Volkswagen Beetle cabriolet
Price £19,465 - £28,235
- Head-turning looks
- Quick-folding fabric roof
- Economical engines
- Practicality is limited
- Quite expensive to buy
- Style not for everyone
At a glance
"The Beetle Cabriolet is alomst as fun as the MINI convertible, but with fewer practical compromises."
Like the Volkswagen Beetle hatchback, the convertible version has plenty of retro charm, but adds to this appeal with the opportunity of top-down motoring for those few days of the year when the sun comes out.
There's more space in the Beetle Cabriolet than in the equally retro MINI Convertible, with just enough space for four, plus the roof doesn’t eat into boot space when it's down because it sits on top, rather than folds away into the boot.
The Beetle Cabriolet has the same range of engines as in the hatchback, so there's a choice of petrol and diesel engines ranging from 1.2 to 2.0-litres, and 104bhp to 217bhp. The 217bhp 2.0 TSI is almost as fast as a Golf GTI, but don’t go thinking it's a sports car. It's fast in a straight line, but it's much better suited to cruising along than blasting down a country lane.
You can specify the same retro colour choices as the hatchback, too, while there's also the option of choosing different colours for the fabric roof, as opposed to just opting for a black canvas roof.
It's not the most exciting car to drive, but if you approach it like most Beetle drivers will – that is a fun, retro car that looks great – then you’ll love the convertible. It won’t win any practicality contests, but it's got bags of character, and that's what helps sell cars like the MINI and Fiat 500, too.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Similar low costs to the VW Golf Cabriolet
All the engines in the Beetle Cabriolet offer reasonable performance and decent fuel economy. The 1.2-litre turbo TSI with the DSG automatic gearbox returns 51mpg and emits 127g/km of CO2, while the 1.4-litre turbocharged and supercharged engine promises to return 47mpg and emit 138g/km of CO2. The most efficient engine on offer is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel, fitted with BlueMotion Technology, which claims to return 64mpg and emit 115g/km. While still not road-tax free, this engine will only cost a small amount to tax.
And because the Beetle shares most of its components with other VW products servicing costs are significantly reduced, and should be on a par with the Golf's – though fixed-price service plans are available, as well.
Engines, drive & performance
Drives better than the previous model
The old version of the Beetle Cabriolet had some problems compared to the coupe version, specifically to do with the chassis not being strengthened enough once the roof was removed. That meant you could feel it flexing when driving over bumps, which could be somewhat disconcerting for anyone in the car. The current car is an improvement thanks to plenty of extra bracing but hasn’t entirely solved the problem. That said, it’s still lots of fun to drive, even if, admittedly, it still doesn’t feel quite as responsive as the smaller MINI convertible, but most customers will likely be willing to sacrifice a little bit of driving fun for the a more comfortable ride over the MINI. The VW's engine line-up does impress, however.
There's an economical 106bhp 1.2-litre petrol turbo, a solid 158bhp 1.4 TSI petrol and a speedy 217bhp 2.0-litre TSI, while two 2.0-litre diesels complete the range with some impressive fuel economy. All these engines are among the best available in the UK and all but the 1.4-litre is available with VW's truly excellent DSG automatic gearbox.
Interior & comfort
Fine with the roof up or down
Head and legroom in the Beetle Cabriolet are reasonable in both the front and the back, and the seats offer a good amount of bolstering to hold you in place when driving through the corners and support your back over long journeys. It comes fitted with a multilayered fabric hood that provides plenty of insulation from engine, road and wind noise – in fact, it's not noticeably noisier to travel in than the coupe. With the roof folded down there's hardly any wind buffeting, either – as long as you have installed the easy-to-fit wind deflector, but even without, it’s not as bad as in some of its rivals.
What's more, lowering the roof couldn’t be any easier – it folds away in just nine seconds at the simple press of a button and can even be operated while on the move at speeds of up to 31mph. The rest of the Beetle's controls are just as easy to use, are clearly laid out and convenient to get to while on the move, while the pedals, steering and clutch are well-weighted and not too heavy, either. The Cabriolet comes in three equipment levels, but we’d go for the mid-level Design as it provides you with everything you really need, including air-conditioning and DAB radio, while the decent options list includes a touchscreen sat-nav and a Fender sound system.
Practicality & boot space
More practical than the tiny MINI Convertible
Let’s be honest, you’re looking to buy a convertible of any kind for its practicality – you’re seduced by the idea of having the wind blowing through your hair on hot sunny days driving through the Cotswolds. So, due to its smaller boot and the lack of a hatchback tailgate, the Beetle Cabriolet isn’t as practical as the standard coupe, which in turn really isn’t as practical as the VW Golf. But, outside of its siblings, the VW is a lot easier to use on a daily basis than the even less practical MINI convertible.
The roof folds down in only nine seconds and at speeds of up to 31mph, so you can be confident that you won’t get caught short by any April showers. Further more, the 225-litre boot can happily hold a couple of small suitcases, but it's only just possible to squeeze full-sized adults into the back, and even then it’s strictly only for short journeys. In the front, there are two centre-console cup-holders, two glove compartments and small door bins with elastic sides that can hold a 1.5-litre water bottle.
Reliability & safety
Same parts as the VW Golf so should be dependable
While the newer Beetles aren’t as tank-like in their reliability and length of life as the classic Beetles of old, the latest Beetle Cabriolet hopes to get close. The Beetle didn't feature in the 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but the Mk6 Golf on which it's based came in at a less-than-impressive 129th out of 200 cars. What's even more worrying is the 186th place for reliability. In terms of safety, the Beetle Cabriolet should prove pretty safe, too, as the Beetle hatch scored a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety score in 2011. It comes equipped with six airbags and electronic stability control fitted as standard across the range.
Price, value for money & options
Hardly cheap, but good levels of equipment on Design models
You’ll have to pay a few thousand more pounds for the privilege of wind-in-your-hair thrills in the Beetle Cabriolet compared to the standard Beetle. It’s a couple of grand more than the equivalent MINI convertible, too. Plus, we’d recommend steering clear of the sparse entry-level model, as the best-value equipment and accessories come in the mid-spec Design model. As well as DAB radio and air-conditioning, it also adds Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, a leather multifunction steering wheel and - most crucial of all – some stylish colour-coded interior door and dash panels. The Sport spec gets bigger alloy wheels (that do make the ride a bit bumpier), handy separate air-conditioning controls for the driver and passenger, and parking sensors at the front and back of the car. Resale value on the used car market is strong, but the smaller MINI Convertible will retain more of its original purchase price after three years of ownership.