June 2011

Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI SE Cabriolet

On the road the Golf Convertible is a capable and refined performer

June 2011

picture of car from the frontpicture of car from the rearpicture of car interiorpicture of car in detail

Overall rating

3.5 out of 5 stars


  • Roof design is practical and elegant
  • Interior is well built and understated
  • Engine range offers wide choice to suit all budgets
  • Supple ride mirrors that of the Golf hatchback


  • Not a car for keen drivers
  • Engines offer modest levels of performance in the real world
  • Exterior styling is conservative
  • Don't expect acres of room in the back

As car makers focus more on fuel economy and emissions performance, removing unnecessary weight from a vehicle has become one of a number of priorities. In the world of convertibles the folding metal hard top has become a popular solution, but some are taking a fresh look at the traditional fabric alternative. Volkswagen is one such firm with its Golf Convertible.

It may appear odd for Volkswagen to offer an Eos (metal roof) alongside the Golf, but company executives are keen to offer a choice. Plus, the Eos is seen as a more premium offering than the Golf. That's not to say the latter should be viewed as a second choice - as an everyday model the Golf offers buyers a rounded experience, all the benefits of a regular Golf hatchback plus the bonus of open air motoring.

After a number of years away Volkswagen has returned to the Golf Convertible, offering a sixth generation shape with all the sophistication and refinement of the donor hatchback. For fans of the car this drop-top will look and feel familiar. It also adopts the corporate 'look' of the rest of the range inside and out.

Ease of use is a big plus with the Golf Convertible. Not only does it look much like its five-door cousin but it also drives like it. The penalty for removing the roof is a modest one in real terms, and the engine line-up is noticeably biased towards relaxed cruising. Even the flagship turbo petrol variant prefers not to be rushed into corners and boasts a supple ride that's more at home on a gently rolling A road than a twisty B road.

This laid back attitude is also reflected in the car's roof design and operation. Although the physical act is quick enough to be done on the move at urban speeds, there's no drama or fuss and you don't need to do anything more taxing than press a button. When lowered the roof fits neatly behind the cabin and doesn't impact on boot space.

Our verdict on the Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI SE Cabriolet

On paper the existence of two same-size convertibles in a line-up appears to be rather extravagant. In reality, with the Golf Convertible Volkswagen is making the open air motoring experience more accessible. Tapping into the Golf's popularity, the drop-top variant offers the same no nonsense approach to motoring plus the convenience of a low cost fabric roof. Factor in economical engines and it's easy to see the car's appeal.


Running costs for the Golf Convertible are likely to be surprisingly average, thanks to the modest thirst of the petrol and diesel engines. What little 'convertible premium' you pay elsewhere should be offset by the gains made by VW in the economy and emissions departments. The level of standard equipment is also good, too.

Space and practicality

Front seat passengers are well catered for in the Golf Convertible, with generous head and legroom with the roof up. In the rear legroom is more restricted, and its ability to carry adults depends heavily on the position of the front seats. Headroom is also reduced by the curve of the roof. Boot space is meaningful and isn't impacted even with the roof down. The car's split-fold rear seat helps boost its versatility too.

Controls and display

The Golf Convertible has a clear and easy to use set of controls, which should prove familiar to anyone who's sat in a regular Golf. The instruments are easily to read, while the fascia is clearly laid out. The large colour display that also houses the optional sat-nav does a good job of clearly presenting radio and car setup information.


The Golf Convertible delivers a good level of comfort, largely thanks to its well-sorted suspension and welcoming cabin. The well insulated roof cuts wind and road noise to a pleasing minimum, and there's no need to shout when conversing with the roof down.

Car security

Remote central locking, engine immobiliser and an alarm with interior protection are standard on all Golf Convertible models, which is par for the course at this price point.

Car safety

The Golf Convertible has a wide range of safety devices as standard, including side, front and curtain airbags, a rollover protection system and anti-whiplash head restraints. All models are fitted with ESP as standard.

Driver appeal

The Golf Convertible is at its best when driven at a relaxed pace. The various engines are willing but the car is set up for comfort rather than sporty driving, while the steering is accurate if relatively muted in terms of feel. However, at a cruise the Golf is relaxed, quiet and comfortable, making it an impressive tourer.

Family car appeal

While a smaller family could use the Golf Convertible as transport, the car is never going tot be able to compete on level terms with a hatchback or people carrier. Small children will fit easily into the rear seats, but as they grow you'll need to look elsewhere. The car's modest boot capacity will also be a limiting factor.

First car appeal

The Golf Convertible is likely to be outside of the price range of some first time car buyers, but that shouldn't mean it's a car to avoid. It's an easy to drive car, and apart from the reduced vision with the roof up when parking would present no particular problems for an inexperienced motorist.

Quality and image

Over the years the Golf Convertible has attracted a loyal following. This long awaited version boasts all the convenience of its predecessors plus the build quality and modern equipment of the rest of the Volkswagen range.


Access to the cabin is good for a car of this shape. Front seat passengers will have no trouble getting inside, while a tilt and slide mechanism for the front seats makes it much easier to get comfortable in the rear - legroom is only moderate, though. Boot access is also good, and with the roof folded there is still good access to the luggage area.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Standard issue is an easy to use radio/CD unit, combining a touchscreen with a quality sound delivery. Depending on the model, sat-nav plus MP3 player connectivity and Bluetooth are available.

Colours and trim

The Golf Convertible is available with a choice of interior colours, allowing the buyer to create a very light or quite dark interior feel. The appearance of the trim materials is very good, with quality plastics and fabrics used throughout the cabin.


The car's bonnet slopes away at the front while the rear has a relatively small window with the roof up, which can make parking a challenge until you're fully familiar with the Golf's dimensions. However, with the roof folded rear vision is much improved. Parking sensors are also available to take the guesswork out of low speed activities.

Spare wheel

Space saver fitted beneath the boot floor.

Range information

Petrol engine options: 1.2-litre petrol (105bhp); 1.4-litre petrol (160bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.6-litre diesel (105bhp). Transmission options - six-speed manual gearbox for petrol units and five-speed unit for diesel variants. Optional direct shift DSG gearbox for selected models. Trim levels: S, SE, GT.

Alternative cars

Volvo C70 Stylish appearance can't hide the car's dynamic flaws

Renault Megane CC Smart roof but styling and dynamics are average

Peugeot 307CC Revised engine range and looks makes this car good value

Audi A4 Cabriolet Fabric roof but smart, discreet and comfortable - expensive, though

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