Rag Top Fun: Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet

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Given the Golf’s core strength as playing the role of everyday car for the sensible family man, there will undoubtedly be skeptics when Volkswagen introduces a slightly less conventional model into the family. After all, not many in the market boast the same instantly recognisable mass-market appeal, so we have to hand it to VW for its laudable attempts in upholding the Golf’s historical integrity.

In steps the Mk6 Golf GTI Cabriolet, a less conventional (and arguably less celebrated) variant that finds its identity etched in a mere three generations out of the current tally of seven; like the other Golf Cabriolets, the current Mk6 spans two model versions, Mk6 and Mk7, with the Mk7 GTI hatchback breaking cover in Singapore at roughly the same time as the Mk6 GTI Cabriolet.

With its newest cabriolet, Volkswagen will have to illustrate that this, as with every other Golf since 1974, is a practical daily hauler, despite sporting a coupe-like silhouette instead of the usual hatchback proportions. Furthermore, being a GTI, it has to find ways and means to convince petrolheads that the chopped-top format, which is often less favourably regarded due to the impact on chassis rigidity and weight savings, will not come at the expense of driver-centric attributes.

GTI Cabriolet 05

For what it’s worth, the Mk6 Golf GTI Cabriolet still comes across as a bona fide Golf GTI: the front-driver is powered by the familiar turbocharged four-pot motor, and has more than adequate volume to accommodate four adults in comfort. These core attributes supply it with an endearing and somewhat enduring appeal for driver and passengers alike.

Complexity creeps in when we question its on-road ability. Slap on a GTI badge on a convertible, and driver-centric qualities come under scrutiny. Although VW markets it as a performance variant, a GTI was arguably never a hardcore purist’s choice to begin with – it should be regarded as a Jack-of-all-trades; capable, efficient, and most importantly, liveable on a day-to-day basis. On the other hand, it needs to be engaging and satisfying enough for drivers to enjoy on Sunday morning B-road runs.

GTI Cabriolet 04

In topless guise, there’s a newfound appreciation of its clear-cut DSG rapid-fire shifts and accompanying burbles on the overrun when you go easy on the pedal, which clearly sets the GTI apart from rivals. Feather the throttle and enjoy stacks of low-end torque; nail it and the Mk6 will cover ground at an effortless point-and-squirt pace.

Thanks to an electro-hydraulic motor, nine seconds is all it takes to lift the Mark 6’s hood at speeds of up to 30km/h. Style comes at a cost though – the folding mechanism adds 215kg more heft than the hatchback equivalent. Despite the added bulk, the chassis is largely free from scuttle shake, body roll is kept to a minimum, and you can still guide it through intended paths in complete confidence, thanks to the steering that is well-judged and well-weighted.

In all honesty, the first GTI in cabriolet form might not be as pure as progenitors exempted from technological enhancements. Having said that, we recognise the fact that modern examples of Golfs have inevitably grown to be bigger and smarter. As far as the Mk6 Golf GTI Cabriolet is concerned, it is still very practical proposition for the family, and extremely capable when flogged hard – these tally to supply the cabriolet with an unpretentious sense of fun, in typical GTI fashion.

VW Golf GTI Cabriolet

ENGINE: 1,984cc, turbocharged inline-4
POWER: 210bhp from 5300-6200rpm
TORQUE: 280Nm from 1700-5200rpm
GEARBOX: Six-speed DSG
WEIGHT: 1533kg
TOP SPEED: 235km/h
0-100KM/H: 7.3 secs
FUEL EFFICIENCY: 13.0km/l

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Always finding ways to keep his hands full, Krado loves to tinker with his car whenever he has the free time. Usually ends in tears or a multiple fluid facial.

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