Crisp handling, good looking and hushed, if a little crashy over bumps

What is it?

Back in the Eighties the Golf Cabriolet provided practical, open-top motoring for the masses, in fact during its lifetime 34,189 sun-loving Brits bought one. But in 2002 Wolfsburg chiefs closed not only the roof on the convertible but the door to the production line.

However, after a nine-year hiatus the convertible Golf is back, retaining its soft-top canvas roof and is on sale this month, alongside its Eos coupe-cabriolet sibling. But as VW is quite happy to sell its Scirocco hot hatch alongside its Golf GTI, why should the German firm worry about a similar sales duel between these two similar drop-tops. Certainly the Golf Cabriolet has some significant advantages. Without a complicated hard-top folding mechanism the soft-top is lighter, and as manufacturers face pressure to cut emissions and improve fuel economy, this could be seen as an early move in the right direction for VW and its convertibles.

We’ve already driven the Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI GT cabriolet on the smooth roads in France. But how does it cope with the potholed roads of the UK?

What’s it like?

On the move, it’s the roof-up refinement that impresses most. Wind noise is surprisingly hushed thanks to VW’s state-of-the-art roofliners and insulation. Holding a civilised conversation at motorway speeds is never a problem.

Much like the similar-looking Audi A3 Cabrio the roof is easily raised and lowered, and can do so on the move up to 18mph, and the whole operation is over in only nine seconds. But unlike an Audi A3 Cabrio there are no visible rollover hoops by the back seats. This doesn’t mean that there’s no crash protection, instead VW has kept a stylish clean line at the rear of the car by utilising its discreet rollover protection modules, which are stowed out of sight but can be deployed in milliseconds. Subsequently the Golf looks sleeker than its Audi sibling.

Engine wise VW has gone to town with a great range of petrol and diesel powerplants. The four petrols comprise 1.2-litre TSI 104bhp, two 1.4-litre TSIs 158/120bhp and a more high-performance 2.0-litre TSI 207bhp, complemented by two diesels, a 1.6-litre 104bhp and 2.0-litre TDI 138bhp.

VW has worked hard on the Golf’s chassis and wanted to replicate the hatch’s torsional rigidity. Where issues do begin to creep in, however, is if you hit a pothole. Then the GT’s suspension – lower than standard by 15mm – absorbs impacts noisily and uncomfortably. The ride can be at times quite jarring, not helped by standard 18-inch wheels and low-profile 225/40 R18 tyres.

On the plus side, the Golf’s steering is, as always, very good. Sharp cornering inputs ensure a quick and balanced change of direction, thanks to the Golf’s taut chassis, while the nicely weighted steering adds to the driving experience.

The six-speed manual gearbox is slick and precise and works well with the twincharged powertrain, making the most of the car’s mid-range torque. The more expensive seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic version (£26,595 versus £25,295) doesn’t work quite as well, preferring to change up sooner than you’d like it to.

In mixed B-road driving we averaged a respectable 32mpg. Driven more conservatively, however, you’ll get closer to the claimed 44mpg.

Back to top

As we said in our first review, the interior is well laid out, if a little clinical, and the leather seats are supportive and comfortable.

Should I buy one?

The GT cabrio is well built, fairly rapid and economical to boot. Our only criticism is its combination of sports springs and low-profile tyres

Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet 1.4 TSI 160PS

Price: £25,295; Top speed: 134mph; 0-62mph: 8.4sec; Economy: 44mpg; CO2: 150g/km; Kerb weight: 1484kg; Engine: 4 cyls, turbo and supercharged petrol; Power: 158bhp at 5800rpm; Torque: 177lb at 4500rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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Add a comment…
catnip 10 May 2011

Re: Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI Cabriolet

Rich boy spanners wrote:

The metal folding roof was, in part, created because soft tops were being cut into in order to steal from the car or simply vandalised -

But how often does this actually happen?

I work for the Police and I can't actually remember dealing with anything like this.I know that doesn't mean it never has happened, but I think it is relatively rare. Vandalism usually seems to take the form of scratching panels or pouring paintstripper or similar over the vehicle.

As for the security aspect, I think these modern multi layer roofs are probably quite hard to cut through quickly. It is much easier just to smash the adjacent side window and reach in to take things. Or, as with the case I went to yesterday, the thieves had cut a sizeable hole in the drivers door of the A4 convertible to get to the lock mechanism to get into the car. The fabric roof was undamaged.

Rich boy spanners 8 May 2011

Re: Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI Cabriolet

The metal folding roof was, in part, created because soft tops were being cut into in order to steal from the car or simply vandalised - I wouldn't have a soft top personally. Soft tops also look a bit like prams with the roof up.

catnip 7 May 2011

Re: Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI Cabriolet

fhp11 wrote:

However, I imagine with the top up, it looks a bit odd with the stubbly little rear....

It will, but for me that is part of the appeal of a Golf convertible, they have always looked like that.