's the most efficient, managing up to 67.2mpg and up to 109g/km of CO2. The 2.0 TDI 150PS model's figures are up to 61.4mpg and up to 122g/km of CO2. That only leaves depreciation. The Golf Cabriolet has always been well regarded by the used market and going forward, it's a bombproof bet that residual values are going to stand up very well .
This, the best looking drop-top Golf ever made, will I think continue to attract people who would probably never have bought the brand's old metal folding roofed Eos model. This Golf feels more substantially built than anything else in the class, rides beautifully and is impressively refined. Yes, there are drawbacks - it certainly isn't cheap and the handling isn't geared to suit enthusiasts - but both of these issues apply equally to most obvious rivals. Ultimately, it's a classy contender and the model which in future years will probably be remembered more than any other for turning the tide of public preference away from metal folding roofs and back to smart classy fabric tops in cars of this kind. A landmark then, just as Golf Cabriolets have always been.