The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the most iconic cars ever built, and this latest Cabriolet version will only further cement the popularity of this retro-styled number.
The original Beetle Cabriolet launched in 1949, and more than six decades later, the fun timeless design continues. A so-called ‘new’ model launched in 2002, and now VW claims that its latest, second-gen car has been reinterpreted, “creating a silhouette that is instantly recognisable, yet sportier and more dynamic”. In figures, that means its 29mm lower, 152mm longer and 84mm wider than its predecessor.
Rivals to the latest Beetle Cabriolet include the MINI Convertible and Citroen DS3 Cabrio.
We tested the Beetle Cabriolet with the 1.2-litre TSI and impressive performance is delivered from this small and modern turbocharged engine. It produces 104bhp which proves far more plentiful than expected, belying its 0-62mph time of 11.7 seconds.
The nearest equivalent MINI Convertible, the One auto model with 98bhp, does the benchmark sprint in 13.1 seconds with an automatic gearbox, though switching to manual drops that to 11.3 seconds.
Other engines for the Beetle include a 1.6-litre TDI diesel with 103bhp. This unit along with the 1.2-litre TSI feel quick enough but there are alternatives if you really want extra power. There’s a 2.0-litre TDI with 138bhp, a 1.4-litre TSI with 158bhp and a 2.0-litre TSI with 208bhp.
Our test car was mated with VW’s DSG automatic gearbox, which consistently demonstrates its smooth-changing capability across the range, and it’s no different here. Still, there’s no denying that this engine and sort of car feels like it would be better suited to a manual ‘box instead.
Ride and Handling
It’s not as fun as the MINI Convertible, but it is more comfortable, soaking up an array of inferior road surfaces.
Its predecessor wasn’t famed for its driving dynamics, but the latest Beetle Cabriolet certainly sees improvements. Through rural bends grip levels remain high, especially when the Cabriolet is fitted with sports suspension. It’s not as fun as the MINI Convertible, but it is more comfortable, soaking up an array of inferior road surfaces. Refinement is also impressive, considering that fabric roof, with VW adding layer-upon-layer to help with insulation. During the unfortunately rainy week that we tested the car, only the quiet pitter-patter of droplets could be heard. On the rare occasion that showers dissipated, we were quick to drop the hood, which it achieves automatically in 9.5 seconds, up to driving speeds of 31mph.
Interior and Equipment
The Beetle is the only car in Europe available with a ‘Fender’ sound system. The American company is more famous for its guitar apps.
The interior continues the retro styling of the car and standard features include air-con, climate control, DAB radio and a rear spoiler. The mid-range Design trim adds a leather steering wheel, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity and body-coloured door and dashboard panels. Choose the range-topping Sport trim and the Beetle will also feature cruise control and sports seats as standard. Interior quality matches the high standards set by other current Volkswagens on sale. However, the cerulean blue plastic trim fitted in our test car looked a little cheap, but did lift the ambience. Another complaint is that while the roof is up, rear visibility is limited. The front seats are comfortable and there’s plenty of space here. Space in the rear, however, is much tighter and won’t suit for long journeys. Boot space meanwhile is 225 litres, which is small but acceptable by cabriolet standards and way more than the MINI Convertible which offers a meagre 125 litres. The Citroen DS3 Cabrio, however, does offer 245 litres of boot capacity.
The pricing range for the Beetle Cabriolet is more expensive than both the MINI Convertible and DS3 Cabrio.
This car has so much personality, that anyone willing to fork out for it, won’t be that concerned with running costs. Our test car emitted 139g/km CO2, which means it’s a tax bracket lower than its manual sibling which emits 142g/km. Combined fuel economy is 47.9mpg, compared to 62.8mpg and 118g/km on the most frugal 1.6-litre TDI 104bhp BlueMotion iteration. The pricing range for the Beetle Cabriolet is more expensive than both the MINI Convertible and DS3 Cabrio. However, when compared to the closest equivalent Beetle specifications, these rivals typically offer less equipment.
The VW Beetle Cabriolet is unashamedly and unabashedly style-focused. It’s fair to say that most buyers of the model will have their heart set on it, making driving dynamics and costs less relevant than for many car shoppers out there. This most recent version has improved in every way over its predecessor, and remains a sought-after and very eye-catching car. For new convertible car buyers, there are options which are cheaper, more practical and more fun to drive than the Beetle Cabriolet. But those who choose to buy this car anyway are unlikely to be disappointed since it’s well-made and few other convertibles stand out on the road quite as much.