1996 Volkswagen Cabrio

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$19,975

starting MSRP

1996 Volkswagen Cabrio

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

1 trim

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

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1996 Volkswagen Cabrio review: Our expert's take

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Volkswagen has a long history of manufacturing convertibles, dating back to the days of the VW “Bug” and a highly styled model called the Karmann Ghia.

Karmann still looms large in Volkswagen’s scheme of things. The renowned custom coach builder, the Karmann Coachworks, puts its stamp on the 1996 Volkswagen Cabrio, a soft-top automobile manufactured in conjunction with VW.

The ’96 Cabrio is designed and built as a convertible, not a sedan with a sawed-off roof.

“Volkswagen is coming back big time,” said Ron Vanaags, general manager of Speedway Volkswagen-Mazda. “And the Cabrio is one of their products that is helping them do it.”

Great for fun-in-the-sun motoring during the warm- weather season in Indiana, the Cabrio actually is an all-season automobile. By virtue of a durable six-layer top that is hand fitted, occupants can feel snug as a bug in a rug when outside weather conditions require a closed car.

“You would think they would sell mainly in the summer,” Vanaags said, “but we sell them all year around.”

The top’s multi-layer design provides insulation from extreme heat, as well as cold. In addition to durability under all conditions, the outside layer of PVC-coated vinyl resists abrasive wear and allows the top to be cleaned in a drive-through car wash.

Middle layers of thermal and sound insulation shield the cabin from moisture, cold and road noise. A glass rear window complete with electric defroster provides a permanently clear view.

On really hot days, the optional air-conditioning system is recommended, since the insulation layers are not going to completely block heat conductivity. However, the same thing applies to a steel-roofed sedan.

The lack of rear quarter windows reduces right-corner visibility for drivers who tend to look over their shoulder to check on traffic on their right side. The outside mirror overcomes this disadvantage and, with the top down, there is unlimited visibility in all directions.

The top is manually operated, but not to panic. A single pressure-point storage system secures the top above the trunk, and it comes back up just as easily.

One feature that I like about the Cabrio is the permanently installed roll bar, also called a Targa bar. It is anchored to the central-body pillars just behind where the doors latch for maximum protection in case of a rollover.

Like most compact- class convertibles, the Cabrio is a four-seater. Offering 82 cubic feet of interior space, there is about 10 more inches of leg room in the front than in the rear.

The Cabrio has front-wheel drive, with a 2.0-liter (121- cubic-inche), single-overhead-cam, four-cylinder engine under the hood. The transmission is a five-speed manual which makes the Cabrio a driver’s car. There’s also an optional four-speed automatic transmission available with adaptive technology that adjusts shift patterns to your driving style.

VW has been making this motor for what seems like forever, updating all the way. It’s a solid 8-va lve engine which produces 115 horsepower and 122 foot- pounds of torque.

The cockpit layout is familiar ground with front- bucket seats separated by a center console that holds the gearshift lever. For optimum driving positions, the driver’s seat sits up high and can be adjusted. The steering wheel also is height adjustable.

The Cabrio’s instrumentation includes the conventional speedometer, tachometer, temperature and fuel gauges, and an odometer. For running a high-speed engine like this with a five-speed, I would have liked to have seen them include an oil-pressure gauge.

With a base price of $19,975, there are power accessories and air conditioning as options. One item that is standard is a central power-locking system that controls the trunk and fuel-filler door.

It also can selectively lock or unlock either door and can close or open all windows by holding the key in the do or-lock position.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.5
  • Interior design 3.5
  • Performance 3.5
  • Value for the money 5.0
  • Exterior styling 4.0
  • Reliability 4.0

Most recent consumer reviews

4.1

Simply marvelous

The 1996 Cabrio is my first car. Put simply, I adore it. As for durability, three people have learned stick shift on the 5-speed manual model. It is all but indestructible. I would recommend it heartily to anyone wanting to learn stick shift. Mine also lacks a glove compartment, but there are other "shelf" like things by the seat which can hold documents and manuals. It is surprisingly roomy. Everyone is surprised when they see my large trunk. It must have been designed by a wizard. It handles well. With only 4 cylinders, it takes awhile to accelerate, but runs great. Fortunately for my taller friends, the top is easy to remove. One of my latches tends to stick, so I move it out of the way before lifting the top - not a huge problem. The wheels tend to squeal a little in the rain, but it steers well. The instrument panel light has died. I have not had trouble with water. There is minimal leakage during automatic car washes. (The manual admits this.) NOTICE: This car takes MINERAL OIL for steering fluid. Regular fluid will cause the car to sound like a small cat being slowly strangled to death. I love this little car and will be very sad to part with it.

4.0

Cute and fun, but a few design flaws

I acquired this car when it was 11 years old with 80K miles. I prefer small cars and have found the Cabrio to perform very well for its size. Visibility through rear window seems better than average for convertibles, but road noise from roof seems worse. Backseat is surprisingly comfortable for size of car, and front seat passenger/driver headroom is also ample compared to other compact models I've driven. Originally I did not admire the visually prominent roll bar, but now I find it charming. I encountered several unexpected drawbacks, including: ? Unusually small wheels cause the steering to pull side to side on uneven or bumpy pavement. However, steering and suspension feel tight and responsive otherwise. ? There is no glove compartment, apparently due to the location of the passenger-side airbag. Nor are there any other closed storage compartments of any kind inside the car, only open pockets in doors and alongside front seats! This makes it awkward to leave the roof open when car is parked, even for a short time, as there is nowhere to store sunglasses, GPS, power adapters, etc. except for the trunk. ? During rain, significant water runs into interior of car from roof when door is opened. Convertible roof design doesn't permit typical gutters above doors, but structure of roof seems to contribute to the problem. Overall I enjoy the car and plan to keep it indefinitely.

See all 2 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Volkswagen
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
MY 2015-MY 2017 vehicles/75,000 miles; MY 2018- MY 2019 vehicles/72,000 miles; MY 2020 and newer vehicles/75,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
Vehicles purchased on or after 1/5/21: MY 2017 & older, 2 yrs/24,000 miles (whichever is 1st) limited warranty; MY 2018-19, 1 yr/12,000 miles (whichever is 1st) limited warranty; MY 2020 & newer, 2 years/24,000 miles (whichever is 1st) limited warranty
Dealer certification required
100-plus point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

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