Jim Holder
30 November 2012

What is it?

The ‘new’ Beetle may not be as iconic as the original, and it may have struggled to match the success of rival modern interpretations from Mini and Fiat, but there’s no arguing that the main reason people buy it is for its looks. So much so, in fact, that Volkswagen design boss Klaus Bischoff describes it as a halo model for the brand, like a Golf GTI, but for very different reasons.

In many ways this cabrio is the ultimate expression of the Beetle: roof down, sun shining, it’s hard not to feel slightly carefree, even in traffic-clogged Los Angeles or fighting for space on the freeway. No question, the latest generation Beetle is good looking both inside and out, and that ensures a feel-good factor.

What is it like?

That glow does come at a price, however,because dynamically it isn’t as polished as you might hope. While the compromises arising from the chopped roof aren’t significant, the basis on which it started life was already lagging behind the best, especially by VW’s standards. Just as with the fixed roof car, you can’t escape the nagging suspicion that someone picked up on the sales success of Mini and tried to dial in a sporty set-up without refining it.

That said, at a gentle pace or on only mildly rippled surfaces, the ride is fine running on the standard 17-inch wheels that come with the mid-spec Design trim of our test car. But on rougher or pitted roads, and especially in town, it becomes fidgety and noticeably too firm. There’s no sense of connection from the electro-mechanical steering, either. While the platform and suspension set-up mean it would be unfair to hope for a top-spec Golf-rivalling driving experience, it’s still hard not to feel a whiff of disappointment.

Against that, though, you must balance the perky – although perhaps fractionally peaky – performance of the 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine. It provides ample shove for decent progress and, even with the slick six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, delivers official economy of more than 50mpg. With a measured right foot, its character suits the nature of the car well. Roof up or down it is refined and quiet, which is a particular achievement given how little wind buffeting and road noise there is.

The driving position and cabin ambience is also good. The high dash and close windscreen invoke memories of the original Beetle, while VW’s cabin material and fit and finish departments have delivered, as ever, an inviting if fractionally sterile interior. Standard kit is decent.

The cabrio is also noticeably more practical than the car it replaces, its roof coming down at speeds of up to 31mph in 9.5sec and back up again in 11sec. It stows well out of the way, too, so it doesn’t impinge on visibility. Boot space is also more than 10 per cent greater than before at 225 litres, while an an additional 12mm of headroom at least makes occasional trips in the back a possibility. The rear bench also folds.

Should I buy one?

The fact remains, though, that the Beetle is chiefly a purchase for people who like the looks. If you do, then this new cabrio makes a very decent case for itself; if not, then it’s hard to think of a compelling reason to buy it.


VW Beetle Cabriolet Design 2.0 TDI 140 DSG


Price: £24,635; 0-62mph: 9.9sec; Top speed: 120mph; Economy: 50.4mpg (combined); CO2: 145g/km; Kerb weight: 1505kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1968cc, turbodiesel; Power: 138bhp at 4200rpm; Torque: 236lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd dual-clutch automatic

Join the debate

Comments
13

Nice match

1 year 46 weeks ago

This is probably the optimum spec I reckon, the 140PS CR TDI is always a sweet match with the DSG and it gives the Beetle a good blend of performance and frugality on paper. 

Love it!

1 year 46 weeks ago

When these retro beetles came out a few years ago, there was something that I didn't quite like - almost a bit girlie, maybe silly. Now they've made a few stying tweaks, and hey presto.  Earlier this year I sat in a convertible, and thought it was great, with a really high quality feeling interior - a nice, pleasant place to be! The family loved it, and if we did decide to go down the convertible route, I'd give it serious consideration. The VW haters cannot possibly criticise this design for being boring - surely! I think it's a really good looking car.  This is a Golf (superb car) in fancy clothing. Very nice in my opinion.

A desirable soft top.

1 year 46 weeks ago

I've never owned a soft top car but as an affordable buy this is very nice.

It may not have the best handling or steering feedback but who cares with the top down on a sunny day.

Forget sliding a car sideways on a race track Autocar style just chill out and take in the scenery on a country road, real motoring.

maxecat

Ugly car for ugly people

1 year 46 weeks ago

Strictly a two seater judging by the picture of the back seat. Funny how Autocar glossed over that-more paid for PR...

no thanks

1 year 46 weeks ago

I was very dissapointed with the Beetle after a recent drive at a VW day. Sure it now looks much more retrol and we thought out but the driving experience left me numb. No very exciting atall. Shame

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Maxecat wrote: Forget

1 year 46 weeks ago

Maxecat wrote:

Forget sliding a car sideways on a race track Autocar style just chill out and take in the scenery on a country road, real motoring.

I was thinking this the other day as I drove my works Corsa van down a nice country road at about 30mph, enjoying the scenery and being on the road. The limit on the road was 50, and, of course, everyone else was racing up behind me as they just wanted to be somewhere else and not in their cars at all..

Not for enthusiasts

1 year 46 weeks ago

The original beetle was never one for enthusiasts in the first place, so it's hardly like it's betraying its roots - that's what Porsche was for. At least they've got rid of the vase on the dashboard this time, but I'd guess it's still going to be mainly women who purchase the car.

This 'new' Beetle follows

1 year 46 weeks ago

This 'new' Beetle follows tradition.It has limited appeal and does nothing with any real flair.If a Japanese,Korean or American manufacturer released this car it would be lambasted from every corner as a marketing exercise.

Absolutely!

1 year 46 weeks ago

catnip wrote:

Maxecat wrote:

Forget sliding a car sideways on a race track Autocar style just chill out and take in the scenery on a country road, real motoring.

I was thinking this the other day as I drove my works Corsa van down a nice country road at about 30mph, enjoying the scenery and being on the road. The limit on the road was 50, and, of course, everyone else was racing up behind me as they just wanted to be somewhere else and not in their cars at all..

Well said Guys! This is what cars like this are all about.... simply the enjoyment of life (probably on the way to a nice country pub)... carefree and not worried about impressing anyone, and wearing their sun glasses simply, wait for it... because the sun is out   Smile.

 

fdsaf

1 year 46 weeks ago
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Our Verdict

The Volkswagen Beetle is only the third all-new model since the original launched in 1938. It is based on the Mk6 Golf, but the base car is far better

Driven this week