What's the used Volkswagen Beetle sports like?
More often than not, the convertible version of a car comes out long after a new model has been launched. But, fun fact, the first Volkswagen was actually a convertible. So, when Volkswagen relaunched its iconic model, which by then had adopted its popularised name of Beetle, it was inevitable that there would be an open-top version. It was certainly expensive when new, but now that it has aged a bit, does a used Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet make for a good way to enjoy alfresco motoring?
The Beetle Cabriolet is more of a retro homage to the classic Volkswagen and goes up against other four-seat open-top rivals such as the Mini convertible, Fiat 500C and both the Citroën DS3 and DS 3 Cabrio.
Having access to the vast Volkswagen parts bin means the Beetle has a huge range of engines from a smooth if rather slow turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol to a 1.6 or 2.0-litre diesel, or a top-of-the-range 2.0-litre turbo petrol that has a Golf GTI-rivalling 197bhp. The two diesel engines can be a little gruff when accelerating but they're no worse than those of its rivals.
Unfortunately, the Beetle doesn’t quite have the dynamic sparkle that turns it into a sports model. The beefier steering can be a little wearisome on a long drive and doesn’t have the feedback of the best systems. The ride is also a bit on the firm side, but that doesn’t translate into minimal body roll or agile handling because the height of the car means there are plenty of body movements in the bends.
At least the interior is funkier than most Volkswagens thanks to the use of body-coloured plastic trim on the dashboard and door cards. Thankfully, all of the controls are just like they are in other Volkswagens, which means that it’s all logical to use and they have a solid feel to them. Rear head room was never brilliant in the normal Beetle, and this is true of the cabriolet version with the roof up – less so with it down. The boot, however, is even smaller because space has been taken to accommodate the roof when it’s down.
What used Volkswagen Beetle sports will I get for my budget?
Prices for an early 2013 Beetle Cabriolet start at around £10,000. Increase your budget to £12,000 and you should find a decent 2014 or 2015 Beetle in either design or sport guise with 40,000 miles or less on it. A two-year-old 1.4 design with under 30,000 miles is around £15,000.
How much does it cost to run a Volkswagen Beetle sports?
A used Beetle Cabriolet shouldn’t cost you too much to run provided you stick with one of the smaller engines. The 1.2-litre petrol has an official NEDC figure of 46.3mpg and £155 tax, while the 1.4 gets 41.5mpg and costs £195. You'll have to pay for the additional performance of the 2.0-litre petrol, though. Its 37.2mpg thirst and £250 annual road fund fees make it the most costly Beetle to run.
If you plan on doing lots of motorway driving, you’ll want the 1.6-litre diesel for its 62.8mpg economy and minimal £30 road tax. The more powerful 2.0-litre diesel is still pretty frugal at 55.4mpg and costs £140. Any Beetle registered after 1 April 2017 will set you back £140 in road tax no matter which engine you go for.
Volkswagen servicing costs are reasonable and you can even take advantage of fixed-price servicing on cars that are three years or older.
Which used Volkswagen Beetle sports should I buy?
Either the 104bhp 1.2 or 154bhp 1.4-litre make the most sense in the Beetle Cabriolet. The 1.2 has enough performance for those who drive in town most of the time, while the 1.4 is better if you're often on faster roads. Diesel Beetles tend to be more expensive to buy or have a lot more miles on them, and generally aren't as sweet as the smaller petrol engines.
The standard car does come with air conditioning, electric windows and stability control, but it does without alloy wheels, which is a bit mean. We’d suggest going for a design version with 17in alloys, front fog-lights, Bluetooth, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and body-coloured dash and door card inserts. Sport models are a little pricey but do add dual-zone climate control, 18in alloy wheels, cruise control, sports seats with lumbar support, parking sensors and gloss black plastic across the dashboard and the top of the doors.
Our favourite Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet: 1.4 Design
What alternatives should I consider to a used Volkswagen Beetle sports?
For those in the market for a retro set of wheels, then look no further than the Mini convertible. Just like the Beetle, it has a small boot and not a huge amount of space for those in the back. But it’s fine up front and you’re treated to a nicely finished dashboard with a really great infotainment system. On top of that, it drives with alacrity and every engine is a peach.
If you’re prepared to go down a size, the Fiat 500C is a cheap convertible that’s inexpensive to run.
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