The Volkswagen Beetle has been around for over seventy years now with this being only the third all-new variant. ★★★

Although the original Beetle soldiered on until 2003 in Mexico, we Europeans got the second generation car back in the late nineties. Whilst that traded on the rounded, cutesy looks of the original, it was considered way too feminine for many. Volkswagen looked to change that with this third generation car we first saw back in 2011.

This model saw a few of the curves squared off while the roof line was dropped significantly to give it a more coupe-like profile. Naturally, if you really wanted to get the roof low, there was always the convertible we’re looking at here. The third generation of Beetle is available with a wide variety of petrol and diesel engines ranging between 1.2 and 2.0 litres. In this instance, we’re looking at the entry-level petrol version hooked up to the seven-speed automatic gearbox.

You might think a 1.2-litre engine may seem small for a Golf-sized cabrio but a turbocharger gives performance that is more the adequate 90% of the time. Only when pulling onto a dual carriageway with a particularly short slip road do you feel like more power is needed. Slow your pace a little and the engine always feels willing, never seeming to struggle with inclines as some smaller engined cars do. The quick shifting and buttery smooth automatic gearbox helps greatly. There are steering wheel mounted paddles to shift up and down, however, I think I used them once.

The main reason for leaving it in auto mode is that spirited driving is not the Beetle’s forte. Not only does it take nearly 12 seconds to reach 60mph, it’s never particularly entertaining around corners either. Sure, there’s prodigious amounts of grip but it never feels overly happy being thrown about. There’s precious little feedback from the steering and the suspension has most definitely been set up for comfort not cornering.
Don’t get me wrong though, it’s unlikely you’d ever buy one instead of a sports car so why should it handle like one? Driven at a more leisurely pace you can enjoy the supple suspension ironing out bumps, let the gearbox shuffle through the gears and marvel at the lack of creaks and groans coming from the car’s structure. You’d expect some floppiness from hacking the roof off but the Beetle remains pleasantly stiff even up the roughest of roads. As an added bonus, you can raise or lower the roof at up to 31mph too.

This feeling of quality permeates throughout the cabin with every button, stalk and switch operating with the kind of well-oiled precision the Germans do so well. Body coloured panels inside also help lift the interior and hark back to the original Beetle. The optional infotainment system as fitted to our test car proved easy to use with little to no lag plus great sound quality from the upgraded Fender sound system. This car also had Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for even greater Smartphone connectivity.
For me though, the most important option by far was the heated seats that came as part of a winter pack. Being able to open the roof on a clear yet bitterly cold morning with my back and bottom being gently toasted as the sun rose was a real highlight of my time with the Beetle. Tempting as raiding the options list is, care is needed. All in all our test vehicle had over £3,000 of options fitted pushing the price up to over £26,000. Over £1,200 of that was on the audio and infotainment system alone.

Another downside is reduced practicality thanks to the convertible roof. Gone is the wide-opening hatchback and instead is a small boot-lid that can make unloading objects deep in the luggage compartment tricky. I would also recommend giving the rear seats a try before you buy. I’m sure they’re fine for occasional use but I found them to be very upright and not overly comfortable. Headroom was fine even with the roof up but then I am less than 5’ 4”.

There’s a good chance that your decision to buy a Beetle Cabriolet will come down to one thing, the looks. At around £1,000 more than a more practical Golf Cabriolet, you really need to love the styling to pick the Beetle over it. If the Bug does take your fancy, then it’s an undoubtedly well-made and comfortable cabrio that is certainly a little different. Thrill-seekers should look elsewhere, however.

 

Pros

Premium feel

Comfortable

Smooth auto gearbox

Cons

Could do with a little more power

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Cramped rear seats

Can get pricey with options

The Lowdown

Car – Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet Design 1.2 TSI

Price – £23,070 (£26,375 as tested)

Power – 105hp

0-60 – 11.7 seconds

Top Speed – 111 mph

Co2 – 127g/km

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