New Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet first drive
Faced with a barrage of new model derivatives this week at a roll-out by Volkswagen, in readiness for the September 62 new plate sales month, do I choose to spotlight the new five door versions of the Up city car, the first Golf GTI Cabriolet for nearly 20 years, the elegant CC four door Coupe based on the Passat or the new Passat Alltrack 4x4 Estate.
With hopefully a bit more sunshine to come this year I opted for the Golf GTI Cabriolet, not because it's fast or showy but because the Golf GTI 2.0-litre 208bhp turbocharged petrol is an iconic sports hatchback and there hasn't been a go-faster cabriolet version of the Golf for nearly two decades.
During the next few months I will give more time and space to VW's other new additions, especially the Alltrack as Wintery road conditions prevail.
The two door Golf GTI Cabriolet despite its fabric roof is instantly recognisable as a GTI with its distinctive 'telephone dial' alloy wheels, twin exhausts and honeycomb grille.
Inside its highly specced with air conditioning four electrically operated windows, flat bottomed sports steering wheel and retro style tartan seat upholstery.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet prices
Priced at £29,310 or £1,300 more if you want the DSG automatic gearbox, the two door GTI Cabriolet runs out at £3,660 more than the GTI three door hatchback and over £8,420 more than the starter price for the Golf Cabriolet 1.2-litre TSI but the high initial price is likely to be off-set in part by the iconic exclusivity when eventual trade-in times comes along.
The Golf GTI petrol powered hatch/cabrio models overall will have around 5,000 annual UK sales and the GTI Cabriolet is expected to account for just 10 per cent of those so it is a very niche model but with a big image.
Interestingly VW's sister brand Audi came up with a cabrio/convertible UK survey this week bearing in mind they have four soft-top models in their range. The August survey showed 64 per cent of users either never or rarely let the roof down and 46 per cent cited exotic looks of a soft top as reasons to buy rather than wanting wind in the air motoring.
With its fabric roof up or down the Golf GTI Cabriolet looks a neat prospect. The electrically powered roof can be raised on the move at speeds up to 18mph in 9.5 seconds so that is a useful and practical feature given our changeable weather conditions. There is a 250-litre boot for luggage.
The GTI Cabriolet sits lower, 22mm at the front and 15mm at the rear than the standard Golf Cabriolet and it has stylish 18-inch alloy wheels as standard.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet roof
With the roof in the up position there is no loss in structural rigidity but it is a different story with the roof down. Enthusiastic cornering, or travelling a speed over poorer road surfaces and scuttle shake appears even though there is 140kg of extra weight in the car for increased strengthening and torsional rigidity.
Roof up and the interior is comparatively noise free from wind, roof down and there is wind buffeting into the car unless the standard wind deflector over the rear seats is installed, although that limits the Cabriolet to being a two seater.
Roof up or down and the firm and lowered suspension does not cope that well with potholes and they send shudders through the bodyshell and the handling is unsettled over our poor road surfaces but it improves on smoother high speed motorways - unless they are of the concrete type.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet first drive
In other handling respects the GTI Cabriolet remains true to the Golf GTI in terms of cornering grip thanks to the clever XDS electronic differential with sharp and precise steering. No doubt all the power and then taking the roof off is a compromise but one I suspect most enthusiasts of fast hot soft tops will put up with.
Under the bonnet is the usual Golf GTI 2.0-litre, four cylinder turbocharged petrol engine which pushes out 208bhp and a meaty amount of 280lb ft of responsive torque from just 1,700rpm.
With the manual gearbox, the most popular choice of transmissions, this results in a top speed 147mph, not of practical use in this country, but the zero to 62mph acceleration time is much more useable at 7.3 seconds, just 0.4 seconds slower than the lighter GTI Hatch. Officially fuel consumption is an average 37.2mpg which I more or less matched during my 'cruise' around the busy roads of Marlow and Henley.
The six-speed DSG auto returned 33.8mpg for the same driving route. The tax gathering CO2 emissions for the manual model are 177g/km so VED road tax is £325 for the First Year rate reducing to £215 for the second year onwards.
Company car drivers will be relieved of 26 per cent in Benefit-in-Kind tax. The auto has similar figures.
The value of wearing the iconic GTI badge for the latest Cabriolet addition to the Golf range will appeal to a small number of enthusiastic, top-down, go-faster motoring enthusiasts. But it is an expensive purchase compared to a lesser powered, but just as visually attractive, conventional Golf Cabriolet model.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet 2.0-litre TSI 210PS 6-Speed Manual.
£29,310 manual or £30,610 auto.
2.0-litre, four cylinder, turbocharged petrol 208bhp, 280lb ft of torque from 1,700rpm, 6-speed manual.
147mph, 0 to 62mph 7.3 seconds, 37.2mpg, (39.4mpg on test), CO2 177g/km, VED road tax £325 First Year rate then £215 second year onwards, BIK company car tax 26%.
: Desirable and iconic soft top hot hatch, well equipped, well made, high kerb appeal.
Pricey compared to non GTI versions, poor low speed ride quality, scuttle/body shake with the roof down at times.