Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet review

* 2012 VW Golf GTI Cabrio driven * On sale now * Priced from 29,310...

Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet review

The Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet is the hottest version of the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet. This is our first drive of the car on British roads.

This is the first drop-top version of Volkswagen's Golf hot hatch for almost 20 years, blending open-air motoring with a 208bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. As with every VW Golf Cabrio, the electrically operated fabric hood can be opened up in under 10 seconds, and up to 18mph.

What's the 2012 VW Golf GTI Cabriolet like to drive?
Convertibles are notoriously hard to keep rigid, and a bit of the regular Golf GTIs brio has definitely been sacrificed in the name of torsional stiffness here.

Although the Cabriolet doesn't quite have the pure chuckability that makes the Golf GTI such a great hot hatchback, it's not exactly slow, nor is it at all without ability. It's clearly compromised, but there's still enough agility to have fun.

The ride isn't particularly stellar; bigger bumps and potholes are transmitted through to the cabin, as is often the case on open-top cars, but you'll also notice more patter on rippled surfaces. In fact, it rarely seemed to settle down on the Surrey B-roads where we tried it.

Handling isn't as sharp as the hatchback's, but you can still have fun.

One strong point is the engine, which revs particularly freely. The power delivery is fabulously linear and flexible, and there's plenty of low-down and mid-range torque when you need it. It's a pity the six-speed manual gearbox isn't quicker-shifting, though.

Refinement is better than you might expect for a open-top, with a well-insulated roof and a decent wind deflector for when you're travelling al fresco. It's possible to cruise at motorway speeds with the roof down and still hear yourself think, which is about all you can ask.

Turbocharged petrol engine is a strong point; smooth and keen to rev.

What's the 2012 VW Golf GTI Cabriolet like inside?
Don't expect any flair inside; the GTI Cabriolet is pretty much like most other Golfs, apart from tartan-trimmed seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.

On the positive side, that means that the fascia is well laid out, logical and extremely easy to use. It's nicely screwed together, too.

On the other hand, it's also depressingly dull for such a high-performance car (not to mention one that costs 30k). The regular Golf is due for replacement soon (although the cabrio will live on for a while after), and it's this lack of flair or sparkle that really gives away the car's age.

The rear cabin is big enough for a couple of reasonably large adults - although you could also find yourself dropping the rear seats to improve the 250-litre boot, which also has a small aperture.

Should I buy one?
If you're after a fun, reasonably fast four-seat convertible, the Golf GTI Cabriolet should tick many of your boxes. Just make sure that you're really going to make use of the folding roof before you buy, because the regular-roofed GTI hatchback is well over 3000 cheaper. The price is also well north of a similarly engined Audi A3 Cabriolet's.

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