"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.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
All the engines in the Beetle Cabriolet offer reasonable performance and decent fuel economy. The 1.2-litre turbo DSG automatic returns 47.9mpg and emits 142g/km of CO2, while the 1.4-litre turbocharged and supercharged engine promises to return 41.5mpg and emit 158g/km of CO2. The most efficient engine on offer is the 1.6-litre TDI diesel, fitted with BlueMotion Technology, which claims to return 62.8mpg and emit 118g/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.
Interior & comfort
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
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
While the newer next-generation 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. Using the engines and gearboxes from the Volkswagen Golf means that it should prove just as reliable as its more practical brother. Which is handy, because the Beetle itself doesn’t feature in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but the previous-generation Golf on which it's based ranked 16th in the top 100 – and we expect the newest MkVII model to rank even higher when it makes its Driver Power debut. The Golf had good scores for running costs, ride quality and handling. Volkswagen itself only managed a mid-table 16th-place finish in the manufacturers rankings, which, although it is a two-place rise on the 2012 poll, is disappointing for such a renowned company. In terms of safety, the Beetle Cabriolet should prove pretty safe, too, as VW expects it to attain the same maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety score as the coupe did in 2011. It comes equipped with six airbags and electronic stability control fitted as standard across the range.
Engines, drive & performance
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 162bhp 1.4 TSI petrol and a speedy 197bhp 2.0-litre TSI, while 1.6 and 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.
Price, value for money & options
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, while the 50s, 60s and 70s editions bring a neat dose of retro style. 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.