Review: Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet (2011 – 2016)
Neatly styled drop-top version of the Golf. Quick-fold roof. Frugal BlueMotion models available plus impressive TSI petrols.
Legroom is tight in the back.
Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet (2011 – 2016): At A Glance
The Golf Cabriolet has always been a popular and instantly recognisable part of the Volkswagen line-up. So it’s all the more puzzling why it took nine years to replace it.
Since the old Cabriolet (which was a Golf III with a Golf IV nose grafted onto the front) went off sale in 2002, there’s been the Beetle Cabriolet and Eos, but neither of these drop-top Volkswagens has quite hit the spot in the same way as the Golf Cabriolet did.
So it’s back to the drawing board for the two-door, four-seater 2011 version, with a fabric roof that opens in just 9.5 seconds and sits smartly at the back of the car. Usefully, the top can also be operated on the move, at speeds up to around 18mph.
Part of the appeal comes from the wide range of engines. There are 1.2-litre TSI 105bhp, 1.4-litre TSI 160PS, 1.4-litre TSI 122PS and 2.0-litre TSI 210PS petrols and 1.6-litre TDI and 2.0-litre TDI 140PS diesels. 'BlueMotion Technology' modifications applied to the diesel promise high efficiency and low emissions.
At the back rear there are new LED lights and a deep crease in the bootlid to help it stand out from the standard Golf. Inside it's similar to the hatchback with the same design and layout. There are three trims - S, SE and GT - with all getting a good level of standard specification which includes 16-inch alloy wheels, a fully automatic electro-hydraulically operated soft top, DAB radio and Bluetooth.
To aid noise reduction and refinement, the Golf Cabriolet's fabric roof which has an additional exterior skin, as well as new window and door seals. When the top is down, the upper side of the leading edge (the bit that directly connects to the windscreen frame) covers the entire top surface of the roof storage box, eliminating the need for a separate cover.
This contributes to the very rapid opening time and means it does not need to descend as deep into the bootspace. Even with the roof down, there is 250 litres of available space.
What does a Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet (2011 – 2016) cost?
Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet (2011 – 2016): What's It Like Inside?
The Golf Cabriolet does without the fancy folding metal roof of the Eos – and that’s no bad thing. It not only folds down in a rapid 9.5 seconds, but also neatly in a Z-shape.
It sits seamlessly in the gap between the main body of the car and the boot and doesn’t eat into boot space. It's significantly quicker than all the tin tops, shaving between 10 and 15 seconds off the time it takes a Renault Megane Coupe-Cabriolet or Peugeot 308 CC to lower their roofs. Even the similarly-sized and canvas-roofed BMW 1 Series Convertible takes 22 seconds.
Up front there's plenty of room for two and highly adjustable, suportive seats. It's not such a good story for those in the back. The two rear passengers don't get much in the way of legroom while headroom is restricted with the roof up, which means the rear is really better suited to children.
When the well insulated roof it up, the Golf Cabriolet is surprisingly quiet with little or no road noise. Make no mistake, this is a state-of-the-art roof with first-rate roofliners and insulation. It's a similar story when the roof is dropped. Although there's the expected turbulence and rustle at speed, it's still possible to hold a conversation - even when you're on the motorway.
Boot space is a fairly generous (for its size) 250 litres, which is more than enough for a couple of weekend bags. But it’s an odd shape with only a small hatch and a very flat opening. It means that you need to reach into the boot to get items that are towards the back. Despite the stylish looks, there is a nod to practicality with 50:50 split/folding rear seats.
Unlike the Audi A3 Cabriolet - which the Golf owes much too - there are no rollover hoops. Instead Volkswagen has opted for discreet rollover protection modules, which are contained within the bodywork and deployed in milliseconds if the car is rolled. It gives the Golf Cabriolet a much cleaner and sleeker look than the Audi.
Safety equipment is impressive too and includes an active roll-over protection system, ABS, ESP, airbags all round and a driver's knee airbag. In addition to the active safety equipment, protection is built into the Golf Cabriolet's design.
A reinforced window frame and structural modifications to the underbody, side panels, cross-members and doors give it an extremely high level of torsional rigidity which benefits safety, comfort and refinement.
Child seats that fit a Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet (2011 – 2016)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet (2011 – 2016) like to drive?
Buyers are almost spoilt for choice when it comes to engines. Although you don't get quite the same range of powerplants that you would with the Golf hatchback, there's an impressive range for a cabriolet and a choice of five and six-speed manuals plus DSG seven-speed automatic gearboxes.
The 1.2-litre turbocharged TSI - which you'll find in many of the Volkswagen Group's small and medium cars - may be engine that kicks off the range, but its performance is anything but entry level. The 105PS unit is peppy, responsive and quick to get off the mark.
Its official 0-62mph time is 11.7 seconds, but around town it’ll fool you into thinking you’re driving something with a bit more grunt. Don't rule it out solely on the grounds of appearing too small for the job: although the Golf Cabriolet is some 200kg heavier than the hatchback, the 1.2-litre TSI never feels too strained.
The 1.4-litre TSI is a better bet for longer trips and comes with either 122PS or 160PS. It also gets the option of a seven-speed DSG automatic for those who don't want a manual. Out on the road, the 160PS is smooth, punchy and offers seamless changes when partnered with the DSG gearbox.
Changes can be made with the gear lever or paddles behind the steering wheel. Flick it into 'Sport' mode and the changes are sharpened, which makes it better suited to back roads. The lower power 1.4-litre TSI has a 0-62mph time pf 10.5 seconds, while the higher output engine comes in at 8.4 seconds. The 160PS version is most at home in the mid-range and is a relaxed cruiser in sixth.
At the top of the range is the 2.0-litre TSI with 210PS. In reality the power of the 1.4-litre TSI will be more than enough for most people and opting for the smaller engine means you save on road tax and fuel costs.
That said, it does come close to GTI performance, with a top speed of 146mph and a 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds. Diesels are a 1.6-litre with 105PS and 2.0-litre with TDI 140PS. Both benefit from 'Bluemotion Technology' which cuts the engine when the car is at a standstill and battery regeneration to help save fuel.
This is the first time that a production Golf Cabriolet has done without a roll-over hoop and instead has pop-up bars that are activated in less time than the blinking of an eye if the car detects a roll. Those who drove the previous generation car will tell you that the roll-over hoop was there for another reason- to help stop the body from flexing. It was only partly successful and the old car shook on all but the smoothest of roads.
But cars have come a long way since then and even without the roll-over hoop, the Golf Cabriolet is a world away from its predecessor. In everyday driving, there's little to choose between the hatch and cabriolet when it comes to the rigidity of the body, meaning impressive refinement for a drop top.
|1.2 TSI||48–54 mpg||11.5–11.7 s||115–139 g/km|
|1.4 TSI||44–51 mpg||8.4–10.5 s||123–150 g/km|
|1.4 TSI DSG||45–53 mpg||8.4–10.5 s||120–148 g/km|
|1.6 TDI||64 mpg||12.1 s||117 g/km|
|2.0 GTI||37–44 mpg||7.3 s||152–177 g/km|
|2.0 GTI DSG||37–44 mpg||6.9–7.3 s||152–180 g/km|
|2.0 TDI||60–66 mpg||9.2–9.9 s||109–125 g/km|
|2.0 TDI 110||64–66 mpg||11.7 s||111 g/km|
|2.0 TDI DSG||55–60 mpg||9.2–9.9 s||125–134 g/km|
|R||34 mpg||6.4 s||190 g/km|
|R DSG||-||-||190 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet (2011 – 2016)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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