BUGGING OUT

Does the newer, more mas­cu­line Beetle Cabriolet still have the abil­ity to send its fans into a tizzy?

Torque (Singapore) - - SPECIAL CONVERTIBLES -

TTHE most beloved Volkswagen model in the world is also its most well-known one.

With more than 21.5 mil­lion units pro­duced over 60 years, it doesn’t take a petrol­head to fig­ure out that the car I’m re­fer­ring to is the Beetle.

En­thu­si­asts and or­di­nary folks alike were (and con­tinue to be) drawn to the Beetle’s bul­bous, bug-shaped body. Though there were nu­mer­ous up­dates to the car through­out its life, the Beetle’s iconic de­sign re­mained un­changed. But when Volkswagen un­veiled the car’s suc­ces­sor – the New Beetle – in 1998, the world was taken by sur­prise. Al­though the car’s de­sign is clearly in­spired by the clas­sic model, the New Beetle’s cute and cud­dly looks po­larised opin­ions. While many women were drawn to the styling, most men found it to be too fem­i­nine for their lik­ing.

But love it or hate it, you’d have to agree that strong de­signs re­ally do tend to po­larise opin­ions. The New Beetle Cabriolet you see here (lent to us by pre-owned car dealer May­fair Motoring) is a 2008 model. Yet, nine years on, it is as en­dear­ing as ever. I’ve ac­tu­ally come to ap­pre­ci­ate the car’s ro­tund­ness,

“smil­ing” face and gen­tly curved wind­screen.

With the soft-top closed, the New Beetle Cabriolet also has a curvier roofline, which fur­ther en­hances its vis­ual ap­peal. But Volkswagen must have wanted to broaden the Beetle Cabriolet’s ap­peal (read: re­cap­ture lost male fans), be­cause the all-new model looks a lot sportier and more mas­cu­line than its pre­de­ces­sor.

The car’s front end, for in­stance, is wider and more chis­elled than be­fore. The wind­screen is more rec­tan­gu­lar and more steeply raked, and there’s a spoiler at the rear end as well.

If th­ese el­e­ments still don’t con­vince you about the cur­rent Beetle Cabriolet’s machismo, per­haps the stain­less steel pedal caps, sleeker steer­ing

wheel and the aux­il­iary gauges atop the dash­board (oil tem­per­a­ture gauge, stop­watch and boost me­ter) will prove more con­vinc­ing.

Sporti­ness aside, the lat­est Beetle Cabriolet is also more stylish and so­phis­ti­cated than the older one, with dash­board trim and door pan­els that match the body colour, and a pretty in­fo­tain­ment unit which is hooked up to a punchy Fender hi-fi sys­tem.

TO BROADEN THE MODEL’S FAN BASE, VOLKSWAGEN HAS MADE THE BEETLE CABRIOLET MORE MA­CHO THAN BE­FORE.

Al­though the pre­vi­ous model’s in­te­rior is more som­bre, I ac­tu­ally pre­fer its bowl­shaped steer­ing boss, longer door han­dles and petite flower-holder.

Less ap­peal­ing, how­ever, are the older car’s ro­tary air-con con­trols, sin­gle cli­mate zone (the newer car has two zones) and semi-au­to­matic roof, which re­quires you to turn a han­dle be­fore you can open it, and turn and latch it back to prop­erly close it. Also, the roof can only be op­er­ated when the gear­box is in Park.

That said, it takes just 13 sec­onds to open/close the soft-top, so its op­er­a­tion isn’t as slow as ex­pected.

In com­par­i­son, go­ing top­less in the new Beetle Cabriolet is a lot more seam­less. The fully au­to­mated roof takes 9.5 sec­onds to be stowed and 11 sec­onds to be raised. In ad­di­tion, it can be op­er­ated while the car is be­ing driven at speeds of up to 50km/h.

On hot or wet days, cruis­ing around with the canopy up in the new Beetle Cabriolet is a lot more com­fort­able than in the old one, as it has bet­ter in­su­la­tion and a more pli­ant ride. But both models of­fer the same lim­ited rear­ward vis­i­bil­ity, as they have very wide “C-pil­lars” and rather nar­row rear wind­screens.

The roof of the lat­est Beetle Cabrio, how­ever, is stowed more neatly when it is open, as op­posed to the pre­vi­ous model’s “stacked” roof, which is more stylish but ham­pers rear vis­i­bil­ity.

Per­for­mance-wise, it would seem that the last­gen Beetle Cabriolet, with its more pow­er­ful nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 2-litre 4-cylin­der, is more fun to drive than the newer model, which has a “tiny” 1.2-litre en­gine. The 115bhp and 172Nm pro­duced by the 2-litre lump looks de­cent on pa­per. But once you’re be­hind the wheel, the car’s re­laxed char­ac­ter comes to the fore.

It takes the older Beetle a leisurely 12.9 sec­onds to com­plete the cen­tury sprint, so you’ll need lots of pa­tience, es­pe­cially when merg­ing with ex­press­way traf­fic. Its 6-speed au­to­matic gear­box, though rel­a­tively smooth, is slow by to­day’s stan­dards. Al­though the newer Beetle has a smaller mo­tor, its tur­bocharger en­ables it to pro­duce 105bhp and 175Nm. Cou­pled to VW’s ubiq­ui­tous 7-speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion, this convertible does the cen­tury dash in a slightly quicker 11.7 sec­onds.

Ob­vi­ously, speed is of lit­tle im­por­tance to a Beetle Cabriolet driver. But he or she might be con­cerned about fuel con­sump­tion, and in this re­gard, the lat­est model also has the edge on its pre­de­ces­sor. Volkswagen claims it’ll cover up to 16.9km/L, or 6.1km fur­ther per litre of un­leaded. The new Beetle Cabriolet of­fers im­proved drive­abil­ity, a longer cruis­ing range, a cushier cabin and a more im­pres­sive au­dio sys­tem.

But just like the pre­vi­ous model, you’re go­ing to ei­ther love or hate its styling. Then again, strong de­signs re­ally do tend to po­larise opin­ions.

SEPTEM­BER 2017

New Beetle Cabriolet’s cock­pit is bet­ter­look­ing and more high­tech than the old model’s.

SEPTEM­BER 2017

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