What is it?
There’s never been a genuine Golf GTI Cabriolet before: the 1980s MkI had a GTI variant, but only in the UK (the fact it was badged GLi everywhere else tells you all you need to know). This time round, the crack GTI team have given it a full makeover, signposted by GTI red-trimmed radiator grille, bulging GTI bumpers, 17-inch alloys, twin-exit exhausts – yes, even the tartan-trimmed seats make a return (all hatchbacks now have leather as standard, so they’re sadly missing there).
Powering it is the familiar 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder, once again delivering 210bhp. This delivers more than enough pace, you’d think: oddly though, VW disagrees, and has now introduced a 265bhp Golf R Cabrio. It costs £38k: we’ll stick with this one, ta.
Performance is torque-laden and easy: it’s oddly satisfying to drive such an unexpectedly swift open-top hatch with gusto, something the engine really encourages. Don’t go looking for a headline grabbing exhaust note though, for it’s oddly anodyne and the background wind noise drowns it out at speed anyway.
There’s little scuttle shake, always a bane of convertibles and part of the reason why the GTI Cab handles with such reassurance. It’s also why the open-top GTI weighs 140kg more than the hatch, mind, but this doesn’t seem to upset it on the road: it is an involving, communicative car – surprisingly so for a convertible – which nevertheless also remains comfortable during a cruise.
On the inside
The GTI-accented cabin remains a solidly-built delight, which you’ll be able to show to the world less than 10 seconds after pressing the electric roof lowering button. The four-seat interior has decent room for all passengers, although it can feel a bit claustrophobic with the roof up: blame the thick canvas rear section. Refinement is impressive wherever you have the roof.
The boot, inevitably, has a fairly narrow opening. The stubby tail only has room for a small lid, unlike the more open deck of the coupe-convertible VW Eos. Space is also 100 litres down on the hatch, at 250 litres (the roof has to go somewhere), although it’s well shaped so you’ll be able to make maximum use of it.
Fuel economy of the Golf GTI is looking so-so these days, compared to the rest of the eco stars in the VW Cabriolet line-up, although at 37.2mpg, it’s still decent by hot hatch standards. The price may draw a sharp intake of breath, at over £29,000, but the GTI hatch is not cheap either: besides, it’s distinctive in this sector as nobody else offers a convertible hot hatch (with the R, VW now has two). This, plus the GTI appeal, may be enough to make the case – even alongside premium alternatives such as the Audi A3 Cabriolet and BMW 1-Series Cabriolet.