Just as the Golf GTI spawned many imitators such as the Escort XR3i and the Peugeot 205 GTi , so the success of the Golf Cabriolet pushed rival manufacturers to make open versions of their hot hatches. While the Mk2 Golf has pursued refinement in its chassis and overall deportment, the Carbriolet retains the more raunchy and vibrant feel of the original GTI . Because of this, it remains a better open-air fun car than its direct rivals. The engine of the Cabriolet is smooth, sweet and torquey and, when you have the hood down, the powerful rasp of the exhaust note under hard acceleration adds to the sensation of open-air motoring.
With more weight in the rear, the Cabriolet has a different handling balance from the GTI . Its tuck-in is more pronounced if you lift off the throttle at high cornering speeds and the way to avoid an oversteering situation is to flick the steering wheel straight as you lift off. For an open car converted from a saloon, the VW Cabriolet has good structural rigidity. Scuttle shake is detectable but it is not worrying. Acceleration and top speed are down on the GTI because of the extra weight and the blunter shape, but open-air motoring is not about flat-out driving: it is about enjoying the sights and sounds around you in a car that is tactile, responsive and civilized. The Golf Cabriolet has these attributes in full measure.
While in essence the Corrado has the fioorpan and chassis from the Golf GTI Mk2, its rear axle design benefits from further technical progress made between the launch of Golf 2 in 1983 and the new Passat in 1987. The most significant feature is the passive rear-steer effect given by the special bushes that locate the trailing arms. The dynamic effect of rear wheel steering is better turn-in, better crossvvind stability and more stable cornering. The Golf 2 is already very good when driven on the limit. It is initially hard to believe that the Corrado is significantly better, but those flexible bushings work very well and help to reduce understeer in fast corners. The reduced slip angles enhance cornering power and the Corrado’s poise through corners sets new standards for front-wheel-drive hatchback cars.
The Corrado 16V is about 400lb heavier than the equivalent Golf GTI 16V. Thus you have to use the gears more to get up to speed, but superior aerodynamics mean that the car is quick once you have overcome inertia. The Euro-spec G60 offers performance more in line with the looks and chassis behaviour of the car, but with a penalty at the petrol pump as with any car that uses forced aspiration. The stiffer chassis creates even higher levels of handling and roadholding than the 16V, but the ride is firmer too. On smooth German roads this is fine, but on some broken British A-roads, the ride can become a little jittery.
In terms of build quality and refinement, the Corrado is superb. The car feels hewn from the solid. The driving position will be familiar to those who have owned Sciroccos or even a Porsche 924/944! The difference is that you can get two adults into the back seats of the Corrado and its ability to cruise happily at three-figure speeds makes it a real Grand Touring coupe.