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VW Golf 2011 Review

EXPERT RATING
7

Just how many golf puns can you fit into one story about a Volkswagen?

The German car maker has tee-ed up and driven back into the soft-top convertible market, pairing up the Volkswagen Golf Cabrio with the hard-topped Eos.

Returning to the market after an eight-year lay-off, the rag-topped Golf Cabriolet was launched in the final stages of 2011, a busy year for the brand, who chipped away at the Australian new car market with 11 new model launches.

VALUE

The new four-seater Cabriolet carries features that are based on its roofed Comfortline sibling, which carries a $29,490 pricetag. The starting price of a ragtop is $36,990 for the six-speed manual, but the test car's ask rose by $2500 as it was equipped with the seven-speed DSG twin-clutch automated manual.

Standard fare with either gearbox includes 17in alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone and audio link, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and trip computer controls, a six-speaker audio system (with USB and audio inputs) and dual-zone climate control.

The test cars was also fitted with the optional satnav/upgraded sound system ($3000), $3300 worth of "cool" leather trim, bi-xenon headlights and LED "auto mascara" running lights for $2100 and $500 worth of metallic paint. One option that is a worthwhile addition to the features list is front and rear parking sensors and a rear camera - given the rearward visibility, $1400 well spent.

TECHNOLOGY

Top of the highlights package is the 1.4-litre twin-charged engine - the little engine that thinks it's a big `un. The turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder offers 118kW and 240Nm between 1500 and 4000rpm (a knobbled variation of the Polo GTI's 132kW/250Nm powerplant) to drag the 1443kg ragtop around.

The seven-speed DSG is smooth and makes the most of the outputs, changing smoothly once up and running - away from standstill it's a little tardy sometimes and Sport mode (which is quite aggressive) is a better option for take-off.

The extra weight comes from the diagonal braces and extra strength in the sills to offset the lack of a roof - it all makes the convertible about 150kg heavier than the equivalent Comfortline hatch. The electric roof is a nine-second wonder and folds in on itself, which means it is it's own tonneau cover and can be kicked into operation at speeds of up to 30km/h.

DESIGN

The car once carried the nickname "strawberry basket" - those wacky Germans - but the roll-bar has gone, so they'll have to put their thinking caps back on for this one. The nose is all Golf, although the windscreen rake has been pushed back a little.

The car has a clean, conservative look, with frameless glass and an abrupt rear end, within which is a small 250-litre boot that thankfully doesn't get further reduced by a stowed roof. 

The four-seat cockpit is snug but well-laid out, the seats are comfortable (although not overly abundant with lateral support) - two average-sized adults and a couple of tween kids will be accommodated well enough, but four bigger full-growns might be in strife.

SAFETY
The ragtop has done nothing to detract from the safety side - the NCAP boffins have seen fit to bestow a five-star safety-rating for the Golf Cabrio, which has five airbags (dual front, front-side and a driver's knee bag), an auto-dimming rear-vision mirror, automatic wipers and headlights.

There's also stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes with brakeforce distribution and emergency assist, as well as a pop-up rollhoop safety system that comes from behind the rear head restraints.

DRIVE

The soft-top Golf is no sportscar, let's get that said - it's reasonably swift, accomplished in the corners and a decent drive in the day-to-day drudgery of commuting, but don't call it a sportscar. The body structure has not suffered greatly for the roof removal and feels rigid enough, there are still a few small jitters on bad bumps but nothing untoward.

Ride comfort is decent and even though the company calls it "sports suspension" the Cabrio is no chance of cannibalising sales from the GTI and R brigade on the company's pricelist. Any press-ahead driving means the smooth 1.4 twin-charger (a cracker little engine) is working hard thanks to podgy waistline.

Open-road cruising at the limit was more pleasant, with the occupants' hairstyles not requiring a re-do at at the salon (a carpark where this car is likely to pop up). There were disappointments - the dual-zone climate control was in several minds as to what it wanted to achieve, with an awful lot of fan noise achieving little more than an asthmatic smoker's exhale.

None of the vents seemed to be delivering much and then the auto mode would send a rush through the dash vents, then remove it a short time later - the local dealer was looking into it. The roof lining insulation felt a little thin - odd summer weather hasn't sent the mercury much past 30 degrees but the sun was punching heat through the cabrio's roof without much resistance.

VERDICT

For a poser or a cruiser, the Golf Cabrio does it smoothly, quietly and with no shortage of cabin comfort (climate control issues aside), but the German soft-top won't be pinching sales from the hotties within striking distance of its pricetag. But shoppers in the market for an Eos (who like keeping bootspace), or the Cabrio's kissing-cousin Audi A3 will need to stop and think if they need to spend the extra cash.

VW GOLF CABRIOLET TSI DSG

Price: from $39,490
Resale: 54 per cent (Glass's Guide)
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Service: 12 months/15,000km
Safety: 5-star Euro NCAP, ABS, BA, stability and traction control, hill start assist
Engine: 1.4-litre 4-cylinder supercharged and turbocharged petrol, 118kW/240Nm
Transmission: 7-speed DSG automated manual; front-wheel drive
Dimensions: 4337mm (L), 1423mm (H), 1782mm (W) weight 1443kg 
Thirst: 6.5L/100km, on test , 153g/km CO2, tank 55L

Pricing guides

$11,989
Based on 243 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$4,913
Highest Price
$29,490

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
118 TSI 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $10,100 – 15,180 2011 Volkswagen Golf 2011 118 TSI Pricing and Specs
103 TDI Comfortline 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP $6,500 – 10,010 2011 Volkswagen Golf 2011 103 TDI Comfortline Pricing and Specs
118 TSI Comfortline 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $6,000 – 9,240 2011 Volkswagen Golf 2011 118 TSI Comfortline Pricing and Specs
77 TDI Bluemotion 1.6L, Diesel, 5 SP MAN $5,400 – 8,360 2011 Volkswagen Golf 2011 77 TDI Bluemotion Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$4,913

Lowest price, based on 233 car listings in the last 6 months

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