YOU could write a book on the evolution of the Volkswagen Golf. And the most interesting part of the plot would be the life and times of the GTI.
It got off to a very exciting start with the arrival of a lightweight hot-hatch that turned the motoring world on its head and introduced the masses to the joys of a practical sports car.
The Golf GTI story has had its ups and downs. Its fair to say its troubled adolescent years were a particular low point but it didn’t take long for VW to realise it was time the troubled teenager was packed off to finishing school and it’s emerged, in recent years, with a string of refreshed incarnations that are getting better and better.
A common thread that has dipped in and out of the GTI story has been the Cabriolet version.
Not everyone wants a convertible car but the GTI was so popular that the Cabriolet version of its first GTI was a huge success.
The model remained unchanged until 1993’s Mk III Golf hatchback came onto the scene and it heralded the arrival of a completely new Cabriolet, replacing the 13-year-old Mk I based version.
It was revised again in 1998 when the soft-top took design characteristics from the Golf Mk IV hatchback.
In July 2002 the story came to an abrupt halt but the arrival of this latest GTI cabriolet is part of what many Golf fans have been seing as a glorious renaissance for those three hallowed letters.
The Golf Mk VI is a really good bit of kit and the GTI is widely considered to be the best GTI ever produced, so the cabriolet begins its foray into the hearts and minds of open-top motoring on a firm footing.
The two-door, four-seater, front-engined rag top is fitted as standard with one of the best fabric roofs in the business. It’s beautifully built, making for a totally silent cabin and it can be lowered in a ridiculously fast 9.5 seconds, even when you’re driving at speeds up to 18 mph.
Unlike the early rag-top Golfs there’s no awkward tonneau cover, which helps it open so quickly and its clever design makes for less intrusion into the boot. Even with the roof down, there is 250 litres of available space.
It’s fitted with a 2.0-litre, 207bhp turbo engine which has bags of torque, making for a nice smooth power delivery and, because it only weighs 180kg more than the three-door GTI hatch, it still feels very quick.
It’s beautifully refined, too. That solidly-made roof doesn’t let in any wind noise and the engine noise is kept to a minimum.
And therein lies one of the few problems I have with this car. A good GTI should be a little bit silly. Not enough to annoy you, because a GTI should also be a car you’d be happy to take on a long motorway jaunt, but it should have just a bit of silliness about it.
Silliness seems to be missing in the latest Golf GTI. It’s a brilliant car and that’s all well and good but it’s also, during every day driving, a bit dull.
Take it out into the B roads and wring its neck and it’s anything but dull. In the Cabriolet especially, it handles brilliantly and is very exciting but, even then, you’ll find yourself wishing there was a bit more drama.
This will bother some more than others, but the whole beauty of driving a convertible is hearing the character of the engine and feeling more connected to the driving experience and how your actions behind the wheel affect the outside world.
As wonderful as the GTI Cabriolet is, it could do with a little more ‘fizz’.
But perhaps I’m being unduly harsh. Perhaps the most you’ll ever want or need from your sporty hatchback-based convertible is a peppy engine, a sweet chassis and a practical interior in which everything works as it should.
If this is your shopping list then you’re probably one of the millions of people who lusted afer the original Golf GTI Cabriolet and you’ve probably followed the turbulent story of the GTI with interest over the years.
While the story is by no means over and, while we’ve not necessarily got to the best bit yet, we’ve reached a fascinating and exciting point book of all things Golf GTI.
This latest incarnation is a great harbinger for the future of the GTI Cabriolet and gives fans plenty of faith that the next one will be every bit as good.
If the GTI story was a book, it’s just become really difficult to put down.