Redesigned alongside the Beetle hardtop, which arrived a year earlier, the Beetle convertible has a power cloth top and three available engines, including a four-cylinder turbo and a diesel TDI version. We tested the base five-cylinder car, which gets a standard six-speed automatic. Click here to compare the Beetle hardtop and convertible, or here to read our review of the hardtop.
Keeping the Look
A few inches wider and 7.3 inches longer than the outgoing New Beetle convertible (which, like the coupe, has now dropped the "New"), the convertible retains the coupe's lengthy profile. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are standard, with 18s optional.
Now fully automatic, the powered top latches and unlatches itself from the windshield frame rather than relying on a manual release. Our test car's cloth top took just 11 seconds to lower and 15 seconds to raise, including the windows. The power-folding top stores in a compartment separate from the trunk, leaving cargo room at an uncompromised 7.1 cubic feet. That's less than half the space in the hardtop Beetle, but it beats the previous-generation convertible's 5 cubic feet, not to mention other small droptops from Mazda, Mini and Fiat. Another plus: Volkswagen ditched the last Beetle's center pass-through in favor of a proper split-folding rear seat.
Alas, the trunk opening is so small you have to wedge small suitcases in, and the lid dumps leftover rainwater straight into the cargo bay. Hope you like your groceries wet. Want a better trunk? Get a Ford Mustang convertible; it has nearly 10 cubic feet of space and no roof intrusion, with a larger opening to boot.
The base 170- horsepower , five-cylinder engine chuffs along quicker than the anemic Fiat 500c and the non-S Mini Cooper, but it revs hoarsely, and passing at highway speeds requires most of the drivetrain's reserves. Climb an on-ramp, and the engine feels spent halfway up. The six-speed automatic helps little, stepping through intermediate gears on its way to two- or three-gear kickdowns . It evokes early six-speed automatic transmissions, whose expansive choices bred all the decisiveness of a kid staring down the Lego aisle. Some editors noticed too much accelerator lag too — not good.
The automaker's Sport mode quells some of the transmission delay by sticking to lower gears, but it comes at the expense of fuel efficiency.
The Beetle Turbo and its 200-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder may be the better choice for the convertible, which weighs some 200 pounds more than its hardtop sibling. Volkswagen says it hits 60 mph in 7 seconds with its automatic or in 6.9 seconds with an available six-speed manual. Both are considerably quicker than the five-cylinder version's 8.6 seconds. The weaker engine earns little reward in gas mileage, with EPA numbers (21/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined) that are closer to the V-6 Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro convertibles than to Fiat's and Mini's figures.