Roller Coaster | Golf GTI Cabriolet

BY Joel Tam

A convertible Golf GTI? Is there really a market for one? Is it really a compelling option? We drive one to find out...

When Volkswagen announced that they were making a convertible Golf GTI, I must admit, I was appalled. Even as a fan of the brand, and especially the GTI, I thought it was a daft idea. To me, anyone who wants a chuckable hot hatch should get a rigid all-metal hatchback. While anyone who wants to pose should just go straight to a two-seater roadster. The aforementioned type of cars were made for those specific purposes.

So what's with the Golf GTI Cabriolet? Is it still a corner-carving tool? Does it work as a "Hey, look at me!" machine (ultimately that's why people buy convertibles right?)? Or is it answering a question nobody asked?

Well, I took it out on a nice long drive to find out. With the wife in tow, we drove up north to Malacca to see how the GTI cabriolet performed on the long North-South Highway stretches, along winding B-roads through the connecting towns, and even slow city drives through busy lanes like Jonker Street. This is my verdict.

Walking up to 'our' car, it's clear that Volkswagen made it as refined as the hatchback. The soft top is sturdy and the overall build quality is great. With its 18-inch Detroit wheels and red highlights, there's no mistaking this car for anything else other than a GTI. Get inside and the quality continues. Like its other Golf cousins, the GTI has a superb cabin that is exemplary for hatchbacks. It was comfortable for the two-hour drive up and we were comfortable pottering around Malacca city as well. The seats are comfortable without being too cushy to the point of putting you to sleep. Along the curvy B-roads, they hug you well and keep you firmly in place.

On the move, it becomes quite evident that road noise is fond of the cabin too – because it keeps finding its way in. But hey, it's not a Bentley and it is a soft-top after all, so I eventually got used to it. What's more important is that despite not have a metal roof structure, the car still handles and reacts brilliantly around the twisty bits. Vibrations that are commonplace in soft-top convertibles were nearly non-existent.

Bang hard into corners and this chop-top will show you that it's got the chops, eagerly carving every B-road bend I threw at it. Turn in is as sharp as its hardtop sibling and the XDS electronic front differential will quell any understeer effectively. This is one convertible that deserves the GTI badge. Pushing 210 bhp and 280 Nm of torque, the 0-100 km/h timing of 7.3 seconds is highly believable, in fact it feels faster than that - and that's with the top up too.

Drop the top and the sense of speed is heightened, and despite losing the roof, vibrations, shakes and rattles are limited to travel over incredibly rough surfaces only. In real-world road conditions, the driving differences between the hatchback GTI and convertible are so minor that most drivers won’t notice them.

The plus points of this car are quite clear; it's the sexiest looking Golf, you've got the option of having the wind in your hair and no other car combines so many desirable traits in one package. That said, I'd rather have a pre-owned hatchback GTI and an MX-5 instead of this. But if you if it's only one car you plan to have, the Golf GTI Cabriolet is worth considering.