Pros: Fun to drive Easy on gas German Feel
Cons: No glove compartment.
I bought this car slightly used (1500 miles) and it's been a great machine. In stop and go city driving I achieve 25 mpg. Even with the 4 cylinder 2.0 Liter engine, it's peppy with 115hp. The only problem I had is that the hood latch got jammed and I couldn't open the hood. The dealer fixed this free of charge under warranty.
It is a joy to drive with that true German feel-- tight yet not harshly so-- and my only complaint is the lack of a glove compartment. In 1997 VW added a glove compartment.
Consumer magazines have called this car junk. This has not been my experience. Other than the aforementioned hood latch, I have experienced no mechanical problems at all. I just passed 38,000 miles on the odometer and put on my first new set of tires.
Note that 1996 was the last year for German assembly of this model. In 1997 VW moved assembly to the plant in Mexico. Some tell me that 1996 was the last year of true German quality, so keep that in mind when looking at used Cabrios.
Interestingly, VW seems to have had a short run of a unique color each year on this car. In 1995 (first year for this bodystyle) the produced a metallic lavender. In 1996 it was a metallic orange named cinnabar (also available on the Audi A4). In 1997 (Mexican production) it was a strawberry candy red. In 1998 it was a bright (almost neon) blue. For some reason the Cabrio was never produced in silver until 2000, when it seemed like every new car was silver. That color has become too popular now.
This is also a good convertible to own if you have kids! It has a fixed roll bar (see photo), a great safety feature which does not impede on the open air feeling of the vehicle. The back seat will hold two persons comfortably (try that with your Mazda Miata!).
Also keep in mind that the Cabrio has the same basic drivetrain that commenced with the VW Rabbit back in 1975. As with the Beetle, VW has honed it and improved upon it every year since then, and now it's just about indestructible. I don't think you will find a late model Golf/Cabrio/Jetta with the L4 engine with serious engine or transmission trouble. Just change the oil and check the fluids...it keeps going and going and going...