The Volkswagen Eos has much cachet and is pleasant and predictable to drive, but is feeling a little bit long-in-the-tooth

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While fun sells, VW is reticent about marketing its modern-day roofless-Golf equivalent simply on the basis of providing a giggle (it’s got the Beetle convertible for that), so to emphasise its bespoke appeal and woo more sophisticated buyers, VW dropped the ‘Golf cabriolet' tag and adopted Eos – the Greek goddess of dawn.

That was back in 2006. Five years later the Eos got a facelift just as, to emphasise its not-a-Golfness, Volkswagen launched a genuine Golf cabriolet with a soft top. That bolstered the Eos's own identity as a hard-roofed coupé-cabriolet and a slightly bigger, longer-tailed car, not obviously based on an existing hatchback in the way the Renault Mégane CC and the Peugeot 308 CC are and the Vauxhall Astra TwinTop and the Ford Focus CC were.

The Eos represents surprising value

Of this bunch, the VW badge still carries the most cachet. This was borne out by the pricing at launch, which was pitched some way above the direct competition and within sight of premium alternatives from Volvo and Audi. Since then the prices have risen little and today the Eos represents surprising value.

Initially the range began with a 113bhp 1.6 FSI and peaked with a 247bhp 3.2 V6. In between came a 2.0 FSI, a 2.0 TDI (available in standard or sport trim) or, as in our original road test, a 197bhp 2.0T-FSI (in sport trim only).

Post-facelift, the range starts with a 121bhp, 1.4-litre TSI, a 158bhp version which adds a supercharger to the turbocharger, that 2.0 TDI currently with 138bhp, and a revised version of the 2.0-litre turbo engine (now simply called TSI) with 208bhp.

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Volkswagen Eos headlight

VW has always maintained that the Eos is more than a scalped Golf, insisting that it’s a stand-alone model that mixes components and styling from both the Golf and Passat.

Although those familiar with the Golf will recognise elements, the Eos certainly has a style of its own and, despite being 20cm longer than the Golf and with a broader track, it’s the Eos that looks the more diminutive.

VW has always maintained that the Eos is more than a scalped Golf

Managing to look both squat and svelte, the exterior was initially dominated by the Passat-inspired chrome grille, cartoonish lamp clusters, broad-hipped wheel arches and our test car’s optional and conspicuous 18in rims.

The facelift did away with the round elements set within the front and rear light clusters, and replaced the chrome-framed grin with a horizontally slatted front grille in the current VW idiom: less distinctive, more modern. Inside, the bespoke interior architecture blends more swooping curves and aluminium finishing than you’ll find in a Golf hatch without the sobriety of a Passat.

Although VW claims its folding roof is a five-piece affair (rear screen, two side rails and two roof panels), in essence the system mirrors those of Vauxhall and Volvo, the roof folding into three layers (compared with two for Peugeot, Renault and Ford) – a choice that allows a shorter rear end and A-pillars, boosting the open-top feeling and reducing the need for a bulbous bottom.

Compared with rival systems, the VW solution holds two perceptible advantages: first, it allows the inclusion of a tilt/slide sunroof (simply the first stage of the roof operation), and second, while the roof folds in three, the side rails have just one seam, a touch that gives the coupé Eos a more unbroken and sleek profile.


Volkswagen Eos dashboard

Retracting the roof on the Volkswagen Eos requires no manual intervention, just the tug of a weighty chrome lever between the seats, the operation of which feels more substantial and significant than pressing a fiddly button.

What follows is dramatic and graceful in equal parts. First, hidden strings draw apart the inner roof linings. Next, the upper panels and rear screen sandwich together before the entire mechanism arches back – the upper panels into the luggage compartment, the longer side rails into a gap on each side of the rear seats.

That cabin is just like the Golf's and Passat's in its overall look

In either position, all the roof mechanicals are hidden from view behind flaps or fabric linings to give a more finely finished cabin than the Eos's rivals can offer. The keyless entry option includes remote-control roof operation.

Up front, that cabin is just like the Golf's and Passat's in its overall look, even if the styling differs, and it shares their air of quality and solidity. In the back, however, the Eos is unique. With its extended length, the Eos offers acceptable rear legroom and headroom even for adults, but with the roof mechanism straddling either side of the rear cabin, shoulder room is tight. Boot space is merely average, encroached upon further by the folded roof if you're motoring al fresco.

In either roof configuration the Eos is marvellously refined, with minimal wind or tyre noise; roof up, the trade-off against a conventional coupé is negligible, and roof-down motorway cruising is comfortable.


Volkswagen Eos rear quarter

Fitting the top Eos with the same engine as the Golf GTI may sound like ambitious marketing by Volkswagen, but in truth the original 197bhp four-cylinder turbo proved a superb companion and its current incarnation will doubtless do the same.

Other than a little sluggishness from rest, the almost lag-free mid-range thrust overcomes the obese 1610kg weight to propel the Eos with surprising speed. The sprint to 60mph is dealt with in 7.8sec and 100mph in 20.5sec.

A diesel engine in a high-image open car used to be an automotive oxymoron, but times have changed

These may be some way behind the GTi’s figures, but they’re impressive for the class and don’t reflect the Eos’s true pace. Slot fourth gear and push the aluminium-trimmed throttle to the floor at 30mph and the Eos gains 20mph every six seconds or so until it hits 90mph. Such flexibility almost leaves the slick (if remote-feeling) six-speed gearbox virtually redundant.

The 1.4 TSI with 158bhp is also a punchy, rapid car and in some ways is the optimum Eos. As ever, this turbo/supercharged engine gives a remarkable spread of entirely lag-free power from very low revs right up to the limit, but surprisingly its official fuel figures don't give it quite the fiscal advantage over the 2.0 that you would expect.

We have also tested the 2.0 TDI, in combination with the optional DSG gearbox, and it proves a smooth, refined and responsive diesel matched to quick and tidy gearshifts which keep the engine at barely audible revs while you’re wafting around town.

This is the lowest-CO2 Eos but you don't suffer for the frugality. The idea of a diesel engine in a high-image open car used to be something of an automotive oxymoron, but times have changed.


Volkswagen Eos rear cornering

Even with our Sport model’s stiffer suspension, the Volkswagen Eos strikes a happy medium between balance and comfort. There is some fidget from the 18in wheels, but less than you’d find in a similarly equipped Golf GTI, and the ride over high-speed undulations is superbly controlled. In the unlikely event that you find yourself wanting to thrash an Eos down your favourite B-road, you’ll find impressive grip, faithful turn-in, a planted rear end and accurate but inert steering.

Like all cars of its type, the Eos’s torsional stiffness suffers from the lack of a permanent roof; top down, high-frequency ridges translate to visible movement in the header rail and an occasional shimmer through the steering.

The Eos strikes a happy medium between balance and comfort

But the extent of movement is less than any of the other cars we’ve driven in the class. Furthermore, mid-corner bumps don’t result in undue body flex. With the roof up, the steering becomes crisper, and background shudder vanishes and the Eos could easily be a proper coupe.

Dynamically, then, the Eos covers all the bases with a strong, versatile engine line-up and a chassis that keeps it all together should you want to go quickly, with only the brakes’ propensity to fade disappointing.

Nevertheless, the package works best at a cruise, the suspension keeping body movements in check while effectively massaging away the outside world.


Volkswagen Eos

Our test 2.0 T-FSI Volkswagen Eos proved quite frugal, returning an impressive 35.2mpg on our touring route and 26.7mpg overall, and the current version should do yet better given that its CO2 score is 165g/km against the earlier car's 202.

That 165g/km is just 7g worse than the 1.4 TSI scored on the official tests. If low CO2 output is important to you, then you need the 2.0 TDI in manual form with 125g/km – a figure which rises to 139 if you opt for the DSG transmission.

A same-engined Golf Cabriolet is near-enough Eos money

That optional twin clutch ‘box involves an initial outlay of well over a grand, so you'll have to think hard about its merits for your needs relative to the slick six-speed manual box.

The Eos started out as an expensive car but the pricing has risen little over the years. Rivals have caught up and, strangely, a same-engined Golf cabriolet is near-enough Eos money. You get an impressive equipment list for your cash, too.


4 star Volkswagen Eos

The Volkswagen Eos feels in a different league from its obvious hatch-derived rivals. A cohesive, stylish design, a bespoke interior, a well-engineered roof and superior on-road talents made it the most complete and desirable CC back in 2006, even embarrassing some more expensive rivals.

And not much has changed since. If you simply want the open-top experience there are cheaper alternatives, but if you value quality and the perceived security of a solid roof, the Eos would be an excellent choice.

The Eos feels in a different league from its obvious hatch-derived rivals

It may look pricey next to a Renault Megane CC or Peugeot 308, but really it’s a cut above those cars – in terms of refinement, practicality, desirability and more.

So often, convertible conversions of ordinary family hatchbacks end up as lesser cars, with compromised dynamics, performance and usability. Thanks to VW’s habitual attention-to-detail however, the Eos has always seemed more than the sum of its relatively humble parts.


Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Volkswagen Eos 2006-2014 First drives