The latest in a rush of launches in this sector is Volkswagen’s Eos, following on from the Volvo C70 and Vauxhall Astra TwinTop which have been launched this year. Being cloth-capped is so 1990s, it seems.
And this is good news for fleets. Gone are many of the practicality, security and vandalism issues which made soft-tops unattractive to fleet managers, and instead we have key brands offering sensible and attractive cars at a decent price, with strong residuals and a wide range of engines.
Three mid-range engines will be available from launch – 148bhp 2.0-litre FSI and 198bhp 2.0 T-FSI petrol engines and a 137bhp 2.0 TDI diesel. They will be bookended later in the summer by 1.6 and 3.2-litre petrol units.
Volkswagen believes it is in a unique position with the Eos. It is considerably more expensive than the excellent Astra TwinTop, but is cheaper than the Volvo C70, BMW 3-series and Audi A4.
Volkswagen already likes to think of the Golf as a value-led alternative to premium manufacturers and a more prestigious alternative to volume products. A similar approach with the Eos makes it a perfect fit for a user-chooser choice list.
Volkswagen expects to sell 4,000 in a full year, with the majority retail sales and buyers mostly in the 35 to 45-year-old age bracket. As the Megane and 307 CCs combined are doing about 13,000 a year, that seems a conservative amount but Volkswagen is keen to retain some exclusivity with the Eos, and, therefore, residuals.
The range starts at £19,410 for the 1.6 FSI, while diesels start at £21,360. This makes the pricing absolutely on the money for Volkswagen’s stated aim of positioning the Eos between the sectors – it’s a £2-3,000 more expensive than the equivalent Renaults et al, and £2,000 or so less than equivalent Volvo C70s.
As standard, all Eos models come with safety systems such as ESP, head and thorax airbags and pop-up roll bars. There is the usual array of options and the choice of the excellent DSG double clutch automatic gearbox.
The Eos can either used as a coupe, or with the sunroof retracted, or roof fully down.
In order to pack all the metal into the boot, the sunroof and rear screen sections slide tidily on top of the middle part, and then it all tips and gets swallowed into the boot.
It is a more efficient method than the complicated process employed in the Astra, but it does impact in one area.
Because the roof has solid, rather than splitting bars down the side there is no way for the roof to lift when it is in the boot, which is a major practicality issue because it is hard to get stuff out.
The Astra has a system which lifts up 10 centimetres to aid exit and entry but the Eos has a relatively small aperture for its 205 litres. Things are obviously better with the roof up, increasing space to 380 litres.
Much as the Jetta gets shorthanded as a Golf with a boot, the Eos will no doubt be termed a convertible Golf, but, like the Jetta, it is an amalgamation of Golf and Passat.
It is longer and wider than a Golf but has its front suspension while the rear suspension is from the Passat.
The interior takes elements that are synonymous with the entire range, although whereas cars like the Golf and Passat seem to have areas where there has been some cost-cutting, that doesn’t seem to be the case in the Eos – it’s a very upmarket cabin. And space in the back is not too bad either.
The looks of a convertible are all-important and thanks to its trick roof the Eos does not have some of the proportional oddities of the Megane and 307, like the deep windscreen and long boot. But it’s not quite as sleek as the Astra.
Residuals are looking pretty healthy as well, with CAP reckoning that after three years/60,000 miles most versions will be worth around 45% of their new value.
As befits its position, that is a few percentage points better than other volume brands, and a few points worse than premium brands.
Behind the wheel
Some of the test route was along the route from Marathon to Athens, famed for a messenger who made the run to proclaim a glorious victory over the Persians. And it seemed as though some of the roads haven’t been repaired in the 2,500 years since, which was instructive.
That’s because Volkswagen reckons its Eos is super stiff and doesn’t suffer from the shakes and rattles of other convertibles. So to pitch it over such poor surfaces was a baptism of fire, and it passed with flying colours. This car seems to have the structural integrity of the Forth rail bridge.
You would think there is a price to pay in terms of weight, as most convertibles need hefty strengthening beams for the lack of a loadbearing roof, but the Eos is only around 100kg heavier than its Golf counterpart.
The driving experience, apart from the obvious joy of open-topped motoring, is not going to set your heart a-flutter. It is perfectly adequate. The ride is impressively solid and everything functions with an easy economy but the trade-off is that it also feels detached.
Of the engines, the 2.0 T-FSI engine from the Golf GTI is obviously the highest performer (until the V6 arrives) and makes a decent roar if the accelerator is floored.
But the unblown 2.0 FSI will be more than adequate for most needs. It is smooth, has fuel economy in the mid-30s mpg, and hits 60mph from standstill in less than 10 seconds.
The 2.0 TDI diesel is something of a disappointment. It feels a little sluggish and there is a noticeable vibration transmitted in the cabin, especially at idle.
The Eos is a classy looking car, pitched at the right level, with strong residual values and it drives perfectly adequately for most customers. It should become a firm favourite.
|Model:||2.0 FSI||2.0 T-FSI||2.0 TDI|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||148/3,500||198/5,100||138/4,00|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||148/3,500||207/1,800||236/1,750|
|Max speed (mph):||130||144||128|
|Fuel economy (mpg):||34.4||34.4||47.0|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||199||197||162|