Mini Cooper 2009 Review
The smile-inducing droptop version of the upgraded Mini will go on sale later this month boasting...
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If you hate freezing cold mornings then you may not be jumping out of bed at 5am to ride a motorcycle or drive a convertible to work.
It's not impossible - the Brits and Germans do it in even colder and nastier weather - but that doesn't make it right. Interesting then that the cold-climate countries are the ones making the best convertibles. The Volkswagen Golf Cabrio perfectly reflects how well a convertible can suit icy conditions while being fun to drive and cute to look at. Failing all that, it's a great open-top drive in Spring and Autumn.
Almost as cheap as chips. The single-model Cabrio is $36,990 as a six-speed manual or $39,490 as a seven-speed dual-clutch DSG auto. Either is great. In perspective, a Mini Cabrio auto is $42,700, an Audi A3 soft-top is $52,150 and a BMW 120i convertible automatic is $55,480. The Golf wants for nothing - it even has seat heaters.
It gets an electric roof, seven airbags, a pollen filter and pollutant sensor in the airconditioner (probably pointless when the roof is down) and Bluetooth with iPod/USB connectivity. It even seats four adults - something most of its rivals can't do, so it's also a family car.
Volkswagen says it wanted to maintain light weight, have a low body profile with the roof down and yet maintain a snug cabin when the roof is up. It succeeded. It's a very pretty car that doesn't have an awful boot bulge where the folded roof hides.
You can actually fit four adults inside and the boot is spacious, but the small and vertically-placed boot opening makes loading awkward. Dash design is all Volkswagen and no complaints, though the right-hand drive conversion puts the pedals close to the driver and limits space for the right foot to cleanly operate the accelerator. Vision to the rear three-quarter is hampered by the fabric roof, but big side mirrors help out.
The sole engine is Volkswagen's 118kW/240Nm 1.4-litre twincharger that combines a supercharger - for low-engine speed boost - and a turbocharger for mid to top-end boost. A few of these engines initially failed and were repaired or replaced under warranty by Volkswagen Australia. It gave the engine a bad reputation but VW says it's no longer a problem so we can now enjoy a clever, quick, fuel-frugal and above all, fun engine to drive.
The DSG automatic makes life a bit easier in traffic but the engine better suits the superb six-speed manual. Suspension and brakes are from the Golf, including a sophisticated multi-link rear end for better ride and handling than a torsion beam setup. The electro-hydraulic roof is fabric purely so it folds down tight on the body, doesn't impinge on boot space and is light.
The standard Volkswagen offering here of a five-star crash rating, full electronic brake and chassis aids, plus the bonus of seven airbags. The cloth roof requires automatic rollbars that are fired into place when the car senses a rollover. Helping the driver are park sensors, heated side mirrors, auto lights and wipers, LED tail lights and an electronic diff lock. The spare is a space-saver.
Expect the same as a Golf and you won't be disappointed. The electric roof zips up in nine seconds and can be moved up to a vehicle speed of 30km/h - handy in a sudden downpour. The dual-clutch transmission is annoyingly jerky off the mark, though can be tempered by being gentle on the accelerator pedal.
Performance is neck-snapping though if the DSG is napping and the engine is on stream - like accelerating from a start - there can be an unexpected attempt for the wheels to spin. The ESC holds this in check but there's no subtlety in the process. This is probably why I'd opt for the manual gearbox. Ride comfort is pretty good given the Cabrio gets standard sports suspension.
Handling is obviously all Golf, with a solid stance on the road and a positive steering feel and predictable cornering. The fabric roof is very tight so there's no drumming and even road noise is successfully muted. It's not as quiet as the steel-roofed Golf but still perfectly acceptable. My body doesn't feel overly comfortable with the pedals as the right foot is too close to the wheelwell.
The convertible four-seater market is mainly for the expensive models. This car breaks the mold with affordability, lots of driving appeal and neat looks. Yes, I would!
|118 TSI||1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$7,980 – 13,990||2012 Volkswagen Golf 2012 118 TSI Pricing and Specs|
|103 TDI Comfortline||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP||$7,635 – 14,999||2012 Volkswagen Golf 2012 103 TDI Comfortline Pricing and Specs|
|103 TDI Comfortline Bluemotion||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP||$10,990 – 13,888||2012 Volkswagen Golf 2012 103 TDI Comfortline Bluemotion Pricing and Specs|
|118 TSI Comfortline||1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$6,188 – 9,499||2012 Volkswagen Golf 2012 118 TSI Comfortline Pricing and Specs|