With an MSRP in the mid-$30s, you might think the 2012 Volkswagen Eos a tad bit expensive. Especially when the car looks like a Jetta with a retractable hardtop. That fancy top can't really account for a $15,000 premium, can it?
The new Eos has a few tricks up its fenders to separate it from its lowly platform-mate. The cabin features soft-touch materials over the dashboard, fully powered, heated seats, and a standard navigation system in the mid-trim Lux and high-trim Executive models.
The engine is Volkswagen's direct-injection, turbocharged 2-liter, a very efficient power plant. And the transmission is the Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), an automated manual with two computer-controlled clutches. This is the kind of performance gear you find in the GTI.
But the front of the Eos follows the same design as the new Jetta. The two cars are about the same length. The side panels of the Eos are featureless, while the necessary seams for the retractable hardtop make the whole canopy ugly.
Granted, that retractable top is a nice addition to the car. A switch on the console makes it fold up like origami, stacking its panels and stowing itself in the trunk. Volkswagen even managed to include a sunroof by making one of the panels out of glass. The result is a very wide view out the top over the front seats, and Volkswagen advertises the Eos as the only convertible with a sunroof.
However, like most retractable hardtops, it causes an extreme imposition on trunk space. With the roof folded down, there is room in the trunk for a small roller bag at most.
When you look at the cabin electronics, the Eos doesn't really shed the Jetta comparison. The navigation unit that comes with the Eos Lux is the same as what you can get in the Jetta.
The new navigation system uses maps stored in flash memory, ensuring quick response times. These maps are easily readable, with good resolution, although the navigation screen is small, and there is no traffic data.
For the infotainment system, Volkswagen uses a semicircular menu design that works very well for navigation, stereo, and the Bluetooth phone system. A push-button knob is all you need to scroll through options and make selections, but the LCD is also a touch screen, allowing for more direct interaction.
And similarly to sister brand Audi, the Eos gets a screen on the instrument cluster that shows not only trip data, but also phone, navigation, and stereo information. There is a voice command system, but it only controls the phone.
The stereo offers a good range of audio sources, from satellite radio to iPod integration to Bluetooth streaming. There is even an SD card slot in the head unit's faceplate. The onscreen interface works well when browsing an iPod library, with good response times. But there is no Pandora or other app integration.