Singapore – Now here’s a car that doesn’t make much sense on paper. The Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet is a new car, and will be sold alongside the shiny, new Mark 7 Golf GTI (as you’ve just read) but it’s running on the old Mark 6 platform. It’s thus an ‘old-new’ car, and one that is heavier, slower, less efficient and less practical than both the Mark 6 and Mark 7 GTI.
So why does it still have a place in the modern VW family? VW must have been very confident when it rolled out the vehicle (the international premiere was a bare few months ago) and it’s not misplaced bravado, given the standard Golf Cabriolet 1.4 is a sweet machine that delivers much more than expected of an affordable drop-top.
Still, running through the figures paints a worrying picture, especially since the anorak-level (or otaku, nerd, passionate fanboy/girl-ism, whatever you wish to call it) is higher once you stick ‘GTI’ on anything. For example, we know a GTI maniac who is obsessed with tartan and won’t eat off anything else. But we feel he probably wouldn’t cast an evil eye the way of the GTI Cabriolet.
It looks like a GTI of course, until you walk round the side. With the top down the elongated lines of the side become accentuated, and it generally looks fine, even if it’s visually a bit front-heavy.
But more importantly, get in the car and drive without foreknowledge of the spec sheet and it never becomes an issue. It feels very ‘GTI’ from the outset. In fact, driving the new Mark 7 hatch and then hopping into the drop-top after, you do get a sense of connection but without longing for the extra half-second.
That’s likely down to the fact that the essential, flexible GTI nature is still present in buckets. A planted stance, mid-weight steering that’s still very good and driver-supportive, the familiar burble of the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. It does what you want, never rushes, but turn up the wick and it’s ready to party at an instant.
The old engine has a little more turbo lag, but otherwise the excellent, torquey punch is very exploitable, and pleasurable when punctuated by the dual-clutch gearbox’s quick shifts. Where it sparkles is in the handling and ride department, though.
Having seen so many upmarket cabriolets fall into the clutches of the Wobbling Goblin and the Shaking Djinn, it’s refreshing that the GTI Cab’s taut yet supple ride is one that inspires confidence rather than consternation in the driver, despite the huge 18-inch wheels. Just like a proper GTI, the Cabriolet has a fun, accessible directness whatever the speed or cornering situation, turns in sharply and holds its line admirably.
There’s little to criticise about it at all, really. Practicality is impinged on, since it only seats four, has just 250 litres of boot space, but it’s nowhere near as sardine-like as say, a Mini Cooper Cabriolet. But if you want to, you can pop the top, drive around town and enjoy the weather (if it’s not Death Haze that is) or even pull a Mr Bean and strap a couch to the thing. Even the new Mark 7 GTI can’t do that.
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 1,984cc, 16V, turbocharged inline 4
Power 210bhp at 5,300-6,200rpm
Torque 280Nm at 1,700-5,200rpm
Gearbox 6-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 235km/h
0-100km/h 7.3 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.7L/100km
Price $206,800 without COE
Also Consider: Audi A3 Cabriolet, Mini Cooper S Cabriolet
For more information flip to the CarBuyer Guide