VW is at pains to stress that the new Golf cabrio – four-seat, mid-size convertible that it is – is not in competition with its own Eos, that four-seat, mid-size convertible. The Golf, VW points out, is smaller, cheaper, and sports a fabric roof instead of a folding hard-top.
TopGear duly notes these points, and then offers this advice to potential Eos buyers. Unless you (a) live in a region where rainfall assumes the form of sharpened meat skewers or (b) plan on transporting four large adults regularly, you’ll be wanting the new Golf cabrio.
Because though the first truly all-new Golf convertible in 18 years doesn’t offer up many surprises, it does its roof stuff in such a straightforward way as to make the Eos – and, indeed, every other folding four-seat hard-top – look over-engineered and clunky.
And slow. The Golf folds its roof in nine seconds flat, quicker than Usain Bolt can cover 100 metres (doesn’t sound so impressive put that way, actually), and at speeds up to 18mph. This pace is thanks to the simplicity of the design – there’s no tonneau cover, the dropped roof folding into its own mini-compartment instead of eating up bootspace – and means that, unlike most soft-tops, you can actually whip the Golf’s roof down or up in even the most schizophrenic climatic conditions without fear of interior destruction.
Roof-up, the Golf is improbably hushed, even at speed. VW has worked hard to banish high-frequency noises, and succeeded: you’d need to possess the aural sensitivity of a Great Horned Owl to discern more road or wind noise here than in the Eos. The rear window is unusually large by fabric-top standards, adding to the sensation of near-fixed-roof refinement.
Inevitably, the cabrio can’t quite match its hatchback equivalent for road manners, but it retains more composure than most convertibles, remaining stable over hefty undulations. There’s a hint of judder through the chassis over sharp potholes, yet none of the heavy-bottomed wallow you get from most folding hard-tops in this sector. We tried the top-spec, 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel and the 104bhp BlueMotion petrol, the latter providing the perkier drive. The biggest diesel is smooth and torquey but, coupled to a slow-witted double-clutch ‘box, highlights the inevitably compromised nature of the Golf’s chopped chassis. The little petrol felt lighter and livelier, if a little VAGeneric. Certainly, the driving experience isn’t as sharp as the 1-Series or Mini convertibles.
But this was never intended to be a car for wild-eyed thrills. Like the very first Golf cabrio of 1979, it offers a no-pretensions, flies-in-the-nostrils experience that continues to make more sense than any metal folder. Oh, and to confuse matters in the open-air-VW corner further, a new Beetle cabrio (four seats, mid-size, you get the idea) is on the way next year. We wager the Golf will still be the cab to have.
We like: Ninja-speed folding roof
We don’t like: Dozy DSG on big diesel
The verdict: Simple, honest, good. Golf cabrio does what it says on the tin. Or fabric, rather.
Performance: 0-62mph in 11.7secs, max 117mph, 49.6mpg
Tech: 1197cc, 4cyl, FWD, 104bhp, 129lb ft, 1346kg, 132g/km CO2
Tick this on the options list: Xenons with LED running lights, £TBA
And avoid this: Salsa Red leather interior, £TBA