The Volkswagen Eos is conservatively styled, but pleasant enough to look at. Its low-slung design is short and stubby in profile, almost like a toy. Styling updates for 2012 freshen the Eos's appearance without radically changing its familiar lines.
The Eos is categorized as a subcompact by the federal government. Its width and wheelbase (the distance from the center of the front wheels to the center of the rear wheels) are identical to Volkswagen's GTI and Jetta models, but bumper to bumper the Eos measures about eight inches longer than the GTI hatchback and about six inches shorter than the Jetta sedan.
With its folding hardtop up, the Eos doesn't look anything like a soft-top convertible. Its windshield has a low, sloping rake and, keeping with the coupe theme, the Eos has no middle roof pillars. The rear pillars are narrower than those on a traditional soft-top convertible. The trunk lid is expansive and flat, making room for top stowage underneath.
The 2012 Eos styling changes start in front, where a three-bar grille connects re-shaped light clusters. Each grille slat is shiny black and trimmed with a narrow chrome strip. The two-part taillights are re-shaped, too, spanning the trunk lid and rear fenders with LED elements, and no conventional bulbs. The rear bumper is smoother than before, with a single twin-tip exhaust pipe poking out under the left side.
A button on the remote key fob allows the operator to lower the roof while still walking to the car. It's a handy feature, and fun to watch the five-piece glass and metal top lower itself from outside the car. The top rises up a foot or so before the trunk lid opens and the rear window folds, and then all the pieces stack themselves and drop under the trunk lid. The process takes about 25 seconds, starting with the side windows up. Closing, in reverse order, takes about 35 seconds.
The glass portion of the roof adds value, because the forward third can simply slide back and stop. So configured, it works like a conventional, albeit very wide, sunroof. Park Distance Control does more than warn of parking obstacles hidden at bumper height. It also warns if anything will impede unobstructed operation of the top when it's opening or closing.
There's almost nothing to complain about inside the Volkswagen Eos, assuming a buyer's expectations aren't too far out of line. This convertible is a subcompact car, not a mid-size or something larger. There's plenty of room for front-seat passengers, and the back seat will work in a pinch, though it isn't a particularly friendly place. The interior design and materials are attractive, and controls are easy to learn and operate.
Improvements to the 2012 Eos interior are both cosmetic and substantive. The cosmetics include matte chrome detailing around the gauges and on the doors, with bright trim framing the window switches. The functional additions include a standard HD radio receiver and Volkswagen's Keyless Entry and Start System. An Eos owner can now open the doors or start the car without removing the key from pocket or purse.
In general, materials used inside the Eos are very good, but not fabulous. The plastics on the doors and dash are not the most visually attractive, but they're heavy and sturdy, and we'd guess they'll stand-up well under the heavy UV exposure one might expect in a convertible. The contrasting trim is an attractive silver-metallic plastic in the base model. The Lux and Executive models add a swath of genuine burl walnut along the lower edge of the dash and around the gearshift. Still, the Eos's real strength is immaculate fit and build precision. Every interior panel aligns perfectly, with tight connections and no visible gaps.
The base Eos Komfort has vinyl seating, and we'd be perfectly satisfied owning it. VW's V-Tex vinyl is sturdy and excellently grained, not particularly sticky, and presumably care-free in an open car.
The front seats are large and spacious for a relatively small car, and very comfortable. They're firm enough to grip, but comfortable over the long haul, and the side bolsters are substantial enough to keep bodies in place during reasonably aggressive driving. The standard seat heaters get very warm, and legitimately allow comfortable top-down motoring when the outside temperature is in the 50s.
Window buttons and door releases are properly placed, allowing the driver to operate them with the forearm flat on the door's armrest, no wrist contortions required. And we love the extra (fifth) window switch. It allows all four side windows to be raised or lowered simultaneously with one button.
Gauges in the Eos have big, white numbers on a black background. The tachometer sits on the left, with a coolant temperature gauge inset, while the speedometer surrounds the fuel gauge on the right. In the middle sits an LCD screen that shows direction, outside temperature and a range of vehicle and trip functions. It's very easy to read, and controlled by buttons on the right steering-wheel spoke. The left spoke has buttons for audio, phone and voice control. The wheel rim is thick and firm, with bulges at the 2 and 10 positions. The headlights operate with a radial switch on the dash, to the left of the steering column. That leaves the turn-signal stalk for cruise control functions, with wipers on the stalk on the right of the steering column.
Overall, the controls are straightforward and, as other cars grow tediously complicated, quite refreshing. Even Eos models that aren't equipped with navigation come with a large LCD touchscreen. It sits at the top of the center stack of buttons, and displays audio and climate information. Three mechanical switches on either side of the screen control band selection, tone and other audio functions. Big radial knobs in the bottom corners manage volume and manual tuning. Preset stations appear on the touchscreen.
Climate controls sit below the screen, with pushbuttons for airflow direction and fan speed and round dials for temperature adjustment on each side of the car. It makes an excellent package, with only one gripe. The LCD screen isn't shielded from sunlight, and it's neither bright enough nor glare-free enough for easy reading during mid-day drives with the top down.
Storage space inside the Eos is adequate, and not much more. The glovebox is average size. The molded bins at the bottom of the doors aren't long, but they are deep and wide and lined with rubber mats that keep items stored in them from sliding easily. That's about it for storage in front. The center console box has audio connections and a little rack to hold an MP3 player, but not much room for anything else. The cup holders are molded into the center console, one size fits all, without spring-loaded clips or anything else that might create a bit of tension on the sides of the cups.
The back seat? Well, the Eos is a subcompact, and a convertible. Access is eased by spring-loaded front seats that slide forward with one lever, but it's still a chore for adults to climb in back. A five-foot, eight-inch passenger will have a fraction of an inch of headroom to spare when the top is up, but lower limbs will feel cramped and it's a bit claustrophobic. Space occupied by the top mechanism squeezes hip room, so two people in back will be rubbing elbows, if not shoulders. With the top down, of course, there's more headroom than anyone can ask for. We can see the Eos working for four for a trip for ice cream on a summer evening, as long as the soft-serve joint isn't too far away.
The trunk provides 10.5 cubic feet of space. That's not bad at all for a small coupe or convertible, but the raw number doesn't tell the whole story. Inside the trunk sits a shroud, or a three-sided box in the middle of the load floor. It's handy, because it marks the safe space for convertible top operation. Any items that fit under the shroud won't hinder the top or be crushed when it closes, and under it there is 6.3 cubic feet of space: enough for a medium-size, carry-on type suitcase and a few odds-and-ends. The drawback? The trunk shroud divides the usable space in the trunk, even if you don't plan to lower the top. The largest item you can load in still has to fit under the shroud. The remaining space can only be occupied by smaller items on top or around its edge.