Turbocharged petrol engines include a 103bhp 1.2, a 158bhp 1.4 and a 197bhp 2.0-litre, while turbodiesel options include a 103bhp 1.6 and a 148bhp 2.0. We’ve driven all but the 1.6 TDI, and the smooth, free-revving 1.2 is the one to go for if you don’t mind fairly weedy acceleration. The 1.4 pulls willingly even at higher speeds and is the best choice if you want a bit of urgency, whilst both 2.0 models are punchy and responsive but struggle to justify the associated costs.
All Beetle Cabriolets get the multi-link rear suspension that you only find on the most expensive hatchback Beetles, but the ride is still unsettled. The body will shudder and flex over typical urban surfaces – particularly on models with bigger engines – though it all smoothes out at higher speeds. Slow steering response only heightens the sense that this is a cruiser, not a sports cabriolet.
All the engines we’ve tried in the Beetle are impressively quiet. There is some wind noise around the side windows, but no more than normal for a convertible. The large plastic wind blocker is cumbersome, and prevents the use of the rear seats when it’s in place, but it keeps buffeting down to a minimum with the roof down.
The Beetle Cabriolet is not cheap – the convertible costs thousands more than the similarly kitted hatchback, and if you can live without so much space then a Mini Convertible is also much cheaper. It won’t retain a huge amount of its value after three years, either. However, it’s still competitively priced next to most other four-seat cabriolets, and tax and fuel bills will be low.
The plastics in the cabin don’t feel as classy as those in the Golf, with hard body-colour panels used in place of soft-touch materials. The controls are just as solid and easy to read as those in fellow Volkswagens, though. Underneath, the Beetle shares most of its parts with the Golf, so reliability should be good.
The Beetle hatch received a five-star rating from Euro NCAP, and the Cabriolet should keep you similarly well protected. All models in the range have electronic stability control and four airbags as standard, which include side, head and forward protection for driver and front passenger. On the security front, you get an alarm, deadlocks, a visible VIN and plenty of marked parts.
The Beetle’s dashboard has been inspired by the original’s, which means it’s taller than in most modern cars and has a squared-off front. You can go even further with the retro vibe and have the dash painted the same colour as the car. Thankfully, VW has stuck with modern controls and switches, which means everything is clearly laid out and easy to operate.
Front-seat passengers get plenty of head and legroom, but those in the rear will not be so happy. Legroom is very tight, and the design of the fabric roof makes it feel rather claustrophobic. The boot is deep but is an irregular shape and is accessed via a letterbox-shaped opening, though it’s a good size for the class and has a handy space to hold the wind-blocker when it’s not in use.
The entry-level Beetle trim is, confusingly, called Beetle and gets 16-inch steel wheels, DAB radio and air-con but is only available with the 1.2 TSI or 1.6 TDI. Design models get a body-coloured dashboard, alloys, Bluetooth, USB input, CD-changer, multifunction steering wheel and a black-and-white touch-screen. Top-of the-range Sport trim adds sports seats, front and rear parking sensors and bigger alloys. An extra £300 will get you a colour touch-screen and sat-nav on Design and Sport models.
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