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Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet SE 1.6 TDI BlueMotion Technology

Click to view picture gallery“At last, after nine long years, you
  can once more buy a Golf Cabriolet.
  Prices range from 20,720 to 26,595
  and for that you get a three-door
  Golf with an electrically-operated
  folding canvas roof
...”


VOLKSWAGEN IS ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST SUCCESSFUL producers of convertibles, with sales to date of 1.42 million of which 684,000 were soft-top Golfs sold between 1979 and 2002.

From launch you will be able to mix and match three trim levels (S, SE, GT) with three engine options: 103bhp 1.2 TSI petrol, 157bhp 1.4 TSI petrol, and 103bhp 1.6 TDI turbodiesel. Available for the 157bhp TSI model is a seven-speed automatic DSG twin-clutch transmission this adds an extra 1,300 for an on-the-road price of 26,595.

And there will be more engine choices later this year when three more powerplants join the line-up: 120bhp 1.4 and 208bhp 2.0 TSI petrol units along with a 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel.

TDI diesel versions wear VW's BlueMotion Technology badges meaning they are the most fuel frugal with lower CO2 emissions. Depending upon demand, next year (2012) a 207bhp 2.0 TSI petrol unit could become available; this version is likely to be badged GTi.

“The Golf’s soft-top folds
up or down in 9.5
seconds, at speeds up
to 18mph if required.
And unlike most folding
roof coupe-cabriolets
and convertibles,
its three layered and well
insulated canvas folding
roof doesn’t intrude
into the boot
...”
Forty-seven millimetres longer than the Golf Hatchback on which it is based, the 4.25-metre-long Golf Cabriolet has the same 2,578mm wheelbase so although it is a two-door convertible there's enough rear space and legroom for two adults but access to the rear seats does require some suppleness and agility.

The Golf's soft-top folds up or down in 9.5 seconds, at speeds up to 18mph if required.
And unlike most folding roof coupe-cabriolets and convertibles, its three-layered and well-insulated canvas folding roof doesn't intrude into the boot.

In the down position it sits flat but visible in a recess above the boot and behind the rear seats. Not having the roof concealed or with an outer covering when folded does leave the side operating arms visible and it looks a bit unfinished.

From the front the new Cabriolet is clearly identifiable as a Golf the grille and bonnet make sure of that; however, from the heavily-raked windscreen back, it's all new, giving a sportier appearance. New lights plus a deep crease in the boot lid are distinctive design features at the back.

Inside it's pure Golf hatchback: clear; well laid out; solid. The functionality perhaps makes it appear bland although it's undeniably comfortable and well equipped the entry-level S trim includes 16-inch alloy wheels, active rollover protection, a full range of airbags, power front and rear windows, electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, heated rear window, Bluetooth, central door locking and air conditioning.

Additional items on the mid-level SE spec include 2Zone climate control, cruise control, wind deflector, 17-inch alloys, front and rear parking sensors and automatic lights. The range-topping GT top further adds a number of new highlights including sports suspension, Alcantara upholstery, sports front seats, aluminium-look pedals, fog lights and 18-inch alloy wheels.

What isn't visible are all the under-the-skin differences necessary in changing the hatchback to a drop-top modifications to ensure that safety, comfort and refinement were not compromised in the cabriolet version. These include reinforced window frames and structural mods to the underbody, side panels, cross-members, and doors to give the new Cabriolet an extremely high level of torsional rigidity.

“It’s fair to say that the
soft-top Golf inherits
the near perfectly
balanced handling of
its tin-top stablemates.
It's no sports car,
but it does the job
intended
...”
Very few family cars move from their initial hatchback design to being a convertible or coupe-cabriolet without compromises in handling, rigidity, ride comfort and reduced boot space.

In most of these areas the Golf Cabriolet scores full marks only the smaller boot capacity (250 litres) and the narrow opening offered by the boot lid are compromises. However, the 50:50 split/fold rear seat can provide more load space when required.

The Golf Cabriolet's handling and compliant suspension are just the same as on the hatchback models. There's no perceivable body shake or shimmy with the roof down (or up for that matter), so the torsional rigidity engineering solutions have definitely worked and the suspension really does a good job in absorbing most potholes. And it's fair to say that this soft-top Golf inherits the near perfectly balanced handling of its tin-top stablemates. It's no sports car, but it does the job intended.

The electro-hydraulic roof operation is fast and smooth. And while there's some wind-rush noise with the hood up, wind intrusion into the car with the rear deflector in place is minimal. Another plus: the canvas top can be operated at low speeds should a shower come along remember this is Britain, and it's has just had its coolest and dullest Summer since 1993.

Not that our unpredictable weather puts us Brits off going topless the UK is still the second largest market in Europe for convertible and cabriolet sales, and we're traditionally the second largest market after Germany for Golf Cabriolet sales.

Talking of time-honoured sales, in the past the most popular engine choice for the Golf Cabriolet has been the 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel: and before the end of the year it returns in this latest drop-top Golf.

But what with people downsizing their engines to save on tax and running costs and never-ending rises in fuel prices, VW has seen (from advance orders) a move towards smaller engines. Low mileage users will happily go for the 120bhp 1.4 TSI petrol engine due later this year and priced at around 23,000. Higher mileage drivers and those looking for a bit more engine flexibility will also likely downsize from the 2.0-litre TDI to the joint-best selling version, the 23,245 103bhp turbodiesel 1.6 TDI.

“Top speed is 117mph
and it takes 12.1 seconds
to go from zero to 62mph;
not fast,
but fast enough.
The official Combined
Cycle fuel consumption
figure is 64.2mpg
and my test drive, taking
in most types of roads
and considerable stop-
and-start town traffic,
saw 52mpg
...”
This is the model I tried. Although no ball-of-fire, it's more than adequate for today's traffic congested roads and cost-conscious motorists. With 184lb ft of torque available from just 1,500rpm, it's responsive from low speeds and copes easily with maximum motorway cruising speeds in a fuel efficient manner.

Top speed is 117mph and it takes 12.1 seconds to go from zero to 62mph; not fast, but fast enough. The official Combined Cycle fuel consumption figure is 64.2mpg and my test drive, taking in most types of roads and considerable stop-start town traffic, saw 52mpg.

This unit is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox but perhaps a six-speeder would be better to reduce the engine revs at motorway cruising speeds and improve fuel economy ever further.

Tailpipe emissions are 117g/km so zero costs for the First Year road tax charge, and then only 30 per annum for the second year onwards. For company car users this also means a low 13% Benefit-in-Kind tax and the insurance rating, considering soft-topped convertibles generally rate highly due to the reduced security of a canvas roof, is a reasonable 18E.

Against? Relatively expensive, solid rather than spirited engine performance, bland interior, agility needed for rear seat access, and exposed roof arms when in the lowered position.

On the plus side, it's refined, capable, well engineered, desirable, and easy to live with. As usual with a Golf, the new two-door, four-seater Cabriolet is a thoroughly well engineered product and if going topless is the choice, it's more than fit for purpose.
David Miles

Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet SE 1.6 TDI BlueMotion Technology | 23,245
Maximum speed: 117mph | 0-62mph: 12.1 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 52mpg
Power: 103bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2 117g/km