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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Golf - DSG

Our Opinion

We like
Impressive refinement, cabin practicality, attractive – albeit conservative – looks, zippy TSI engine, cabin build quality, handling dynamics, quick roof operation, frameless doors
Room for improvement
Low roofline affects forward visibility, DSG quibbles in stop/start driving, pricey extras

26 Apr 2012

CONVERTIBLES are almost always a by-word for compromise. Sure, open-topped motoring offers its share of thrills, but these are usually countered by trade-offs to things like body rigidity, styling, refinement and cost.

The Golf Cabriolet does a lot of things very well, but what’s most impressive about it is the way it fails to adhere to this hard-and-fast rule. Most of the time, the car feels as composed, solid and practical as the hatch on which it is based.

It may not sound like much of a complement, but the soft-top Golf is defined by how ‘normal’ it is.

With a starting price of $36,990 ($2500 more for the DSG that we drove), the Cabriolet also represents excellent value for money. Thank Volkswagen’s ambitious growth plans Down Under and the strong Australian dollar giving the importers a leg-up.

To put that into perspective, the last version from a decade ago was almost $50,000.

The car we drove, however, featured numerous eye-wateringly expensive options including Bi-Xenon headlights with super-cool LED daytime running lights ($2100), black leather seats ($3300), satellite navigation ($3000), a rear-view camera with sensors ($1400) and metallic paint ($500).

This brought the price of our car up to $49,290, bringing it within a few grand of entry-level BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 soft-tops.

The styling, roof up or down, is inoffensive and clean, with the snub rear end and lower roof giving the car a more sporting road stance than its hard-topped siblings.

It’s not the most exciting looking thing on the road, but at least its proportions are spot-on, something that many of its folding hard-topped rivals cannot claim.

Hopping into the cabin, the same solid and logical fascia as the normal Golf is there to greet the driver, meaning easy-to-operate functions, a plethora of soft-touch furnishings and reassuringly Teutonic build quality.

There are some differences though, with long frameless doors adding a modicum of sex appeal and aiding entry and egress into the (actually useable) pair of back seats – we occasionally had four adult occupants in the car, and on shorter trips received no complaints.

This practicality extends to the luggage space, which remains impressively commodious despite the folding black fabric roof. This is further aided by the 60:40 split/fold rear seats operated via a latch in the boot

The only major sticking point for your correspondent was the lower roofline, which results in a narrower windscreen that impinges on forward visibility for anyone over 180cm.

By our stopwatch, the roof opens in an impressive 10.5 seconds and closes in 12, and is also operable at low speeds. It may not be as showy as the folding glass hard top on its VW Eos big sister, but its also less squeaky, lighter and far less complex.

Refinement is a major strong point – you simply wouldn’t identify this car as a convertible if you didn’t already know it. There is scarcely any wind roar or cabin rattles with the top up, and we were able to conduct regular conversations when driving al fresco at highway speeds.

The standard 1.4-litre twin-charged 118TSI petrol engine performs in the Cabriolet in much the same way as it does in numerous other VW product including the Golf and Tiguan.

This is a revvy little engine with deceptive surge across its chunky torque band and plentiful oomph for spirited driving.

This is let down by the seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission, which has some annoying quibbles in stop-start driving.

The car can be clunky and jerky off the mark, while taking off in the wet requires a feather touch to avoid wheelspin and the intrusion of the aggressive ESC system. At speed things are much slicker, although we’d love to see GTI-style paddle-shifters.

As with all members of the Golf family, the Cabriolet has well-weighted steering with sharp turn-in and plenty of feel, assisted by firm, but not harsh, ride quality.

It doesn’t feel as organic or pure as a Mazda MX-5, with an army of electronic programs that rain on your parade at the limit, but at the end of the day this is unlikely to annoy boulevard cruisers who actually buy the car.

As we said earlier, this is a car that does very little wrong. It won’t set heads ablaze and hearts a flutter, but it is solid, refined, practical and – at least without bags of extras – excellent value for money.

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