Sporty/performance car; Built in Germany, Mexico
  • 2-door convertible
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,600 – $4,000*


1995 Volkswagen Cabrio


1995 Volkswagen Cabrio


1997 Volkswagen Cabrio Highline


1997 Volkswagen Cabrio


1997 Volkswagen Cabrio interior

Pros:
  • Antilock brakes
  • Fuel economy
  • Ride
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Cargo room
  • Visibility

If a sharp-looking, crisp-handling, solidly built convertible is on your shopping list, Volkswagen might be the place to look. Prices aren’t so cheap, however, and because sales never reached high levels, not too many are on the market.

Overview

Volkswagen’s Cabrio is based on the mid 1990s front-drive Golf hatchback and Jetta sedan. It replaced the old Rabbit-based Cabriolet. Dual airbags and antilock brakes were standard, and the soft top opened manually. The glass rear window incorporated a defogger. A fixed roll bar added structural rigidity and provided mounting points for height-adjustable manual front seatbelts. Sole engine was a 115-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard; electronic 4-speed automatic optional.

Yearly Updates

1996 Cabrio
Daytime running lights became standard for 1996, and a new dashboard switch for the standard central locking system could lock or unlock both doors and the trunk.
1997 Cabrio
For ’97, two versions went on sale: a “value-leader” base model and a posh, lavishly equipped Highline.
1998 Cabrio
Volkswagen replaces the Highline with the GLS model and adds a standard power convertible top. Also, optional on all models are seat-mounted front side airbags.
1999 Cabrio
Cabrio got mildly revised front and rear fascias to go with redesigned dashboards, featuring new radio and climate controls. Instrumentation backlighting changed from white to blue.
2000 Cabrio
Cabrios stuck with the platform of the 1994-98 Golf, which has been redesigned for ’99. An in-dash CD player became optional, alarm systems were revised, and a dashboard light now illuminated when brakes needed servicing.
2001 Cabrio
Cabrio added a plush GLX model for 2001. The new GLX included a power top, along with leather seats and alloy wheels.
2002 Cabrio
For ’02, heated front seats were standard on the GLS and GLX, the self-dimming rearview mirror gained an on/off switch, and silver Cabrios are available with a gray instead of a white top. VW’s bumper-to-bumper warranty was now 4 years/50,000 mi. instead of 2/24,000, and the powertrain warranty was 5/60,000 instead of 10/100,000. No ’03 models were produced as Cabrio was effectively replaced by the New Beetle Convertible.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

All Cabrios used the same engine: a 115-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, borrowed from the Golf/Jetta. Either a 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic might be installed.

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/121
Engine HP 115
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 122
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
23/30
22/28
27.5
25.1

Road Test

With either transmission, get-up-and-go is adequate from a stop, and passing power is decent on the highway. The engine produces a hearty growl under acceleration and cruises quietly. Gas mileage is a definite plus: Expect to average about 25 mpg. Road noise is moderate and top-up wind noise surprisingly low. The body feels more solid than most convertibles, and those Cabrios that we’ve driven when nearly new have been devoid of squeaks.

A Cabrio is stable at highway speeds and its ride is firm, but absorbent enough to soak up most bumps. You enjoy sprightly handling and firm, precise steering, as well as good grip on wet roads. Front power-window switches are on armrests, while rear-window switches are mounted oddly at the dashboard center. Otherwise, the dashboard is conveniently laid out, with the climate controls and stereo mounted high enough to make them easy to see and operate.

Space is ample for adults in front, and the rear seat holds two adequately. Front seats are firm and supportive, but not wide enough to be comfortable for stout people. A Cabrio’s top folds flatter than the old Cabriolet’s, so it interferes less with rear visibility. With the top raised, rear side glass and a large rear window provide generally good visibility for a convertible. No glovebox is included, and trunk capacity is meager–a mere 7.8 cubic feet.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2001 Volkswagen Cabrio auto

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 3
30%
Fuel Economy - 7
70%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 5
50%
Quietness - 4
40%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Front - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
30%
Cargo Room - 1
10%

Other

Value - 3
30%

Total: 41

Specifications

2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.2 160.4 66.7 56.0
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
7.8 14.5 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.7 36.6 42.3 31.1
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Cabrio 2-door convertible

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Front Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 89
Injury 95
Theft 78

Trouble Spots

Airbags
Description: Installing an aftermarket glovebox could cause serious injury in the case of a deployment. (1995-96)
Automatic transmission
Description: The transmission may shift late, may not upshift, or may downshift unnecessarily due to a bad transmission-fluid-temperature sensor. (1997)
Dashboard lights
Description: The low coolant level light may come on due to a bad coolant sensor or improper antifreeze mixture. (1995-96)
Doors
Description: The door locks tend to freeze in cold weather. New locks with drain holes are available. (1995-96)
Hard starting
Description: Intermittent no-start or stalling condition is often due to the #3 relay. No trouble codes are stored in computer. (1993-96)
Transmission noise
Description: The final drive ring-and-pinion gears get damaged from a chipped reverse gear in transmissions built before 01/04/97, when a strainer was added during production. (1995-97)

Recall History

2000-01
Description: Child-restraint anchorage systems are not properly marked or described in the owner’s manuals.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.