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Winner: Convertible - Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet

Volkswagen's Golf without a roof triumphed over the spectacular but expensive Porsche Boxster.

PT2M58S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2adgi 620 349

Contenders

Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet (winner)
Porsche Boxster


Our reigning champion in the convertible category, the Golf Cabriolet, is a tough package to beat, offering room for a family, stellar fuel economy, gritty performance and competitive pricing. As one judge said, it's “a hot hatch with a convertible roof".

So – what could possibly threaten such a stellar all-round performer? What could thunder into the picture, overturn and then trample the DCOTY Best Convertible apple cart?

Only the other-worldly brilliance of the Porsche Boxster. Faced with two terrific vehicles and no easy choice, judges waded into a week of testing that challenged the convertibles in hurling rain, sunshine, across pockmarked country roads and on a twisting, tight race track.

Drive's Best Convertible for 2012 is the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet. Click for more photos

2012 Best Convertible of the Year

Drive's Best Convertible for 2012 is the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet.

  • Drive's Best Convertible for 2012 is the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet.
  • Drive's Best Convertible for 2012 is the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet.
  • Drive's Best Convertible for 2012 is the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet.
  • Drive's Best Convertible for 2012 is the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet.

Our Golf Cabriolet 118TSI DSG sported a DSG dual-clutch gearbox, with the starting price a low $39,490. Fired along by a turbocharged, supercharged, 1.4-litre 4-cylinder engine that felt bigger than the sum of its parts (more than one judge assumed it was a 2.0-litre) the Golf handled itself well on road and track. While it lacked a few of the mod cons, including heated seats, reversing sensors and cameras, there was generally a lot of love for the clever convertible, and unanimous respect for its value proposition.

A degree of Teutonic blandness sapped some fun out of the interior, which one judge reckoned was "classy five years ago", and another thought was "slab-like". If you're after a competent, four-seater convertible for a competitive price, the Golf has it nailed, and with a comprehensive airbag package it's a safe option all around.

But the challenger was formidable: the Porsche Boxster, a vehicle so finely honed in the comfort and performance stakes that the judges were comparing it favourably against the twice-the-price 911.

The beauty of the Boxster is its ability to make the most average driver feel like a rock star, using agility rather than raw speed and power. It's a car that can be flogged on the track and back up for a serene drive through the countryside.

Our tested model came with numerous options including natural leather, 20-inch wheels, BOSE sound, sports steering wheel and metallic paint, all of which increased the base price of $107,000 by almost $22,000. While some took umbrage at the bordello-esque,blood-red interior, others loved it, but all agreed that the base-model Porsche is a benchmark for sporty convertibles.

In terms of comfort and utility, the boot and "frunk" (front trunk) storage is decent, but the cabin storage is fairly woeful. But with great seats, upmarket ambience, a note-perfect engine and sweet-shifting manual – seriously, what's not to love? Apart from more than sixty grand in change, if you choose the Golf.

Emotions were with the Boxster, but the Golf convertible delivers a healthy reality check with great bang for buck, fuel economy and the fact that four people get to enjoy it at once.

That combination was enough for six votes to the Boxster's three.

Comment: What is the most important attribute of a convertible?  Is it value for money?  An ability to drive fast and hatless with the top down and not ruffle your 'do?  To carry an entire family en plein air and have all four bums cupped in warm, leathery seats?  For me a convertible is all about an exhilarating, direct drive with the wind in my hair, the sun on my back and, ideally, a twisty road lined with overhanging trees, free of oncoming trucks and wandering wildlife.  With both contenders ticking all the DCOTY criteria boxes, this a category where your heart gets a vote too...or at least, it should.