It has been nine years since the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet was last produced. Have you missed it? Since then the UK car market has flooded with convertibles and coupes with folding tin top roofs, so you’d be forgiven if you’ve not noticed its absence.
But in that time the original Mk1 Golf Cabriolet has become something of a classic, and VW must have been keen to keep that connection because unlike many of its competitors the new Golf Cabriolet has a fabric folding roof. Technology has moved on of course. Gone is the big rollover hoop of the original. Instead, this new Cabrio has a mechanised roof system that will see the roof fold down (and up again) in around nine seconds. Even more impressively the car has a hidden active rollover protection system that can deploy in milliseconds to save your pretty neck in the unfortunate event that it is required to do so. This also means the lines of the Golf Cabriolet are unbroken like a rear deck on a Venetian Riva speedboat. A heavily sloped windscreen adds to the sporty looks and the result is a car that is handsome, sleek and streamlined. It’s a car with a retro feel but with the conveniences modern technology offers.
And comfort. Because the other outstanding thing about VW’s new drophead is that it is surprisingly refined. With the roof up the car is unusually quiet for a ragtop. So too with it folded. It may be some kind of strange magic but conversation is comfortable at all but motorway speeds even with the roof down, thanks to minimal wind buffeting. It’s also been engineered to overcome the most common problem associated with removing a hatchback’s roof. Most convertibles get a bit wobbly on rougher roads but VW has overcome this problem by stiffening the underbody, side panels, doors, windscreen and windows to improve the car’s stiffness.
The GT version we tested has a 160PS 1.4-litre TSI engine with a six-speed manual gearbox and though the car doesn’t feel very fast, progress is brisk and the steering is communicative enough. On the road the car handles far better than I expected although VW’s dogged commitment to stiffness has resulted in a ride that can be jarring over potholes and City speed bumps at times.
Inside the car is familiar VW. It feels well put together and of a high quality. But the interior yields few surprises and is possibly a little dull. This means, though, that the design is clean, logical and simple, with intuitive controls and instrumentation that is pragmatic and easy to read. This results in a car that is almost child-like in terms of its simplicity to drive.
The new Golf Cabriolet is sportier and prettier than we’ve come to expect from VW but it’s still as dependable and robust as ever. It may not be the most exciting car to drive, but with the roof down on a cool autumn day it supplies entertaining motoring. Its combination of comfort, quality, features, style and performance hits something of a sweet spot.
THE FACTS: VW GOLF CABRIOLET
TOP SPEED: 134mph
CO2 G/KM: 150g/km
MPG COMBINED: 44.1mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY ****