When the Volkswagen Eos was launched in the UK in July 2006, it was one of the early mainstream adopters of the folding metal roof. Since then, the coupé cabriolet has become a stylish option for many manufacturers.
You can see why. There have been two fabric-roofed cabriolets in our family motoring history. In nice weather both were fantastic. But, for the other 364 days (OK, exaggerate slightly) they forced compromises. If ever I had to park them on city streets or multi-storeys I would have concerns about security. They tended to be more noisy. Finally, and perhaps most serious, the expanses of fabric with a letterbox rear window, meant visibility was severely restricted.
The folding metal roof is not even a relatively new concept. Peugeot claim to have had a folding roof back in the 1930s. But its modern rise in popularity began with Mercedes-Benz and their 1996 launch of the SLK.
When I drove the Volkswagen Eos in 2006 I reckoned it set the standard for affordable coupé cabriolets. Having now driven the latest version, I stick to my words. It is perhaps an indication of how right the first Eos was, that the changes in the latest version are largely designed to bring it in line with Volkswagen’s corporate look, plus engine revisions to make it more green.
Where some coupé cabriolets look a little ungainly, with a high boot line to leave space for the folding roof, the Volkswagen Eos looks proportioned. It’s only if you look for the clues like the ‘clamshell’ boot lid and the hinge shut lines on the roof pillars, that you can spot it as a convertible.
It certainly fooled a business colleague. He asked for a lift back to his office. While agreeing, I warned him I had a cabriolet and that the roof might be down (it was a glorious day). As we walked out into the car park he looked puzzled. “I thought you said it was a convertible?,” he asked quizzically, then sat enthralled as the electronics produced a convertible with a transformer-style metal-and-glass ballet.
Perhaps inevitably the speed of raising or lowering the roof won’t break any records, compared with fabric-roofed convertibles. It takes quite a leisurely 25 seconds for the transformation. That slowness apart, I particularly like the fact that the Eos has relatively slim pillars for good visibility and an opening glass sunroof, to provide real flexibility in open-air motoring styles.
Inevitably coupé cabriolets tend to involve some compromises in the available space for passengers and luggage. After all, all the metal roof panels and complex motors to power it all, take space. So, I was surprised to find the rear seats on the Eos more usable than they initially appeared. If I could find a relatively short-legged driver, I could even have contemplated a journey sitting in the back. Any taller, however, and my head would be wearing a hole in the roof lining.
With the roof up, the boot is quite spacious. But, if you want to be able to enjoy open-air motoring you have to restrict yourself to the area below the roof storage guide. Loading or unloading anything more than shopping bags into this space requires you to have the roof in the closed position.
The test car was the Volkswagen Eos 1.4 TSI Bluemotion. The performance of this particular model is not going to get pulses racing, but neither is it going to leave you toiling in the slow lane. Perhaps it is paying the penalty for extra weight of the complex roof and gear, but there were times when I was looking for a little more urge than was on tap.
But, this is the budget model in the Eos range and there are 12 other models for those who want their motoring at a brisker pace. The Bluemotion tag makes it clear that it is economy that this model is aimed at. Its power output is dropped 38 bhp from the 160 bhp non-Bluemotion 1.4 TSI, to 122 bhp.
Acceleration 0-62 mph is 10.9 seconds. But, with its stop-start system and other economy tweaks, the Eos 1.4 TSI Bluemotion achieves a combined fuel economy of 45.6 mpg. Carbon dioxide emissions are down from 157 g/km on the non-Bluemotion model to 144 g/km dropping this model to Band F for UK car tax.
The steering, which is nice and light at parking speeds, weights up well on the open road. Not the sharpest, it turns in well. Combined with a flat cornering stance and good balance that means the Eos was an enjoyable companion on the twisty country by-ways. It also feels nicely solid, with only the occasional slight scuttle shake on the worst of bumps, to remind you this is a convertible.
Roof up or down the Eos is a quiet and refined cruiser. Even without the optional wind deflector, there is remarkably little wind buffeting.
The Eos now poses an interesting dilemma to Volkswagen aficionados. Do you go for the coupéThis entry-level Volkswagen Eos 1.4TSI Bluemotion Or, do you go with the recently revived Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet, which is based on the same floorpan and has a fabric roof. There is no 1.4 TSI Bluemotion Golf, but the less powerful and less speedy 1.2TSI comes in £2,410 cheaper.
At £23,130 the Volkswagen Eos 1.4 Bluemotion is a little more expensive than some of the other offerings in this class, but to me it feels more special and more rewarding, plus it is likely to hold more of its value when it comes time to sell.