First drive: Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet

British summetime might almost be over, but Volkswagen has given soft-top fans something to look forward to with the UK introduction of the new cabriolet version of the popular Golf.

With sales of 1.42 million units, Volkswagen has to be one of the most successful producers of iconic convertibles. Part of this success was down to the Golf Cabriolet, of which 684,000 were sold between 1979 to 2002.

Now the Golf soft-top is back, with a clever electric roof that only takes 9.5 seconds for the soft top to open fully, making it one of the fastest systems available. It can also be opened or closed at speeds of up to around 20mph, allowing continued operation at low speeds.

So, can the Cabriolet reassert its authority against modern rivals? I headed to Marlow for the first UK drive to find out.

The Cabriolet might be lower, with a more sportier, swept back windscreen, but at the front the grille, headlights and bonnet are still distinctively Golf.

Move to the side and the convertible hump of the fabric roof has gone, to be replaced by an attractive open profile.

At the back, the new rear lights and distinctive deep crease in the bootlid are the most distinctive design features.

The finished result might be familiar, but looks every inch the classy, quality convertible you'd expect from Volkswagen.

Move inside the Golf Cabriolet and initially I admit I was slightly underwhelmed, as apart from some metal trim inserts, the dashboard is exactly the same as the one you'll find in any other Golf.

However, like any Golf, once you spend some time inside the new convertible, you appreciate all the features and how well-made they feel.

The driving position is excellent and all the models I tried at the launch were fitted with the optional, supportive sports seats. They look particularly classy with the costly (£1,960) Vienna heated leather option.

Space in the back of the Golf Cabriolet is adequate for two, but hood up and it can be feel a bit claustraphobic with the small windows. Another bonus of the cloth roof is the practical 250 litre boot; rear space can be increased with the rear seat that splits and folds but it's a shame the boot has such a small opening.

Thre new Golf Cabriolet will be available with a choice of three proven engines,: a 1.2 TSI with 104 bhp and is capable of 47.9mpg and produces 139g/km, a 158bhp 1.4 TSI that returns 44.1mpg and 150g/km and a 104bhp 1.6-litre TDi diesel that emits 117g/km emmissions, with a combined consumption figure of 64.2mpg.

I drove the manual and DSG automatic transmission versions of the excellent 1.4-litre petrol turbo. Considering the engine size, it sounds good, feels smooth and is gutsy. I was less impressed by the diesel, that didn't feel as sporty as the looks suggest.

Usually loping off the roof to make a convertible has a bad effect on the handling and can cause lots of rattles in the interior over bumps. Not so in the Golf, as the steering is accurate and free from shakes. The handling is tight with plenty of grip and virtually no bodyroll.

The ride is generally refined even on the 18-inch alloys of the GT trim, with only the worst road scars making their way into the cabin.

To sum up, the Golf Cabriolet isn't a cheap option, but few four-seater convertible rivals can offer such a comfortable, refined, high quality package.

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