It was cold and bleak when I went into the Volkswagen dealership to pick up a Golf cabriolet media car for evaluation.
I said to the salesman whom I was liaising with: "You wouldn't sell many cabriolets on a day like today."
"That's where you are wrong," he replied, and pointed to a white Golf cabriolet in the corner of the showroom: "It's just been sold," and as it turned out it was the car I was supposed to have for the road test. There was another on the premises, and that one is the subject of this test.
That blew my theory that cabriolets were only good for warm, dry weather motoring, and the reality is that during the time I had the test car I only had one respectable day that I could use the car with the top down.
That's the way it is in Canterbury, you have justify the cost of a soft-top because there aren't a lot of perfect days.
Nevertheless, the Golf cabriolet is a nice piece of kit and it gets the trick turbocharged TSi engine which is finding its way through more and more product in the Volkswagen group.
In the Golf cabriolet it has a displacement of 1390cc and is rated by Volkswagen at 90kW and 200Nm. It's interesting to note that the area of maximum torque is realised low down at 1400rpm to 4000rpm, and the engine works promoting low revolutions, changing up early and avoiding the fuel waste of high engine speed.
What encourages that early shift pattern is the pairing of the engine to Volkswagen's seven-speed, direct shift gearbox. Essentially, it is an automatic twin clutch system which provides much the same shift feel as a manual, but there is no driver operated clutch, there are only two pedals in the footwell.
Volkswagen claim a standstill to 100km/h time of 10.5sec for the Golf in this form along with a 197km/h top speed. The cabriolet has mediocre performance but the figures that really impress are those of its fuel consumption and that is the reason Volkswagen have further refined its TSi engine technology.
They say a 6.3-litre per 100km (45mpg) figure is achievable with this combination. I managed to have the trip computer constantly listing at around 7.5l/100km (38mpg) which included both test time and a lot of suburban runaround.
Considering the car had only travelled 24km when I picked it up and it felt a little tight in the engine, those figures are even more remarkable At 100km/h the engine works over very slow at just 2050rpm in seventh gear promoting a 6.6l/100km (43mpg) instantaneous figure.
In terms of handling, the Golf cabriolet has much the same feel as its hatchback counterparts. It has firm, informative steering with strong directional accuracy.
The cabriolet sits on Michelin Primacy tyres (225/45 x 17in). While they are quite low in profile they don't disturb the ride qualities of the car.
The suspension has enough compliance within the spring and shock settings to absorb the lack of sidewall flex. Occupants are treated to a quality low speed ride and controlled body balance when a quick corner is presented.
Cabriolets generally offer a low centre of gravity. There's not a lot of weight up top which, in turn, means lack of body movement in a corner and the Golf in this form rates well with handling. It is accurate and a great deal of fun, such is its reaction to directional change.
The Golf in this form is only a four-seater, there are only four seatbelts, those in the rear seating area are a little confined and it's not the easiest taking a seat back there, but entry and exit is no worse than any other mid-size cabriolet.
Volkswagen is putting a lot of resource into TSi technology. That along with a huge global expansion into research and development, and a sales marketing drive will see the introduction of many new products in the next few years. Volkswagen has a desire to reach the world's number one sales position.
I'm firmly of the belief that could happen, the vehicles that are rolling out of Volkswagen's factories worldwide are quality built and have personality.