Volkswagen's smooth convertible has a cutting-edge roof, acres of torque, and follows the road carved by a cult favourite. Sean O'Grady just wonders why they called it Eos...

Model: Price: From £19,410 (£30,020 as tested)
Engine: 1.6-, 2.0-litre and 3.2-litre V6 petrol units and a 2-litre turbodiesel
Transmission: Six speed manual; auto DSG
Performance: Top speed 144mph; 7.8 seconds from 0 to 60mph (2-litre 200PS)
CO2: 202g/km

Now, just in case you were wondering whatever happened to the Volkswagen Golf Convertible, I have news for you. The good news is that a Golf-based convertible VW is with us again. The even better news is that it has one of those clever folding metal roofs that are seemingly de rigueur on all cars in this crowded sector these days.

Forget fiddling with clips, wrestling with pram-style canopies and generally mucking about with sagging bits of canvas. Where once you had to go all the way up to a Mercedes-Benz to get yourself a proper metal coupé/convertible, now everyone from Daihatsu to Volvo is happy to let you have their own take on the idea. This new VW is merely the latest to arrive in the showroom.

Which brings me to the only really bad news I can think of to give you about this new car - its name, Eos. It's named after the Greek goddess of the dawn, apparently. I can see what they're getting at there, but I think the relevance will be lost on most of the vehicle's target customers. Almost every other manufacturer in the field has opted to retain the existing model name when marketing its coupé/convertible. Everyone knows what you're on about, at least roughly, if you say you've ordered a convertible Peugeot 307 or Vauxhall Astra, say. But what on earth is a Volkswagen Eos?

The VW public relations team will tell you that it's a unique vehicle, not just a Golf with the roof cut up and shoved into the boot. There's a lot in that. Park the Eos next to a current-model Golf, as I did, and you can see the family resemblance, but you're immediately struck by how much more firmly planted on the road the Eos looks, thanks to its wider track.

Much of the bodywork is obviously sui generis and, while it shares some components and a wheelbase with the Golf Mk V, it is longer and wider, and thus more like the Passat, from which it borrows some mechanical bits.

So, while the Eos has Golf strut-system suspension up front, it has a Passat four-link arrangement round the back. All very satisfactory. The wide range of engines available in the Eos is of course shared with other VW group products, but we shouldn't hold that against it either.

In due course the Eos will be available with anything from a petrol 1.6-unit to 2-litre petrols and diesel through to the stonking 3.2-litre V6 they put in the crazed Golf R32 with the mega-fast DSG gearbox.

Maybe the pick of the bunch is the 200PS-rated, 2-litre FSI unit, as fitted to the Golf GTI, although the extra weight of the Eos at the rear does take a little of the edge off its performance and sharpness. Generally the heavy Eos feels a bit more "stiff-legged" than a Golf or Jetta in its suspension.

As with the similarly engined VW Jetta, VW doesn't badge this Eos as a GTI, presumably for fear of disappointing expectations. In the old days it was happy to market a Golf GTI Convertible. Indeed, it was something of a cult car. No longer, it would seem.

Anyway, Eos is a daft name, especially when it's as enjoyable to drive as any permanently roofed Golf. Plus you get the sunshine. Those FSI engines deliver their power smoothly and progressively and there's so much torque lying around the place that you very rarely find yourself in the wrong gear.

That gear change is just as smooth as the engine, and the roof mechanism works equally effortlessly. It takes 25 seconds to fold away, and the movement is almost balletic. The Volkswagen's roof folds into five parts, so it is a complicated sort of dance move, but it does mean that the " sandwich" in the boot is as compact as it can be, and that the " rumpy" look of some coupés/cabriolets is avoided. The boot, however, is tiny.

Such balletic elegance requires a longer, deeper stage. When you put the Eos's roof down the boot folds out and back towards the rear of the car, so clouting anything unlucky enough to be behind you. That would also spoil the Eos's show. On the model I tried the rear parking's sensor doubled up as a safety check on this, so it wouldn't allow me to dent my neighbour's car after I parked the Eos.

Still, in the interests of the brotherhood of man it might always be best to give a backwards glance each time you put the top back up. You also ought to make sure the car isn't sitting too close to a ceiling.

Now you can admire the coupé's styling with the roof in place. I wouldn't say that the Eos had smooth lines exactly. With the roof down it looks the part, classy and expensive (which it is - £30,000 as tested). Apart from Daihatsu's little ultra-cute Copen, it seems that the smaller a coupé/convertible gets, the more tricky it is for the designers to make the roof-up coupé version look remotely well proportioned.

The Nissan Micra C+C and the coupé/convertible version of the Mitsubishi Colt, for example, do look challenging. Even the Peugeot 206 CC, long the market leader, struggles a bit to retain its pertness in this configuration. The Eos, however, being almost as big as a Passat, and having more room to stash its roof, looks OK, and certainly no worse than its rivals from Renault, Peugeot, Ford, Vauxhall and Volvo.

Driving it, as with most of its peers, means being tucked away quite deep behind a fashionably low windscreen, although the ride height is taller than a traditional "proper" roadster. such as an MX-5.

It's a bit like being a small person in one of those huge, steep-sided Victorian bath tubs. Comfortable while you're in there, but a bit of a lurch to get yourself out. Nor is exit aided by the very wide doors on the Eos. They help the car operate as a proper four-seater cabrio; they are bad because they are so wide it makes it very hard to get out in tight parking spaces. And most parking spots these days are tight, because cars are so much bigger and fatter than they were even 10 years ago.

The Eos is an excellent example of car inflation; compared with the crisply styled and nimble old Golf Convertible this is an absurdly bloated affair. Maybe it's just as well they didn't call it a Golf after all.

The rivals

VOLVO C70

From £26,225

Another fresh design and probably the closest match for the Eos, although it's a little larger and prices start a little higher. As with the Eos, a smooth operator with good looks and mostly decent performance.

VAUXHALL ASTRA

TWIN TOP From £16,995

New in the showrooms, this is a little smaller and cheaper than the Eos. Still a good looking car and the diesel version is as an especially strong performer. Represents relatively good value for money.

SAAB 9-3 CONVERTIBLE

From £24,995

Like BMW's venerable 3-series convertible and the Audi A4 cabrio, Saab perseveres with a canvas hood. Lighter and more compact than folding metal types, it means better performance and more boot space. Smooth too.

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