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HANDSOME CAB

The Eos has always been cut from classier cloth than its chop-top hatchback rivals, and Volkswagen intends to keep it that way, as Jonathan Crouch reports.

Ten Second Review

Continuing a Volkswagen tradition in cabriolets that goes back half a century to the original Beetle, this improved Eos is a classy and elegant folding hard top convertible in a market where some competitors are anything but. A little pricier than family-hatch-based rivals but higher quality, better residuals, a more spacious rear seat and an extremely clever metal folding roof justify the premium.

Background

Convertible cars, for most of us non-lottery winners, are based on bread and butter family hatchbacks like a Renault Megane or a Peugeot 308. From there, it's quite a big price jump to the more prestigious cabriolets you find based on junior executive models like BMW's 3 Series or Audi's A5, but the difference in quality between the two categories is often huge. So what if you could have a convertible with soft-top family hatch pricing and prestigious cabriolet sector quality? Such is the thinking behind Volkswagen's Eos. Launched in 2006, it's sold steadily on these shores but with cheaper rivals upping their game, in early 2011, Volkswagen decided that a facelift was needed, along with some engine efficiency tweaks and a few equipment upgrades. Hence the model we're looking at here.

Driving Experience

This car's unique provision of a tilt and sliding sunroof for days when you don't fancy the full alfresco experience is welcome. The downside, though, is that the metre-wide glass panel required for this adds to the 22kg bulk of the CSC roof mechanism to make the EOS roughly 300kg heavier than equivalent VW Golf hatchback models (and even 100kg heavier than the much larger Passat). So you might not expect the powerplants on offer to have quite the same pep as they do when fitted to some of the brand's other models.

In the event, it's not too bad: the engines on offer are a willing bunch, though only the flagship 210PS 2.0-litre TSI petrol unit feels truly fast, using a Golf GTI unit to crest sixty from rest in 7.8s on the way to 148mph. Over 60 per cent of Eos customers though, opt to fill their cars from the back pump, choosing the 140PS 2.0 TDI diesel variant which wafts you along on a wave of torque and feels faster than the 10.3s 0-60mph time would suggest. Both these 2.0-litre models come with the option of a clever 6-speed twin-clutch semi-automatic DSG gearbox with lightening quick changes but a price tag which will take your total outlay well above the £25,000 mark.

The 1.4-litre TSI petrol models offer an alternative, but perhaps no less appealing, combination of virtues. There's a 160PS variant that's not much slower than the top 2.0-litre petrol turbo, but the model driven here is the entry-level 122PS 1.4-litre TSI petrol unit, which manages rest to sixty in 10.9s on the way to 123mph.

Maybe an apt slogan for the EOS would be 'never mind the performance, feel the ride', because it's quite superb, the shudders and shakes that afflict so many roofless models having been banished over all but the worst tarmac imperfections. Sport models get tauter springs but even the standard Eos handles well and there's loads of grip, though this isn't a car you'll often want to drive just for the fun of it. The Eos doesn't feel like a convertible once its roof is in place. It's quiet and a glance skyward reveals a convincing looking ceiling. Roof down, all the engines bar the diesel keep themselves to themselves during the sort of low-speed cruising that lets bystanders get an eyeful of the car's impressive looks.

Design and Build

The acid test of any folding metal top car is in how it looks with the roof in place. Well, as you might expect, this one isn't at its best when fully closed up but from the front end at least, it's a little smarter than it used to be revised headlamps with optional LED daytime running lights, a revised front grille and a modified front bumper that adds 16mm to the overall length. From the side, you follow a sharply rising wedge line to the boot, where a smarter set of Passat-like rear tail lamps have been fitted.

But the CSC roof is really what this car is all about, intended to combine the elements of a hard-top coupe, sliding glass sunroof and full convertible metal roof. With everything erect, you could be excused for not knowing that this was a convertible at all, which says much about the system's seamless integration. Of course, a boot restricted to 380-litres in size might give the game away a little but that's still well comparable to what you'd get in a Golf hatchback.

As for the roof itself, the mechanism is unchanged over the original version of this car, save for the option buyers now get of operating it remotely. Most of the time though, you'll be dealing with the folding top via the controls located within the front centre armrest. The folding roof mechanism is worked by an electro-hydraulic pump with no fewer than eight hydraulic cylinders and sandwiches itself into five separate pieces in just 25 seconds.

Of course, once the convertible panels have folded themselves into the boot, they'll also have munched through a large part of the available baggage space on offer, roof-down luggage capacity falling to just 205-litres. That's a little less than you'd find in a family hatchback-based convertible like Renault's Megane Coupe-Cabriolet or Peugeot's 308CC, but the designers have robbed a little of the boot space in pursuit of a rear seating area that can comfortably accommodate two adults as long as the journey isn't too long. To rival that, you'll need a much pricier executive sector cabriolet based on something like an Audi A5, a BMW 3 Series or a Saab 9-3.

It's this aspect of the car that'll be vital to dealers in differentiating this Eos from the Golf Convertible which must sell alongside it. The Eos is a longer car and sits on a wider track with rear suspension borrowed from the larger Passat. The interior's different too, beautifully assembled in the Portuguese factory and more expensively trimmed than you'd find in a Golf, with chrome trim highlights, smarter fabrics and the option of 'cool' leather that doesn't heat up and burn your backside when you re-enter the car after leaving the roof open parked in the sun.

Market and Model

It's likely that you'll be paying somewhere in the £23,000 to £33,000 bracket for your Volkswagen Eos, depending on the model you choose and the spec preferred. The premium for diesel power is only around £600 over the pokier version of the 1.4-litre TSI petrol unit but that still means you'll need a budget of around £25,000 for the 2.0 TDI 140PS model. Many will think this a fair price given the way that this Volkswagen's classy feel and spacious rear seat puts it into contention with Audi A5 and BMW 3 Series-class executive convertibles that could cost you up to £5,000 more.

The Volkswagen Eos engine line-up includes a 1.4-litre TSI turbocharged 122PS entry level unit (also available with 160PS) and the engine out of the Golf GTI, the turbocharged 2.0-litre TSI that's good for 210PS. Diesel customers are catered for with a 140PS 2.0-litre unit. All come reasonably well equipped, complete with features like air conditioning that also cools the glovebox, front foglights, alloy wheels, power mirrors, a hill holder clutch, rear parking sensors, a decent quality 8-speaker MP3 and iPod-compatible CD stereo and electric windows. Most buyers will want to specify the optional wind deflector which clips across the rear seat area, lessening buffeting at speed, but effectively reducing your car to a two-seater. Leather trim which keeps its cool in bright sunlight will also be a tempting option.

The Eos will be safer than a comparable soft-top in a roll-over with the roof up. When the roof is down, aluminium roll bars will pop up in just a quarter of a second if sensors detect that a roll-over is imminent. The standard ESP stability control electronics should help the driver prevent this but if it does go on to happen, head and thorax airbags cleverly designed into the front screen surround will shoot out to protect you. Plus there are Isofix child seat attachments in the rear, anti-whiplash front head restraints and the usual electronic braking and traction aids.

Cost of Ownership

Go for an Eos with either the 122PS 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine tested here or the 140PS 2.0-litre TDI diesel and you'll find it equipped with 'BlueMotion' bading. The 'BlueMotion Technology' package in these variants will give you a battery regeneration system designed to reclaim and help utilise energy that would otherwise be lost under braking. Something you'll notice a little more though, is the Stop/Start system that cuts the engine when you're not using it, say at the lights or in heavy urban traffic. With these elements in place, this 1.4-litre TSI 122PS variant is able to achieve 45.6mpg on the combined cycle and put out 144g/km of CO2, not a million miles from the figures recorded by the diesel version - 58.9mpg and 125g/km. A gearchange indicator should help owners get somewhere close to these kinds of figures on a day-to-day basis.

The 160PS 1.4-litre TSI variant does without the BlueMotion gadgetry, but still manages 41.5mpg and 157g/km, but if you opt for the top 2.0 TSI petrol flagship, the figures take a tumble to 39.8mpg and 165g/km..

Summary

You can see why someone might buy an Eos. True it could be better to drive - and to look at with the roof up - but then you could say the same for most cars of this kind. Ultimately, the bottom line is that it's a compact cabriolet with the class of a BMW or an Audi at not too much more than you'd pay for a convertible Renault or Peugeot.

Strong points include rear seat passenger room, an impressively efficient engine range and buoyant residual values. Best of all, there's that brilliantly engineered folding top with its clever sunroof feature meaning you're not needing to constantly put the full top up and down on one of those typically British days where it's sunny one minute and showery the next. A convertible for the real world then. How very German.


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