There have been very few cars that have matched Volkswagen’s “GTI” signature, both in terms of longevity – the Golf GTI made its debut 37 years ago – as well as sheer driving performance. Which is probably why it’s no surprise when we found out from the local branch that the German automotive giant has shifted over 1.9 million of this model.
The 2.0-litre TSI engine is just fantastic when you’re trying to get through slow-moving traffic (we were in the usual drudgery of Raffles Place at 7pm on a workday). Its ability to accelerate from zero to 100km/h in just 7.3 seconds was certainly a joy, and it shaved minutes off our commute home, given we could overtake road hogs with ease (legally, of course).
One common gripe most cabriolet drivers have is the relative bumpiness of their rides. What most carmakers do to make up for the rigidity cars lose when they chop the roof off is to use stiffer, lighter materials. Unfortunately, in our opinion, this is something the GTI Cabriolet suffers from as well, especially when we drove over roads that were affected by flooding (or ponding) and suffering from post-pothole syndrome.
But perhaps it’s for the best. The trade-off that cabriolet owners make in exchange for some driving comfort is that their cars are designed for optimal safety, even without the protection of a roof. As with most other open-top cars, Volkswagen has installed a rollover protection system that rapidly deploys in a fraction of a second should you end up doing acrobatics with the GTI Cabriolet, as well as numerous other structural modifications in the underbody, side parts, sills, rear bulkhead and doors.
In addition, the convertible’s standard equipment includes an electronic transverse differential lock, which further improves vehicle dynamics and safety while it is accelerating through bends.
Visually, the GTI Cabriolet maintains most of the distinctive visual features of the marque – from its red-framed radiator grille with honeycomb structure and GTI signature to its front bumper, rear diffuser, chrome tailpipes, LED rear lights and 18-inch alloy wheels. There’s no mistaking this car for any other, despite its soft top.
We feel the instrument panel looks terribly dated, with its dull white text on black background and functional-looking 5.8-inch colour touch-head unit also quite underwhelming. Perhaps it’s also because the car’s RNS 510 audio system with navigation spoilt our first impression – we found it had a bad case of the blahs, with neither kick nor timbre in the bass and treble of its stock speakers, as well as the navigation system being quite a headache to navigate (pun intended).
That said, we did enjoy the sporty trimmings that the GTI badge usually comes with – the sports seats upholstered in “Vienna” cool leather is a nice touch, as well as its pedals with brushed stainless steel caps, and the decorative red seams found on the steering wheel, gear shift cover and leather trim of the parking brake lever.
Form and function
Overall, the GTI Cabriolet still represents a car worth aspiring to own. There’s little that can beat the experience of gliding on an expressway with the wind in your hair (hot girl by your side optional), knowing that the engine underneath the hood has got the power to hit 235km/h.
What tips this model on the side of greatness is the fact that beyond the glitz and glamour, the car is also a practical choice for pragmatic Singaporeans. Usually, cabriolet owners have a headache when it comes to boot size – its retractable soft top usually eats quite substantially into that. But the GTI Cabriolet boasts 250 litres in rear storage space, as well as practical bag hooks in the side walls. In addition, next to the hooks are remote unlatching switches for folding the 50:50 split rear bench seats, which significantly increases cargo capacity.
Form and function. What more could a car lover ask?
ENGINE: 2.0 TSI 4-cylinder
0-100KM/H: 7.3 seconds
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