Motoring: Volkswagen's new Golf has a solid centre but is soft on top: The latest Golf Cabriolet proves that it is equal to the British winter, even with the roof down. Phil Llewellin was impressed / Road Test

Gales and torrential rain feature in advertisements for convertibles about as often as the Queen Mother drives a Ferrari F40. The image is St Tropez in June, not Blaenau Ffestiniog in January.

But there were at least two good reasons for testing Volkswagen's new Golf Cabriolet at this time of year. First, it made sense to see how the car fared in conditions that are far more typical of Britain's climate than those in the brochures. Second, believe it or not, January is beaten only by August as Volkswagen's best month for Cabriolet sales. Many are the Christmas presents that arrive in the form of a gift-wrapped ignition key, plus a note explaining that the gift is taxed as from New Year's Day.

The latest Cabriolet's predecessor was launched in 1979 and has attracted 320,000 sales since. There never was a convertible based on the Golf Mark II, so the new arrival has jumped a generation.

One of the most significant improvements is at its rear, where the plump rump conceals a boot with a sensible aperture and 9.5 cubic feet of space. Its predecessor could have been designed to test Postman Pat's initiative, dexterity and patience.

Volkswagen has also made a far more satisfactory job of stowing the hood, which restricted rearward vision and did nothing for the old Golf's appearance. The new version folds almost flat and has a cover that gets top marks for neatness and convenience.

'An exceptionally civilised convertible,' was the note I wrote myself after more than 1,000 mid-winter miles. Assets include a rear window of heated glass - much better than the plastic alternative - and a hood whose several layers of material keep noise levels down and provide plenty of protection.

December's ferocious storms failed to force even a droplet of rain through the hood's seals. But the British press handout's boast about being able to use a car wash 'without any cause for concern' is at odds with the handbook's advice to 'avoid using automatic car washes whenever possible'.

Not noted for masochism, my wife and I covered several hundred miles with the top down and the excellent heater supplementing clothes that were in the 'sensible winter' rather than survival-kit category. This basic 1.8-litre model had a prototype of the draft excluder that is expected to cost about pounds 150 when it becomes available as an option.

The roll-over bar above the seats may not enhance the Golf's appearance, but it is part of a comprehensive safety package that includes airbag protection for the driver and front passenger.

The integrity of the soft top is due, in part, to the body's overall strength and impressive freedom from flexing. This translates into a smooth, comfortable ride with none of the squeaks, creaks and rattles that used to be associated with convertibles. Although the suspension is less sporting than the 2.0-litre version's, it provides handling characteristics that make the Golf fun to drive on interesting roads.

A lot of metal has been welded in to make the Cabriolet's structure stiff enough to satisfy Volkswagen's engineers. The result is a car that weighs much more - the difference is the equivalent of two large adults - than its three-door hatchback counterpart. Performance and economy suffer as a result.

This is a commendably couth convertible, but one whose appearance belies rather sedate performance figures. If you prefer more fizz, the 2.0-litre model provides 27.7 per cent more power, plus a higher level of equipment, in exchange for 12.6 per cent more money.

SPECIFICATIONS

Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet, pounds 14,999 Engine: 1.8-litre, four- cylinder producing 90bhp at 5,500rpm. Five-speed gearbox. Top speed 107mph, 0-60mph in 13.3 sec. Fuel: 31mpg.

COMPARISONS

Renault 19 16V, pounds 15,900 Sharp styling and crisp handling complement the 137bhp engine's sizzling performance. Make sure your luggage is compatible with the boot's slot-like lid.

Ford Escort Si, pounds 15,650 Britain's best-selling convertible cannot quite match the Volkswagen's structural integrity and sophistication, but the Ford is much quicker.

Rover 216, pounds 15,725 Lacks character, but earns high marks for build quality, a classy interior, good performance and reasonable economy. The 1.4-litre version packs a lighter punch.

Vauxhall Astra, pounds 15,800 Considerably more expensive than its predecessor. Good performance from 2.0-litre engine.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

    Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

    £16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

    Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

    £7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created