What is it?
This is not our introduction to the new Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet - we’ve already sampled the big-boned soft-top with the 138bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine - but this is our first go with the petrol motor (and six-speed manual gearbox) expected to prove most popular with UK buyers.
The familiar 1.2-litre TSI sits at the base of a line-up which includes the punchy 158bhp 1.4-litre and inadvisably muscular 197bhp 2.0-litre variants (the 104bhp 1.6-litre diesel is also available). As it does elsewhere, the dinkiest petrol unit delivers 104bhp and in Beetle drag is capable of returning as much as 46.3mpg while emitting 142g/km CO2.
That may leave it trailing in the wake of the smaller diesel engine’s figures (62.8mpg and 118g/km) but as it’s consistently £1500 cheaper than the oil burner and far more appealing to interact with, the 1.2-litre TSI arguably deserves its headliner status.
And for those unconvinced by the Beetle’s latest costume change, it’s also probably worth mentioning that in entry-level trim the drop-top undercuts the equivalent Golf Cabriolet by almost £3k. We drove it in the slightly more expensive Design format which comes with Bluetooth, air con, MDI interface and the body-coloured dash.
What is it like?
Truthfully, about £3k short of the Golf’s quality. As we suspected on our first encounter, this is not the best reconciled product to ever wear the Volkswagen badge. Quite why the manufacturer decided to grope so determinedly at implied sportiness is unclear, but it has delivered a car which corners reasonably flat through a quick corner - and then fidgets around town like there was a bothersome wart on its rear end.
The body’s mild shimmy over broken tarmac (and a tendency to grumpily thump over deeper obstacles on 17-inch wheels) makes the car a tad difficult to enjoy at British high street speeds - and that’s a problem if your only substantial reason for buying a Beetle was showing off its regurgitated profile at a gentle lope.
However, if those dynamic reservations don’t put you off, the 1.2-litre engine is almost certainly the power source to plump for. It’s not the quietest four-cylinder unit in the world (top-down, you’ll have to live with the rise and fall of its working chatter) but with 129lb ft of torque available just beyond idle, it keeps just enough grunt under foot to make modest progress easily accessible.
While there’s little satisfaction to be gleaned from gunning it thanks to the intentionally linear delivery and the Beetle’s 1388kg presence, the light, snappy gearbox makes it easy to juggle the six ratios on offer and is probably a better bet than the smoother (though more expensive) seven-speed DSG.
Should I buy one?
If your heart is already set on Volkswagen’s oldest nameplate, and you’re simply stalled on engine choice, go right ahead. Granted, the more powerful 1.4-litre TSI offers considerably more for the enthusiast, but if you are so inclined, we’d steer you away from the Beetle anyway.
From a wider perspective, the 1.2-litre TSI does help the model make a little more sense at its understandably appealing cheaper end - particularly as the excellent quick-fire hood, quietly characterful interior and a passable amount of kit always come with it - yet this remains, much as it was before, a niche item for devotees rather than a serious prospect for general cabriolet fans.
Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet 1.2 TSI Design
Price: £20,525; Top speed: 111mph; 0-62mph: 11.7sec; Economy: 46.3mpg; CO2: 142g/km; Kerbweight: 1388kg; Engine type, cc: 4 cyls, 1197cc, petrol; Power: 104bhp at 5000rpm Torque: 129lb ft at 1550-4100rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual Wheels: 16-inch alloys;