Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet Driven

A lithe form, excellent economy, and an impressively refined environment add up to make Volkswagen's revived Golf Cabriolet a very competent car, but is it a genuinely desirable car?

En plein air Golfs don't come along very often, but that's not much of surprise. It's relatively easy to take the roof off a coupé and make a creditable job of it – the recent A5 looks excellent, for example, even when subjected to Audi's imperious design language – but take something shorter and stouter, a Volkswagen Golf in other words, and the job of instilling the same graceful nonchalance becomes much harder. You could convincingly argue that Guigaro's original, the perky Mk1 Cabriolet, now over three decades old, will never be bettered on the grounds that it was daring, exciting and, most importantly, novel.

Volkswagen may well have been privy to this sentiment, as they produced and sold just one subsequent drop-top Golf, the cheerful but ultimately underwhelming Mk3 (although they did fit the Mk3 with selected Mk4 body panels in a bid to shift a few more). This changed last year when the Mk6 Golf Cabriolet was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, with one very notable and several smaller changes.

The most noticeable thing about the Cabriolet is that, roof up or roof down (but especially roof down), it looks good. Better than good, in fact; more charismatic than the larger (and now all but redundant) Eos and better resolved than the slightly clumsy Audi A3 cabriolet, whose protective roll-hoops only serve to emphasize the car's truncated bottom. That particular problem the Golf neatly overcomes with automatic rollover bars that deploy in milliseconds (should you need them) and the result is that, open-topped, the Golf is a svelte a machine as you'll find in this class and a different kind of car from previous fixed roll bar-equipped Wolfsburg convertibles. Conversely, with the roof in place, it's clear that the latest cabriolet is a descendent of the humpbacked original, albeit now with a lower and sportier profile.

During testing it predictably rained, more-or-less for the entire week, and resultantly the longest period of time the fabric roof was down for was whilst photographing the cars. In the context of evaluating the car this wasn't such a bad thing, though, as UK buyers will have the roof up for the majority of the time and the cabriolet is impressively refined at all but the highest speeds. The major difference when compared to the conventional 'Glacier Blue' Bluemotion is the slightly claustrophobic nature of the soft-top's cabin, which makes the standard car's feel incredibly spacious. That said, one only needs to drive briefly with the roof down to understand that the Golf Cabriolet works very well as a drop-top; this particular example's 140bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine being comfortable in the role of providing leisurely yet prompt propulsion, whilst emitting just 119g/km of carbon dioxide.

Fitted with Bluemotion technology such as stop/start, regenerative braking (just like in an electric car) and longer ratios on certain gears, our cabriolet managed just over 30mpg on an urban route (only 4mpg fewer than the 'pure' Bluemotion car following behind) and economy hovered around 60mpg at motorway speeds. Furthermore, it's a fair assumption that these figures could be bettered with a dual-clutch gearbox-equipped car. So far, then, the soft-top Golf is exactly what is says on it the tin: a Golf – and the practicality, frugality, and reliability that's come with that station – but without a roof. Minor gripes include the small boot, forgiveable in a convertible, and the relative exposure of rear-seated passengers to wind, perhaps not so forgiveable.

Whilst for the most part a standard Golf, the Cabriolet features smoked rear lights endowed with VW's current LED light signature and chrome trim on the radiator grille. Combined, these features make the the car immediately stand out. Furthermore, the shoulder line on the standard car seems emphasised with the Cabriolet's roof down (despite appearing otherwise, due to the test car's surprisingly suitable dark purple paint job).

So it is desirable? Well, yes, and that's almost entirely because VW have decided to lose the fixed roll-bars. The Golf Cabriolet looks a foot longer than it actually is – an invaluable foot. Consider the excellent economy, decent pace and polished interior, and the result feels surprisingly premium, which is a good thing, as by our estimation it'll be 2020 before we see a new open-top Golf.

Engine: 1968cc 4-cyl diesel Power: 140bhp @ 4200 Torque: 236lb ft @ 1750 0-60mph: 9.9s Top Speed: 129mph Economy: 62.8mpg combined CO2 emissions: 199g/km Price: £24,820

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