2012 Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet

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By Tim Saunders

Craftsmanship.

A word usually associated with hand built British-made cars of the past like Alvis, Aston Martin, Bentley and Rolls Royce. Given today’s fast automated production process it’s not something you expect to find in a modern car.

But the characterful and iconic Volkswagen Golf Cabrio 1.4 TSi GT doesn’t only feel really solid, chunky and extremely well put together it’s got bags of charm, too. The German manufacturer has long realised that it’s not just about looks but extremely high build quality. The whole car is constructed using decent materials and this is especially noticeable when shutting the doors, which close with a satisfying clunk. 

The exterior incorporates clean lines and smooth curves and when looking down on it from above the distinctive black fabric roof contrasts well against the grey paintwork of the test car. From this height it doesn’t look that different to an Audi A3. But that’s no surprise really as VW owns Audi.

This is the first time I’ve actually driven a Volkswagen and I’m certainly not disappointed. On first acquaintance it’s one of those cars that’s simple to get in and drive. There’s no hunting around for an irritating stop/start switch because there’s a traditional ignition. And there’s a proper handbrake, too, which is a bit of a rarity these days as so many manufacturers seem to prefer replacing them with switches instead. 

Excellent heated bucket seats for the driver and front passenger are finished in alcantara upholstery and are really comfy and supportive. Driver and passengers feel that this car fits like a glove. The whole of the interior is well-designed and put together. Equipment levels are high, too. That lucky driver gets a leather trimmed steering wheel, handbrake and gear knob, centre armrest and electric windows not forgetting the sporty metal foot pedals.  Its electrically heated wing mirrors are the most effective I have used, clearing the early morning dew in seconds. Then there’s the electric roof, which quickly retracts in 9.5 seconds and can be operated on the move at speeds up to 18mph. This last fact is useful when baby daughter Harriett is on board. One minute she likes the hood down but then finds that the road noise keeps her awake and so firmly communicates this fact! Fortunately we’re only travelling slowly down a country lane and so the roof rises once more. Calm is restored and before long we arrive at Mottisfont, the National Trust property in Hampshire, to see the springtime snowdrops.

Using the Golf during the week allows me to drive with the roof down despite the fact that it’s 10 degrees Celsius and I leave home at 7am returning 12 hours later. Other motorists look incredulous as I approach them but it’s great fun. Wind in the face really is the best way to wake up before and after work and there are scents and smells that usually escape you. There’s an unexplainable freshness to the world at these times of day although this can sometimes be tainted by the lingering smell of cigarettes. Air vents in the head rests would be a distinct advantage and might have allowed me to drive topless in cooler temperatures.

When the roof, with its heated glass rear window, is raised, road noise is virtually non-existent on a par with other hard top hatchbacks and in truth, better than some, which is quite an achievement. Note that what could be considered a competitor, the BMW 1series cabriolet, only incorporates a cheap plastic rear window. My only concern for the long-term investor is that while VWs are ultra-reliable, I wonder how the electrics will stand the test of time. 

Because there’s no visible rear pillar there’s nothing to hinder the driver when they look to overtake. With the roof down it’s a joy to manoeuvre and can quite literally take your breath away. This is a strong driver’s car fitted with a brilliantly succinct six-speed manual box. Cruise control is located on the indicator stalk – a more user-friendly position than on the actual steering wheel, I feel. 

It’s a cabriolet that happily accommodates my baby daughter’s car seat (the Renault Wind doesn’t). And the boot is large enough to fit Harriett’s pushchair, too. Push the VW logo on the boot and it doubles up as a handle, a really neat touch. 

Much to my surprise this petrol cabriolet will easily cover 500 miles on a full tank. 

It just goes to show that there’s still a place for good quality craftsmanship. 

VW has just reported that net profits have more than doubled to £13.4bn after it delivered over 8.2 million vehicles, up almost 15 per cent on 2010. I’m not surprised.

 

Price: £25,310

Power: 158bhp

0-60mph: 8.4secs

Top speed: 134mph

Economy: 500 miles on a tank

 

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