As much as I really enjoy a decent hot hatch there’s one thing they just can’t deliver. Cocooned in the steel shell of a hatchback you never get the open-topped, wind-in-your-hair feeling that you can enjoy in a convertible. So say ‘hello’ to the Volkswagen Golf GTI convertible that offers an enticing combination of hot hatch fun and open-top thrills.
The best parts of the GTI are carried over unchanged, from the iconic badges and red piping around the front grille to the standard 18-inch telephone-dial wheels and the tartan seat upholstery. Those tartan sports seats are just one of the many nice features in the typically classy cabin, and sat inside with the canvas roof over your head you can hardly tell that this is the soft-top model.
Under the bonnet lies the same 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine that kicks out a turbocharged 207bhp and 206lb/ft. As with the standard GTI there’s a choice of six-speed transmissions, either manual or dual-clutch DSG.
The roof is fully automatic, folding away in just 14 seconds with little more than the press of a button. Some of the hatchback’s practical boot space is lost but the remaining 250 litres of space is still useful. The rear seats can easily fit two adults in comfort.
Of course, you can’t just chop the roof off a hatchback without making structural changes. That electric roof mechanism and the chassis re-inforcing needed to stop the Golf folding in half add a substantial 138kg go the GTI’s kerb weight. The weight penalty has an impact on fuel economy (down from 38 to 37mpg) and CO2 emissions (up from 170 to 177g/km), but more significantly performance takes a hit, adding 0.4 seconds to the 0-62mph time.
On paper that 0.4 second penalty might sound a lot but in the real world you’ll barely notice the difference. The TSI engine still propels the GTI at suitably entertaining speeds. The optional DSG garbox, as fitted to this test car, shuffles through its ratios with ease. Apart from a little wind noise from the pillar-less side windows the convertible GTI is just as good to hustle along as the normal GTI.
So how does the GTI feel with the top down? Sadly I didn’t get chance to find out. The weather wasn’t co-operating during my brief test drive and in typically English fashion it was chucking it down. All I can say is that the roof operates quickly, allowing me to grab a brief lull in the rain to snap some photos. Just press a button, listen to the gentle whine of the electric motors as they burst into life, and in seconds you’re staring up into open sky. Lovely.
The conversion from tin top to folding top hasn’t affected the Golf’s good looks and it avoids the awkward rear deck that folding hard tops are often lumbered with. In fact it’s rather handsome, easily one of the best looking convertibles on the market right now.
There’s just one thorny issue for the cabriolet – price. A standard Golf GTI can be yours for £25,650 on the road. If you want a drop-top version you’re going to have to find another £3,660. Is it worth it? That depends on how much you make of the opportunities to enjoy the thrills of open-top motoring. If it was me I’d make sure I got that top down at every opportunity, but at least when the heavens opened I’d be happy knowing I could still enjoy the full GTI experience.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet Specification
|Engine:||1,984cc 4-cylinder Turbo|
|Top Speed:||147 mph|
|CO2 Emissions:||177g/km (Band I)|
*Prices taken from Volkswagen website, October 2012