Open Golf proves Champion

I know I’m probably not the first person to ask this: Are you sure we’re not currently going through some sort of 1980’s revival? Think about it. Heavily synthesised music dominates the charts. Skinny jeans are simply drain-pipes with a different name. We had a Royal wedding not so long ago. We’re at war (still) in the in the Middle East – don’t mention the Falklands. Millions are un-employed while the super-rich keep raking it in, and even The Iron Lady has made a re-appearance - whether or not that’s a good thing I’ll let you decide. And just as you’ve decided finally to bin those old Ultravox cassettes you’ve had languishing in the loft, Volkswagen go and build a new Golf GTi Cabrio.

Yes, I’m fully aware that VW built a soft-top Golf in the nineties too. But let’s face it, the one we all remember most fondly was the prettiest of them all, the Mark One. And before you start, yes, I am aware that one was designed in the Seventies by Guigaro. But in white especially, an original Golf GTI Cabrio is un-deniably as Eighties as leg-warmers and Kajagoogoo.

To be factually correct today’s MKVI version is the first fully open Golf in nine years, and it’s also the first ever rag-top Golf not to have be fitted a “strawberry basket handle” roll over hoop too. So roof up or down it’s a bit of a looker. Plus because the roof folds flat in just nine seconds and can be re-erected in just eleven, even at speeds of up to18mph, by simply flicking a switch, there’s no need to be caught out by any nasty showers either.

Volkswagen’s designers have done of sterling job of retaining all of the styling cues that make a Golf GTi a Golf GTi; twin exhausts, honeycomb grille, red detailing et-al; and yet somehow they’ve given this new Cabrio an identity all of its own.  A steeper raked windscreen, visibly shorter boot, and an altogether lower (hood up) roof-line being the most obvious external changes.

Inside it’s business as usual. The GTi Cabrio’s un-ashamedly tartan-clad interior remains familiar to anyone who’s ever driven the hard-top, new or old. Soft touch materials, a nigh on perfect driving position,  a flat bottomed steering wheel, a slick shifting 6 speed ‘box, plus beautifully clear dials all add up to make an interior that feels as though it’s come out of something far more expensive. Chopping the roof of one of the world’s most iconic hot-hatches seems to have made little difference to its all-round feeling of solidity. Despite gaining a few kilos as part of it de-capitation the performance feels in no way blunted either. 0-60 in just over 7 seconds feels usable rather than intimidating. And apart from a little more road noise and some occasional whistling around where the B pillar would usually be found on a tin top Golf, it’s very easy to forget you’re in the Cabrio.

There are a few concessions to practicality though. In order to accommodate the active roll over protection system – effectively a roll bar the pops up automatically within 0.25 seconds should anything untoward be detected – the Cabrio is strictly a four seater:  There is no fifth seat belt. Overall boot space is also significantly reduced too. 250 litres might well be class leading, but capacious? I’m not so sure.

Since when though, did anyone buy a soft-top Golf GTi, purely for its practicality? From the driver’s seat, with the roof down, there’s no better place to enjoy the bark of the GTi’s exhaust note as the wind just tickles the top of your head.

Ultimately a soft top of any kind is built for fun. The fact that the new Golf GTi Cabrio feels as equally at home tootling around town as it does on a B-road blast, whilst all the while feeling like it’s been built to last for another thirty years or more too simply adds to its appeal.

VW Golf GTi Cabriolet  2.0 TSi

Engine: 1984cc. 4 Cyl 16V Turbo
Transmission: 6 Manual front-wheel-drive
Power: 210 bhp @ 5300 - 6200rpm
Torque: 206 lbft @ 1700 - 5200rpm
0-62mph: 7.3 sec
Max Speed: 147mph
Mpg: 37.2 (combined)
CO2: 177g/km
Price: from £29,310

Many thanks to Volkswagen’s UK press department for the loan of their Golf.


Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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