VW Golf GTI Cabriolet

We hit British roads in the new VW Golf GTI Cabriolet. Is it this summer’s coolest soft-top?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Golf GTI Cabriolet combines two of VW’s best models, and is fast, stylish and spacious without losing any of the hot Golf hatch’s planted composure. We’d recommend this DSG auto gearbox over the manual transmission as it makes the car even more relaxing on motorways. Our only criticism is the price.

Now we’ve finally got some decent summer sunshine, open-air sports cars just became a whole lot more attractive – and none more so than the new Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet. But can it deliver the same driving thrills as its hot hatchback sister car?

This is the first drop-top GTI since the MkI, and technology has changed a lot in the five generations since. Yet the most striking thing about the new car is the way it’s turned on the style.

With gorgeous 18-inch Monza alloys filling the wide arches, red brake calipers and twin exhausts, it looks a lot more dramatic than the GTI hatch. It shares the regular car’s deep honeycomb grille and classy LED tail-lamps, but the steeply raked windscreen and squared-off profile give it a more sophisticated and sporty feel.

Helping the clean and simple lines is the fact there are no roll hoops protruding from the rear seats (they pop up when the car senses a rollover). This means that, unlike in most convertibles, rear visibility is pretty good, too.

The fabric hood folds away in less than 10 seconds to reveal a sporty interior. The figure-hugging seats are trimmed in trademark GTI check cloth, while racy red stitching marks out the chunky steering wheel and gear selector. To help justify its price premium over the hatch, the Cabriolet also has plenty of kit, with Bluetooth, cruise control and front and rear parking sensors all standard.

Normally, the transition from fixed-roof car to convertible spoils the dynamics by adding weight, but this GTI feels just as potent as the hatch. Its turbocharged engine revs eagerly towards the 7,000rpm red line and the quick, responsive steering makes the car feel nimble in corners.

The smooth DSG auto box adds a hefty £1,300 to the price, but suits the Cabriolet’s grown-up character. Whether in manual or automatic modes, its changes are almost instant. Drop down a gear and there’s an addictive burble from the exhausts, too.

Even at high speeds, the GTI isn’t quite as refined as the VW Eos folding hard-top, although it’s still excellent, plus there’s hardly any buffeting from the wind up front.

The suspension is firmer than in lesser Golf Cabriolets, but the dampers do a great job of soaking up all but the worst bumps and potholes. Perhaps the GTI Cabriolet’s biggest strength, though, is still its practicality.

Unlike almost all of its rivals, there’s enough space to seat four adults comfortably, and even with the roof closed headroom is decent. The 250-litre boot is big enough for medium-sized bags and split-fold seats are standard.

But it’s not all good news, as the DSG Cabriolet is the heaviest-polluting model in the GTI range, emitting 180g/km of CO2. And although VW claims 36.7mpg economy, after our test we’d say that 25-30mpg is more realistic.

Still, if you can stomach the big bills and steep asking price. the Golf is an enticing ownership prospect, and one of the most rounded cabrios on sale.

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