The turbocharged petrol engines on offer include a 103bhp 1.2, two 1.4s with 120bhp or 158bhp (the latter is also supercharged), and a 2.0 in 208bhp and 261bhp outputs for the GTI and R. The lower-powered 1.4 is our overall favourite thanks to its mixture of flexibility and economy, but the more powerful units are more fun. Both the turbodiesel choices, the 103bhp 1.6 and the 138bhp 2.0, are sound buys for high mileage drivers.
Chopping the roof off a car compromises its rigidity, and you can feel this in the Golf Cabriolet; sharp bumps send shudders through the body and the steering wheel. The handling isn’t as sharp as the hatchback’s, either, but it still feels agile and secure. Only the Golf R disappoints, suffering from scrappy, wayward handling as it struggles to transfer all its power through the front wheels. The GTi is actually more fun thanks to its less excessive power output.
The Golf Cabriolet has a fabric roof instead of a folding metal one. Nonetheless, it’s pretty refined. There’s some wind noise from around the side windows at speed, but road and suspension noise are subdued and the 1.2-litre engine is smooth. With the roof down, but the side windows up and the wind deflector in place, there’s little buffeting.
The Golf Cabriolet undercuts the Eos coupe-cabriolet, and is competitively priced compared with rivals from other manufacturers. What’s more, it’s lighter than the Eos, so is slightly cleaner and more efficient. The 1.6-litre diesel Bluemotion model particularly, averaging more than 62mpg and qualifying for a lowly company car tax rating. Resale values should be strong on all but the outrageously overpriced Golf R.
Most of the Cabriolet’s interior is lifted straight from other Golfs, which means it feels classy and durable. The upper dashboard is particularly tactile, but even tucked-away plastics are fairly smart. Volkswagen has a good record in the annual JD Power customer satisfaction survey, but in the 2012 study, owners merely rated it as average for reliability.
The list of standard safety kit includes twin- front- and side airbags and a driver’s knee ’bag. What’s more, a stability control system is on hand to prevent skids, and rollover bars pop up from behind the back seats if it looks like the car is going to flip. All this helped the car achieve a five-star crash rating from Euro NCAP. The fabric roof is more vulnerable to thieves than a folding metal one, but you do get deadlocks and an alarm.
The dashboard is a doddle to use because it’s logically laid out and all of the controls are big and clearly labelled. Drivers of all sizes should be able to get comfortable, too, thanks to a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment. However, over-the-shoulder vision is restricted with the roof up.
The Golf Cabriolet is a genuine four-seater; two adults can sit in the back without feeling cramped. Alternatively, you can drop the rear seats to supplement the boot, which has a modest 250-litre capacity and a small opening. The roof folds down in just 9.5 seconds, and can be operated with the car travelling at speeds of up to 19mph.
There are three trims: S, SE and GT. Every version has air-con, alloy wheels, a DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and a fully electric roof. SE adds cruise control and parking sensors, while GT and R models add sports seats, style upgrades and sports suspension.
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The VW Golf 1.4 TSI 122 SE is the best Golf Cabriolet. The engine is flexible and refined, while SE specification provides all the kit you could want.