Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet
Familiar GTI cues blend well with drop-top bodystyle
- Looks great in GTI trim roof up or down
- Impressive refinement and lack of wind intrusion even at high speeds
- Ride and handling not diminished by lack of roof
- High quality cabin and strong showroom appeal
- Extra weight blunts performance
- Drop top pushes the Golf GTI into expensive territory
- Boot space is significantly compromised
- Likely to be more thirsty than a standard GTI
One of the most iconic models in its history, the GTI is a key part of the Golf range for Volkswagen and in its current generation is as much the complete hot hatch as it has ever been. Now Volkswagen is adding a twist to the tale by introducing the GTI Cabriolet, bringing fresh air thrills with hot hatch performance.
The Golf GTI Cabriolet opens up new ground for Volkswagen, as it has never sold a convertible version of its hot hatch even as far back as the original MkI model of the 1980s. There are already powerful versions of the Golf Cabriolet and the Eos roadster is available with a near-identical engine, but with the GTI tag comes the promise of a sharper drive with looks to match.
Based on the existing Golf Cabriolet the GTI comes in three-door form only, and just like the regular convertible models is fitted with a folding fabric roof. The luggage area is therefore accessed through a traditional boot rather than a hatchback, and a divider must be put in place to allow the roof to fold which reduces the space available.
The roof itself is electrically operated and can be raised or lowered in under 20 seconds, and even whilst on the move as long as the speed is below 30mph. In all other respects the car is identical to the GTI hatchback, with the same appealing details such as the red-outlined grille, tartan seat cloth and unique instrument dials.
Under the bonnet the GTI Cabriolet has the same 2.0-litre turbocharged engine as the regular GTI and the choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG dual clutch gearbox. One issue of note however is that there is no increased power to offset the increase in weight, caused by the need to strengthen the car's chassis because of the lack of a fixed metal roof.
Our verdict on the Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet
Removing the roof from an already-appealing car is a sure fire guarantee of success, and the Golf GTI Cabriolet certainly passes the test. It balances comfort and fun just as well as the standard car, and although the blunted performance is a little disappointing anyone wanting the fresh air over outright speed will not be disappointed.
With a little extra weight the GTI Cabriolet will cost a little more to run than the hatchback and the GTI badge also carries with it the promise of higher insurance costs. However driven with a degree of care it can deliver respectable economy figures.
Space and practicality
There is an inevitable compromise in practicality with convertible cars, but the GTI Cabriolet performs quite well compared to rivals. The use of a fabric roof maintains the most amount of boot space possible, while in the cabin the storage space is preserved well.
Controls and display
Crystal-clear instruments and intuitive control design give the Golf GTI Cabriolet one of the best cabins in the business, and even someone unfamiliar with the car could get in and operate it very quickly. The only negative element is the occasionally slow-witted satnav which occasionally requires extra button pushes to get it operating as you would wish.
As with the hatchback the GTI Cabriolet successfully balances hot hatch dynamics with decent comfort. The front seats are very supportive, the driving position is excellent and despite the fabric roof noise levels are impressively low. The ride is also surprisingly good, better on the smaller wheels and even with the roof down wind intrusion is well-muted with the windows and wind deflector up.
Any convertible with a fabric roof is a little more prone to casual attack which is why the standard-fit alarm is essential, backed up by the immobiliser. A tracking device would be a sensible addition.
A high level of active and passive safety is a given with any Volkswagen, and with the GTI Cabriolet the engineers have gone to great lengths to ensure the body is rigid and crashworthy. Standard fit ESP and high levels of grip and braking performance are all present and crucial to avoiding an accident in the first place.
There is an expectation of the driving experience when it comes to a Golf GTI and for the most part it thoroughly matches this. From behind the wheel it feels taut and responsive with a pleasing firmness to the controls. Both gearboxes have something to offer and the engine responds well to inputs and delivers a pleasing growl in the process. Anyone coming from a Golf GTI hatchback may be a little disappointed however as the extra weight reduces the performance a little - it is still a quick car but it simply doesn't feel as fast as the hatchback.
Family car appeal
The GTI Cabriolet could perform some family duties depending on how old the children were. One or two babies and their assorted baggage such as pushchairs simply wouldn't work, even if big car seats would fit happily in the rear, as the boot is too narrow to swallow larger pushchairs. On the other hand older children could easily manage the trip to the back seats and could enjoy the roof down motoring.
First car appeal
The Golf GTI Cabriolet is in all likelihood too expensive, too fast and too difficult to insure for a new driver even though it is comparatively easy to drive. A standard Golf Cabriolet would be a better proposition for a well-heeled new driver.
Quality and image
Quality and image are inextricably linked when it comes to the Golf, and thankfully the GTI Cabriolet stays true to this ethos. The materials throughout feel of a high standard and the build quality is very impressive. The GTI's image is one of the best in the business, even though the Convertible represents a slightly softer proposition it should still benefit from that same reputation.
A three-door convertible isn't the ideal vehicle layout for accessibility, and so it proves with the GTI Convertible that rear seats passengers have a little more work to do. Those in the front are fine, with the big doors giving easy access to the front. The front seats do slide forward as well as the back rest tilting, but there is still a bit of clambering required. The bootlid opens to a decent angle but the boot itself is something of a slot, and placing items at the back of it requires a little stretch.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
The standard fit audio system is of good quality and has been seen in the Golf for some time. With a clear display and touchscreen it is relatively easy to use, with buttons on the wheel for easier use. The system isn't the newest however, and particularly when fitted with the optional sat-nav its responses can be a little dull-witted.
Colours and trim
The GTI detailing inside and out lifts the car above the standard Golf fayre and gives it an edge which is a big part of the appeal. Classic solid reds and whites suit the GTI in hatchback form and suit the Cabriolet too, while on the inside the classic tartan trim is a must-have.
How easy the GTI Cabriolet is to park depends entirely on whether you have the roof up or not. With it raised you have to rely mostly on the parking sensors as the rear view is relatively poor, but with the roof folded this presents much less of a problem other than the height of the folded roof itself. The larger alloy wheels are very easy to scuff however.
Tyre inflation kit fitted beneath the boot floor.
Petrol engine options: 1.2-litre (105bhp); 1.4-litre (160bhp); 2.0-litre (211bhp). 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, GTI.
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