Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet review
The VW Beetle Convertible offers a great blend of style, economy and driver enjoyment - but it's expensive
The Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet is a soft-top version of one of the most iconic cars ever built. The first Beetle Cabrio was introduced in 1949 and was still in production 50 years later. The second-generation model arrived in 2002 and while it upped the quality, and had plenty of style, the compromised driving dynamics meant it was more form over function. This latest version, however, aims to match the visual appeal of the original but with the quality and handling you'd expect from a modern Volkswagen. The new Beetle Cabrio will go on sale in the UK in the summer of 2012 and there will be three trim levels – Beetle, Design and Sport – and five different engines available from launch, along with the choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG.
Our choice: Beetle Cabriolet 1.2 TSI
The new Beetle Cabriolet is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor and its silhouette is more similar to the original 1949 model with a longer bonnet and flatter roof. The hood itself is fully automated and can fold in just nine seconds at speeds of up to 31mph. The car comes in a wide range of colour schemes, while launch models include three retro editions with bespoke styling and exclusive paint schemes. Make no mistake, the new Beetle cabriolet is a very desirable car, but its extrovert design is an acquired taste. To help it compete with the MINI Convertible, Volkswagen has introduced a trio of special-edition models - the 50s, 60s and 70s editions. The retro interior is well built and very comfortable so finding the right driving position in easy and visibility with the roof up is quite good.
The previous-generation Beetle Cabriolet was dynamically flawed, and unfortunately it's more of the same for the newcomer. Over bumps and rutted roads you can feel the chassis flexing slightly, in a way it doesn't in the hatchback. However with accurate steering and a slick manual gearbox its easy and fun to drive and with the roof down you won't notice its lack of finesse. It may not be as fun to drive as the MINI Convertible, but the set-up is more comfortable than the MINI's, which helps make long journeys far more bearable. It’s also quieter, thanks to the multilayered roof that provides decent sound insulation. The Beetle Cabrio comes with a choice of two diesel engines and three turbo petrols – the most powerful of which is similar to the engine in the Golf GTI and delivers hot hatch performance and sounds great.
The original Beetle was famed for its reliability and longevity, and being a VW, the new car promises to continue that tradition. Underneath the skin most of the mechanicals are taken from the previous-generation Mk6 Golf and so are suitably tried and tested. In the 2012 Driver Power survey, the Golf ranked 8th out of 100 for customer satisfaction, so the new Beetle should fare equally well. It hasn't been crash tested by Euro NCAP but the Beetle hatch scored a full five-star rating when it was first tested in 2011, with 92 and 90 per cent respectively for adult and child occupant protection. All cars come with electronic stability control, ABS and six airbags fitted as standard.
You don’t buy a Beetle Cabriolet for its practicality but compared to the cramped MINI Convertible, the VW is far less of a compromise. Admittedly it’s not as spacious as the Golf Cabriolet but you can still squeeze a pair of adults in the back if you feel the need. What’s more, thanks to a clever soft-top roof, there is just enough room in the boot for a pair of small suitcases too. However rear visibility is quite limited with the roof folded down and the narrow loading bay makes carrying larger bags a tricky affair.
The Beetle Cabriolet comes with a wide range of punchy yet efficient engines. The 1.2-litre turbo petrol with 104bhp returns almost 48mpg, but if fuel economy is your priority you’re better off with the frugal 1.6-litre diesel, which can top 62mpg and emit less than 120g/km of CO2. The Beetle Cabriolet costs around £3,000 more than the hatchback version but all cars come with plenty of kit. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, a DAB radio and a stylish rear spoiler. Fixed price servicing helps keeps costs low too and residual values should be strong, if not quite as robust as those of the MINI Convertible.