I KNOW what you’re thinking. “You’re taking the mick.” That’s what you’re thinking. “The Highland Show was a washout, T in the Park turned into a swamp and summer is something that only happens to other people. Yet here you are, trying to extol the virtues of a car with a fold-away roof. Away and have your bumps felt.”
You have a point. During the VW Golf Cabriolet’s week-long stay in Scotland, it rained rather a lot. That’s wonderful for assessing the water-tightness of the Golf’s insulated fabric lid (100 per cent leak free, by our reckoning) but not much cop when it comes to experiencing the joys of wind-in-the-hair motoring.
Then we remembered the heatwave at the end of March, the other heatwave in May, and we looked forward to the Indian summer that’ll arrive later in the year*, and we wished VW’s people had picked any other week than the week they picked to send us the ragtop Golf.
Even on a crisp December’s morning, with the heater turned up full whack and a woolly hat on your head, you’d get away with going topless. But not in the rain. Not unless you’re bloody-minded and can live with soggy seats.
So, you’re wondering: What’s the point of owning a soft-top in Scotland? Well, in the Golf’s defence, it’s practical enough to use as an everyday driver with the roof up, while you wait for that fleeting glimpse of sunshine. It seats four adults in comfort, headroom is generous with the roof in place, and even the boot is big enough to carry a week’s worth of stuff. Granted, the lid is tiny – a bit like the keyboard cover on a piano – but, assuming you can fit your stuff through the letterbox-like aperture, it’ll swallow 250 litres’-worth of things, roof up or down. Or you could simply just dump your cargo in the back, as we did when we did with a rather nice antique dresser cabinet.
It’s economical too, thanks to a 1.6-litre diesel engine that Volkswagen says will take you more than 60 miles on a gallon of go-juice. We say expect low 50s in day-to-day driving. Generous soundproofing keeps diesel clatter to a minimum, so as not to spoil the al fresco fun. Power is a whisker over 100bhp which, coupled to the cabrio’s weight penalty over the hatchback, makes for modest acceleration and top speed (0-62 in 12.1 seconds and 117mph). That’s largely irrelevant in a car that was built for posing on the prom with, but handy to know when you’re chasing the last patch of blue sky around the country.
My neighbour has a Mk I Golf cabrio, finished in red. Even on a dreich day, it’s like a little ray of sunshine. This sixth-generation Golf, in dark blue, is a little too conservatively styled to fit that bill, but it’s a handsome thing nonetheless, especially with the roof down. Talking of which, it only takes nine seconds to fold the fabric top away when the sun comes out, and 11 seconds to put it up again when the clouds gather. You can even fold and unfold the canopy while driving at speeds of up to 18mph.
There’s a wee bit of wind noise around the top of the doors with the roof in place, but passengers in the back should brace themselves for healthy dollops of fresh air when the lid comes off. If you’re flying solo or travelling as a couple, a wind deflector screen clips over the rear seats and makes a good job of reducing buffeting.
The ride is comfortable, the handling is sure-footed and predictable. Should any of your passengers complain that lopping the roof off has “compromised the Golf’s dynamic parameter envelope” or somesuch cobblers, then you must take the following steps: stop the car, instruct the complainant to “observe from the road side while I demonstrate something”, and drive off. Next time you see them, ask them how the Golf’s “dynamically compromised parameters” compared to those of the bus they had to ride home.
The cabin looks and feels like every other Golf out there, which is a good thing if you appreciate conservative styling and an air of quality. Goodies in this SE version include dual-zone climate control, cruise control and connectors to make your MP3 player talk to the stereo. On the outside, 17-inch alloy wheels sparkle in the…err… sunlight.
Ah yes, sunlight. Remind me again?
*disclaimer: it probably won’t
CAR Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet SE BlueMotion 1.6 TDI 105PS
PERFORMANCE Max speed 117mph; 0-60mph 12.1s
MPG 64.2 combined
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South