06 September 2012 by Kieren Puffett, Editor

  • Golf diesel soft-top goes head to head with GTi version
  • Diesel’s pulling power can match petrol turbo on the road
  • Drop-top GTi ultimately faster but has major drink problem

You buy a convertible with your heart and not your head, because let's face it it isn't the most practical of cars.

And if you are going to let your heart totally rule your car buying decision then the hot VW Golf GTi convertible with its 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine is always going to race to the top of the list.

However, given the frugality of my VW Golf 2.0-litre diesel and its strong pulling power can the head and heart both win? Or does compromise just leave you with the worst of both worlds? The only way to find out is a head-to-head test.

As it seems is always the way this summer, when the GTi soft-top lines up to take on the Parkers long term VW Golf Convertible diesel, it pours with rain. Still, with a twisting country lane and challenging set of bends to play with this is still one test to savour.

So it's off out in the GTi. This is the six-speed manual version - with a fluid change and gearing that suits the power delivery of the 2.0-litre petrol turbo. This is no peaky monster, but builds power from low down starting from below 2,000rpm all the way through to near 6,000rpm.

It’s the clean way the engine revs and the smooth, quick gear changes that make it such an engaging drive. It really focuses your mind on the road ahead. It’s very pleasurable, and it isn't hard to picture how doing this on a late sunny summer’s eve won’t have you grinning from ear to ear.

Conversely if pottering is the order of the day, then the gear change indicator encourages quick upshifts to hit top gear by the time you are doing 40mph.

It suits roof/window down cruising and leaves you to enjoy a head back, body relaxed and arm draped over window sill smooth cruising. The only way to make it any more velvety is by wearing a smoking jacket and listening to Cool Jazz FM – nice.

However, spear off smooth A-roads onto bumpy back roads and that sports suspension makes its presence felt. Yes, things do get lively, but levels of grip are impressive.

Handling is definitely helped by the progressive power delivery – no sudden power bursts to upset grip – just a chance to really enjoy the drive even on soaking wet roads.

So does the GTi cast a dark shadow over its diesel sibling? In terms of outright performance the GTi clearly wins it. It sprints to 62mph from rest in 7.3 seconds and can go on to 146mph.

Translated to British roads with its potholes, road kill and rolling 50mph road blocks it will ultimately be quicker A to B. It has the more powerful engine to achieve it.

But it is closer than you might think. The 2.0-litre diesel has strong pulling power that delivers acceleration quickly without the need to build revs. It hits 62mph from standstill in 9.9 seconds – not a whole lot slower especially when you remember that outright performance numbers only really count on race tracks not crowded, craggy roads.

What’s more the Golf diesel is way more fuel efficient. During this road test it achieved 47.4mpg, the GTi an indicated 19mpg overall. In short, you pay at the pump for outright performance. Just as well the GTi version can smooth cruise with the best of them, but the diesel is no slouch either. 

Don't forget, if you have a VW Golf Convertible or any convertible then we want to hear what you think about your car. Your opinion matters so let us know in owners reviews.

VW Golf Convertible GTi clocks

GTi Cabrio is ultimately faster but use it and fuel economy plummets

Current mileage: 7,835 miles

Average mpg: 47.4 mpg