"The Beetle Cabriolet is alomst as fun as the MINI convertible, but with fewer practical compromises."
The new Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet is the perfect choice for anyone after a retro-cool soft-top that can’t quite cope with the firm ride and abysmal practicality of the MINI Convertible. It's not the most spacious car in the world but there's just enough room for four and a roof that folds on top rather than on inside of the boot. What's more it's far better to drive that the old Beetle Cabriolet thanks to the fact it shares its platform with the previous-shape VW Golf. There's a range of engines, but the even the basic 1.2 TSI turbo petrol gives a good turn of pace a reasonable economy, while the 2.0-litre turbo gives near Golf GTI levels of performance. The only real issue is the price – on average the Beetle Cabriolet is about £2,000 than the equivalent MINI Convertible.
The coupe version of the new Beetle is good fun to drive and the good news is that VW has fitted lots of extra bracing to the Cabriolet to make sure that - despite it's lack of roof - it's just as entertaining. Admittedly, it still doesn’t feel quite as responsive as the smaller MINI convertible, but most people will be willing to sacrifice a little bit of driving fun for the Beetle's more comfortable ride. The VW's engine line-up also impresses. There's an economical 106bhp 1.2-litre petrol turbo, a decent 162bhp 1.4 TSI petrol and a fast 197bhp 2.0-litre TSI, while 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesels complete the range with impressive economy. All these engines are among the best in the business and all but the 1.4-litre is available with VW's excellent DSG automatic gearbox.
The Beetle Cabriolet has a multilayered fabric hood that provides plenty of sound insulation, so it's not noticeably noisier to travel in than the coupe. With the roof folded there's hardly any wind buffeting either – as long as you have installed the easy-to-fit wind deflector. What's more, lowering the roof couldn’t be easier – it folds away in just nine seconds at the press of a button. It can even be operated on the move at speeds of up to 31mph. The rest of the Beetle's controls are just as simple to use and logically laid out, while the pedals, steering and clutch are well-weighted and not too heavy. There are three equipment levels available with the mid-level Design providing everything you really need including air-conditioning and DAB radio, while the options list includes a touchscreen sat-nav and a Fender sound system.
The VW Beetle uses the same tried-and-test engine and gearboxes as the Golf, so should be just as reliable. Although it didn’t feature in the 2013 Driver Power Survey, the Golf finished an admirable 16th with good scores for running costs, ride quality and handling. It should be pretty safe, too, as Volkswagen expect the Cabriolet to attain the same five-star Euro NCAP safety score as the coupe. What's more, six airbags and electronic stability control come as standard across the range.
Due to its smaller boot and lack of hatchback tailgate, the Beetle Cabriolet is not as practical as the coupe, which in turn is not as practical as the Golf. Yet despite this, the Beetle Cabriolet is going to be far easier to live with than the even less practical MINI convertible. The roof folds in just nine seconds and at speeds of up to 31mph, so you can rest assured that an April shower will never catch you short. What's more, the 225-litre boot can hold a couple of small suitcases, while it's just about possible to fit full-sized adults in the back, though only for short journeys. Up front, there are two centre-console cup-holders, two glove boxes and small door bins with elasticated sides that can hold a 1.5-litre water bottle.
Value for money
On average, the Beetle Cabriolet is about £3,000 more than the coupe and about £2,000 more than the equivalent MINI convertible. You’ll need to avoid the sparse entry-level model though, as the best-value equipment is in the mid-spec Design model. As well as DAB radio and air-con, it adds Bluetooth, iPod connectivity, a leather multifunction steering wheel and - most crucial of all – the stylish colour-coded interior door and dash panels. Sport models get bigger alloy wheels, separate air conditioning controls for the driver and passenger, and parking sensors front and rear, while the 50s, 60s and 70s editions add a dose of retro style to the desirable Beetle Cabriolet.
The 1.2-litre turbo DSG automatic Beetle returns 47.9mpg and emits 142g/km of CO2, while the 1.4-litre twin-charged engine promises to return 41.5mpg and emit 158g/km. The most efficient choice is the 1.6-litre TDI diesel with BlueMotion Technology, which claims to return 62.8mpg and emit 118g/km. The fact that the Beetle shares components with other VW products reduces servicing costs, which should on a par with the Golf's – though fixed-price plans are available, too. Used prices are strong, but the smaller MINI Convertible will retain more of its original purchase price after three years.