ROAD TEST: VW Golf Cabrio 1.4 TSI 118kW DSG
Not long ago is seemed as if the traditional rag-top cabriolet was all but dead. Its replacement wanted to moonlight as a coupe. A so-called 'coupé cabriolet' with a retractable hard top offered the best of both worlds, they said.
However, any argument about the style of a coupé went out the window for me when I saw those long boot lids. Peugeot 308 CC, Renault Megane CC, Volvo C70 - there are lots of them, and more overseas - and even VW's hard-roofed Eos looked set to fill the shoes once occupied by the Golf Cabriolet. Fat chance.
The Golf ragtop was almost legendary in Golf 1 form and now it's back from the dead - in fact it's killed the Eos in South Africa, VW's PR official citing that the Golf Cabrio's lower cost and brand equity would make it more popular over here. A facelifted Eos still soldiers on overseas, but don't hold your breath on it ever being replaced.
Even with its black fabric roof in place, I was impressed with how well the sixth-generation Golf's design works in this format. Put the top down at the touch of a button and it's an elegant piece of work.
More surprising than how good it looks in the flesh, though, was how it didn't leave me dealing with angry-passenger syndrome during a 250km, three-person road trip. Rear legroom is generous by cabrio standards and my backseat driver found it comfortable enough. A Jozi-Cape run could have been a different story though.
ROOMY AND SMART
The boot also fits more than just a handbag. A lot more. In fact, even with the roof folded into its compartment at the top section of the boot, there's almost as much space as you'd find in a regular Golf-sized hatchback. 250 litres versus the conventional Golf's 275 litres if we're to get technical. The only drawback is the Cabrio's tiny loading aperture.
Like the Golf hatch, the perceptive quality in the cockpit is absolutely top-notch - even bits of the inner door panel have a soft touch. Whether we're talking dashboard design, seat material or anything in between, the interior really makes you feel like you're in the lap of luxury.
On the other hand, the performance provided by its twin-charged 1.4-litre petrol engine did little to excite me. It may have a decent-enough 118kW and 240Nm on command, but the structural reinforcements they made to compensate for the roof-chopping have made it a heavy car. At 1484kg, it weighs 138kg (around two extra passengers) more than the equivalent hatch.
Don't get me wrong, performance is more than adequate for the average driver and I was particularly impressed by the way it cruised on the highway. At the 120km/h mark, the rev needle was hovering around 2500rpm - that's what I'd normally expect from a diesel.
Not that it sipped like a diesel but there was little faulting the 7.1 l/100km consumption it achieved on the open road, of which most of the journey was done with the top up. It was cold, dammit!
Another impression the Golf Cabrio imparted was one of good road manners. The ride was comfortable and I noticed no scuttle shake - even on some far-from-perfectly-surfaced roads. The steering also feels positive and nicely weighted.
Classy, practical and good to drive, the latest Golf Cabriolet is a highly desirable ragtop that does its ancestors proud. It's also priced below the other compact ragtops and retractable-hardtop cars on the market, but - as you should with any German car - be careful not to burn yourself on that options list.
In fact, I find it laughable that VW is charging 30 grand for satellite navigation. That and a few other extras sent our test unit's price hurtling towards the R400 000 barrier.
VW Golf Cabriolet 1.4 TSI Highline DSG (118kW)
PRICE AS TESTED
Metallic paint - R850
Satellite Navigation system - R28 860
Bluetooth cell phone preparation - R2550
Climate air conditioner - R4330
Xenon headlights - R9260
Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.8T s-tronic (118kW) - R361 000
BMW 120i Convertible AT (115kW) - R399 842
Mini Cooper S Convertible (135kW) - R341 480
Peugeot 308 CC 1.6T (115kW) - R358 900
Renault Megane CC 1.4 TCe (96kW) - R359 900