FIRST DRIVE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Inside - NEIL DOWL­ING neil.dowl­ing@cars­guide.com.au

Volk­swa­gen al­ready has the Eos and Bee­tle cabrio. So do we need an­other VeeWee drop top? The an­swer is YES.

An idol re­turns in the form of the soft-top Golf WORLD­dom­i­na­tion by 2018 has its price, in this case a long ab­sence of hav­ing a core model on the shelves. But Volk­swa­gen is un­re­pen­tant. We’ve been busy,’’ says a Volk­swa­gen rep with a shrug of his shoul­ders.

It has been al­most 10 years since the last model and when the new Golf Cabri­o­let ar­rives in Aus­tralia late this year, it will be only the fourth model made since 1979.

And there has even been a lot of hand-wring­ing over what the new top­less Golf should be and where it should go.

The US, for ex­am­ple, won’t get it be­causeVWreck­ons it has sated con­sumer de­mand there with the Eos and Bee­tle Con­vert­ible. This is all good news for Aus­tralia. This is a pearler of a car, roof up or down. It does ev­ery­thing the Golf— the world’s most pop­u­lar car, in­ci­den­tally— does but adds ver­sa­til­ity, econ­omy, qual­ity, a whop­ping look-at-me fac­tor and for the first time in the car’s long life, a re­lief from rather bland styling.

Does the world need an­other Volk­swa­gen con­vert­ible and will it get your hair dry quicker than the Eos or rag­top Bee­tle? Only a trip to St Tropez, play­ground of the rich and gauche, can an­swer that.

VALUE

Hard to say what this is go­ing to cost in Aus­tralia be­cause Volk­swa­gen has yet to con­firm specs and en­gines. But it goes on sale in Ger­many next month at an $8000 pre­mium over the five-door Golf so, with the pos­si­ble 1.2-litre en­try-level en­gine, it could get here for $29,990. Well, we wish.

Com­pared with the Eos at $46,990, that’s a great price and a great pack­age.

But it’s a lit­tle en­gine and per­haps there will be more in­ter­est in the 1.4-or 2.0-litre pow­er­plants that bet­ter suit the DSG auto trans­mis­sion and add a bit more oomph. There is a pair of tur­bocharged diesels (1.6 and 2.0), but we’ll get only the big­ger ver­sion. So if you add $8000 down the line, the top end is about $43,000.

It comes in one trim level and you add the op­tions. Not that you’d need a lot. Stan­dard gear is im­pres­sive and should be more than suf­fi­cient to lure the trendies and buy­ers who sim­ply adore con­vert­ibles.

DE­SIGN

The car is built by Kar­mann— as were pre­vi­ous top­less Golfs — in north­ern Ger­many. Kar­mann has a long his­tory and a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence so it’s no won­der Volk­swa­gen re­cently bought it.

The car looks con­sid­er­ably shorter than the Golf hatch, de­spite shar­ing the plat­form and driv­e­train. Be­cause of that, it is cer­tainly neat and ap­peal­ing. No­tably, it shares no body pan­els with the hatch.

The roof is a clever de­sign that in­cor­po­rates lots of hid­den sliv­ers of metal to keep it taut and flush against the body and glass. It looks pretty up but even bet­ter down. Its pre­de­ces­sors looked like par­tially folded prams. The new one closes flush be­hind the rear seats. And seat room is very good. I am1.77m but had suf­fi­cient leg and head­room.

TECH­NOL­OGY

Chas­sis strength­en­ing is a vi­tal step to shar­ing the hatch’s han­dling, ride and noise sup­pres­sion char­ac­ter­is­tics. The un­der­body is re­in­forced, mainly with al­loy com­po­nents to cut weight, and new mul­ti­link rear sus­pen­sion added.

The en­gines are shared with other cur­rent Volk­swa­gen mod­els but there are now two BlueMo­tion ver­sions that in­clude stop-start, re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing and low-drag tyres to bring fuel con­sump­tion down to 4.4L/100km and emis­sions to 117g/km CO for the 1.6-litre

2 diesel. Aus­tralia soon gets a BlueMo­tion Golf so it is plau­si­ble an eco-friendly Cabrio may fol­low. Roll­bar func­tion is taken up by two bars that au­to­mat­i­cally de­ploy when the car tilts to a pre­de­ter­mined an­gle. That leaves an open­ing from the boot to carry long items.

SAFETY

It should repli­cate Golf’s fives­tar crash rat­ing. Stan­dard kit in­cludes seven airbags, the roll­bars, elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol and a host of anti-slip wiz­ardry. It’s also nim­ble and sta­ble enough to hope­fully avoid a prang in the first place.

DRIV­ING

If I say it drives like a Golf, that should be suf­fi­cient. And it does. It is lithe and pre­dictable, as solid and con­fi­dent on the bi­tu­men as any qual­ity big car, and is one of the rare ve­hi­cles that melds with the driver.

I drove all but the 1.6-litre diesel and BlueMo­tion ver­sions, start­ing with the com­pli­ant and ea­ger 2.0-litre tur­bopetrol, to the su­per­charged and tur­bocharged 1.4 (TSI with red let­ter­ing, not to be con­fused with TSI non­super­charged with black let­ter­ing), 2.0-litre tur­bod­iesel and 1.2-litre turbo-petrol with six-speed man­ual box.

The 2.0 petrol is fuss-free and has torque in bulk— per­fectly suit­ing the DSG auto. It is also smooth and very quiet, a wel­come trait, in­ci­den­tally, of all the Cabrios. The en­gine will see a lot of duty in Aus­tralia.

The 1.4 TSI has been seen be­fore here, badged as the GT and then TSI. It is a great en­gine andVWhas over­come ini­tial me­chan­i­cal prob­lems so it’s now re­li­able. More than that, it’s a buzz to drive.

It works by us­ing a su­per­charger to boost the lit­tle en­gine for rapid ac­cel­er­a­tion. It cuts out at 3500rpm and the tur­bocharger takes over.

This is the only 1.4 TSI in which you can hear the trans­fer from one booster to the next.

Not just a pretty face: The­newGolf Cabri­o­let is on its way to Aus­tralia and will do more than turn a few heads

Up and down: The Golf Cabri­o­let lifts the lid on top­down driv­ing

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