That is the critical point though about choosing a convertible. Is it really worthwhile buying one when for a short period of the year the weather might be suitable for top-down motoring? Of course there are a hardened few that will venture out in all seasons when it’s not raining to get the air blowing through their hair. Remarkably the UK is still the second largest market in Europe for soft-top sales due in part to the relatively high numbers of models on sale. Most popular are the new generation and affordable small soft-top versions of popular hatchbacks such as the Mini, Fiat 500, Citroen DS3 and the new fabric roof section versions of the new Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108. Some of the many larger and more expensive soft-tops include the VW Beetle Cabriolet, Audi A3 Cabriolet, BMW 4 Series Convertible, Mercedes-Benz Cabriolets and the Bentley Continental Convertible.
The Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet two door with its fabric electrically operated roof is still based on the previous generation Golf platform but that is no detriment as it was, and still is, one of the best handling and comfortable ride C-segment platforms around.
Golf Cabriolet prices range from £21,800 to £33,650, a huge price difference because of the wide range of engine and equipment specification options on offer. Petrol units are 1.2, 1.4 and 2.0-litre with power outputs varying from 105 to 265PS. There are two diesel options. The 1.6 TDI 105PS and the 2.0-litre TDI 140PS, both BlueMotion Technology units, which means using low rolling resistance tyres, stop/start function and battery regeneration under braking. The spec levels are S, SE, GT, GTI and the range topping hard-core R.
As the rain came down after weeks of dry weather I settled behind the wheel of my test model the Golf Cabriolet GT 2.0-litre TDI 140PS diesel, one of the most popular versions although the 1.4-litre, 122PS petrol version is the best selling model as retail buyers, who cover limited mileage, are the prime customers.
Sitting there listening to the rain pattering down on the fabric roof I wondered just how much extra I would have paid for the privilege of buying the two door Cabriolet with a small boot rather than the three door Golf Hatchback. Well in the case of the 1.4-litre 122PS TSI petrol models with the most popular SE spec the Cabriolet is £3,685 dearer at £23,545 than the Hatchback. When it comes to the 2.0-litre TDI diesel the Golf Hatchback has a slightly more powerful and cleaner 150PS diesel engine than the 140PS unit in my test car. However the Cabriolet 2.0-litre 140PS GT version I tested costs £26,910, the three door 2.0-litre TDI 150PS GT is priced at £23,500. So that means the Cabriolet is £3,410 more than the three-door Hatchback and has less power and more CO2 emissions – it really does ‘cost’ to be cool.
Food for thought on cost and just a simple calculation – if we get say 30 full days a year when you have reasonable weather to drive with the top down over the usual three year period of owning a new car, that’s 90 days which is roughly a cost of £37 a day extra (hood down) to run a Golf Cabriolet over a similarly powered Golf three door Hatchback. The two models over the same three year period both retain around 50% of their value.
But rational price comparisons don’t really enter into the thinking if you are a convertible fan so buying the Golf Cabriolet is probably the best choice in the mid-sized soft-top section if you are really going ‘soft’ up-top. The Golf in all its many versions is currently the UK’s fourth best selling model range behind the Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Corsa. In Europe as a whole the Golf is the best selling model range ahead of the Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio.
It might not have the latest Golf platform but the current Cabriolet still looks very much like the latest Golf Hatchbacks, Estates and new SV MPV models from the front end. At the rear and from the sides the two door Cabriolet looks classy with the roof folded away out of site but with the roof up the Cabriolet style looks less inviting with the shell-like canvas roof up. The electrically operated roof goes up and down swiftly and quietly and whilst on the move so sheltering from showers of rain can be dealt with quickly.
Inside even the GT version I tested looks a bit bland, but so do most Golfs. All the spec is there and of high quality but there is lots of dark leather/cloth trim, upholstery and vinyl linings. There is no shortage of specification as there shouldn’t be for its high price. Included are sports seats, electric windows front and rear, electrically operated and heated door mirrors, climate control, wind deflector, 50/50 split folding rear seats, multifunction computer, cruise control, roll-over protection system, Bluetooth, 18-inch alloy wheels, steel space saver spare wheel, front fog lights and automatic lights and wipers plus front and rear parking sensors. The rear ones are especially useful as the Cabriolet roof when up restricts rear quarter visibility. The boot space with the rear seats up offers a relatively small capacity of 250-litres and the boot opening is quite small. Front passenger space is good whilst the room for the two rear seat passengers is good for width but limited for rear legroom.
My test car came with several must-have extra cost options such as the touchscreen radio/sat-nav with six-speakers and lots of connections for other devices and services but costs a whopping £1,785. Carpet mats for goodness sake cost £85, it’s not the price but I argue why customers should have to pay for mats on a car of this price. Leather upholstery with heated front seats will add close to another £2,000 to the price of this Cabriolet and there is no heating system for the neck area, sometimes called scarf heat, which is now fitted to many soft-top models. Again on the demerit side the on-board computer does not display a cumulative mpg figure only a daily one. That makes no sense so are VW trying to confuse the issue of real-life fuel economy which most owners keep an eye on these days. My test drive average done by the fill-up to fill-up method was 55mpg rather than the official 68.9 figure!
The ride quality and sharp handling of all Golfs sets a high standard in the C-segment and despite the lowered sports suspension and large 18-inch alloy wheels the Cabriolet GT model rode pretty well most of the time. There is some body-shake evident due to the loss of integrity by not having a steel roof but overall the torsional stiffness is not unduly compromised.
The 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine has a power output of 140PS (138bhp) with 320Nm ( 236lb ft) of torque delivered from 1,750rppm so it is responsive, quick when needed, yet flexible and relaxing to drive at lower speeds. Top speed is 129mph and zero to 62mph takes a shade under 10.0 seconds. In common with the other engines in the Golf Cabriolet range this unit remains only a Euro 5 compliant unit so they will need to be updated soon to meet Euro 6 legislation. With CO2 emissions of 119g/km VED road tax is £0 cost for the First Year rate and then £30 a year thereafter.
If you are a high mileage driver this diesel engine makes most sense for fuel economy, around 55mpg in real-life, but generally Cabriolet users tend to be retail customers so for my money I would be choosing the 1.4-litre TSI turbocharged 122PS (120bhp) petrol engine which officially will return 44.8mpg and with GT spec it is nearly £500 cheaper to buy. Choosing the 1.4-litre petrol engine and the better value SE spec will save the retail buyer £3,365 and at that price the Golf Cabriolet makes more financial sense given the limited number of times we can go top-down motoring.
MILESTONES: Volkswagen Golf cabriolet GT 2.0-litre TDI BlueMotion Technology, 140PS, manual. Price: £26,910. Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel, Euro-5, 138bhp, 236lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 129mph, 0-62mph 9.9-seconds, 62.8mpg (55mpg on test), CO2 119g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £30 per annum thereafter. Insurance group: 23E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. For: Classy, comfortable, high quality, sharp and precise handling, looks good with the roof down. Against: Based on the previous generation Golf Hatchback platform, expensive compared to a new Golf Hatchback 3-door, some body-shake, conservatively finished interior, engine still only Euro 5 compliant, some options should be standard for the GT specification level, small boot opening.Miles Better News agency