THIS IS ONE CLASSY BUG YOU’LL LOVE

The latest in­car­na­tion of the Bee­tle Cabri­o­let com­bines af­ford­abil­ity with vintage glam­our

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - FIRST DRIVE JONATHAN CROUCH

OS­CAR Wilde tells us that the only way to get rid of temp­ta­tion is to yield to it. And if you’re among those who’ve al­ways promised them­selves a mod­ern, af­ford­able yet nos­tal­gi­cally styled new con­vert­ible, then what you might well be think­ing of yield­ing to is some­thing like this, the third gen­er­a­tion Bee­tle Cabri­o­let.

Big­ger, bet­ter equipped, with su­pe­rior en­gineware and much-im­proved qual­ity, this car ar­rived in the spring of 2013 and has proved to be a def­i­nite step up­mar­ket, even though it still re­mains the most af­ford­able route into Volk­swa­gen soft-top own­er­ship.

It’s also rather unique in the af- ford­able drop-top seg­ment, of­fer­ing the kind of char­ac­ter you sim­ply don’t get in soft-top ver­sions of or­di­nary fam­ily hatch­backs, the kind of rear seat space you’d never find in a con­vert­ible MINI and the sort of proper ‘wind-inthe-hair’ ex­pe­ri­ence that can’t be fully repli­cated by cars like the Fiat 500C and the Citroen DS3 Cabrio, that aren’t fully-fledged con­vert­ibles.

A new kind of nos­tal­gia then — in a new kind of Bee­tle.

Driv­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence

Let’s start with the roof, a beau­ti­fully tai­lored multi-lay­ered piece of heavy duty fab­ric that, at the press of a but­ton, rises up in 11 sec­onds, folds away in 9.5s and is op­er­a­ble at speeds of up to 31mph. That’s in con­trast to the sim­i­lar soft-top fit­ted to the Golf Cabri­o­let that re­quires you to slow right down to 18mph be­fore the electrics will work.

Like all proper con­vert­ibles, you’ll find it a bit blus­tery when driv­ing al fresco un­less you put the win­dows up, but with the op­tional wind de­flec­tor in place across the rear seats, things im­prove con­sid­er­ably. As for en­gines, well they’re all bor­rowed from the older MK6 model Golf — so, in other words, a cou­ple of gen­er­a­tions more mod­ern than those supplied in the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion ver­sion of this car. There’s de­cent power on of­fer for those who re­ally want it — a 200PS 2.0-litre TSI petrol unit from the old Golf GTI that makes 62mph in 6.9s on the way to 143mph. I’m not sure, though, that I’d bother with that model: this isn’t the kind of car that’s re­ally at its best driv­ing at those kinds of speeds.

Which leaves us with the vari­ants that’ll ac­count for al­most all UK sales. The most pop­u­lar ver­sion has an ea­ger 1.2-litre TSI petrol unit, of­fer­ing 105PS and ca­pa­ble of mak­ing 62mph in 10.9s en route to 112mph. If you’ve a lit­tle more in the bud­get, though, and wouldn’t mind a lit­tle ex­tra punch, then don’t ig­nore the 160PS 1.4-litre TSI petrol unit, which man­ages 9.1s and 125mph and could very well be the prime pick of the range. There are also 110 and 150PS ver­sion of VW’S fa­mil­iar 2.0 TDI diesel pow­er­plant.

De­sign and Build

Styling-wise, there’s some­thing of the past, art­fully mixed with a sporty vi­sion of the fu­ture in a car that’s longer, lower and wider than its pre­de­ces­sor, with a longer wheel­base. It’s also an aw­ful lot stiffer, thanks to co­pi­ous body strength­en­ing across the floor and thicker A-pil­lars, which is why it won’t jud­der about so much over the bumps. Most small soft-tops need vi­bra­tion dampers to try and take care of that but this Bee­tle doesn’t need them.

One of the ad­van­tages of the way

the fab­ric roof sits proud of the pas­sen­ger com­part­ment just above the in­te­gral rear spoiler is that it doesn’t take up bootspace, which is pretty rea­son­able for this class of car at 225-litres, 24-litres more than the pre­vi­ous model, enough (if you can ne­go­ti­ate the

nar­row load­ing bay) for a cou­ple of small suit­cases and about dou­ble what you’d get in an open-top Fiat 500 or MINI. If that’s not enough, you can fold down the rear seat­backs us­ing two neat levers, free­ing up a lot more space.

That’s as­sum­ing you’re not us­ing the back seats of course. Un­like many of its ri­vals in the small con­vert­ible sec­tor, this car has a big enough cabin to com­fort­ably take four adults - for short to medium jour­neys any­way, pro­vided the oc­cu­pants aren’t ex­ces­sively tall. Those that are will ap­pre­ci­ate a de­sign that’s freed up 12mm more head­room than was of­fered in

this car’s pre­de­ces­sor.

Mar­ket and Model

Com­pared to what you’d pay for a fixed­top Bee­tle, there’s a model-for-model pre­mium of just un­der £3,000 to find for this soft-top ver­sion, lead­ing to pric­ing mainly pitched in the £19,000 to £26,000 bracket. All of which makes this the most af­ford­able of the three com­pact con­vert­ible mod­els that Volk­swa­gen of­fers, de­spite the fact that it’s made all the way across the At­lantic in Mexico. A Golf Cabri­o­let with the same en­gine would cost you an ex­tra £2,000-£3,000 — or maybe even more, depend­ing on the model you’re look­ing at. The pok­ier en­gines at the top of the Bee­tle Cabri­o­let range are also shared with Volk­swa­gen’s Eos, but that car has a me­tal fold­ing roof rather than a soft-top, which ac­counts for its model-for-model pre­mium of around £4,000.

If, hav­ing con­sid­ered all of this, you con­clude that it is a Bee­tle Cabri­o­let that you re­ally, re­ally want, then which­ever en­gine you set­tle upon - 1.2, 1.4 or 2.0-litre TSI petrol or 1.6 or 2.0 TDI diesel — you’re go­ing to want a de­cent level of stan­dard equip­ment to be fit­ted be­fore you get into the in­evitable realms of per­son­al­i­sa­tion.

And, by and large, you should be rea­son­ably happy with what’s on of­fer. Apart from the elec­tric hood and ton­neau cover that’s part and par­cel of the Bee­tle Cabri­o­let pack­age, all mod­els get a rear spoiler, power win­dows and mir­rors, air con­di­tion­ing that also cools the glove­box, a trip com­puter, a de­cent qual­ity ipod-com­pat­i­ble eight-speaker stereo with an aux-in socket and dig­i­tal ra­dio, plus a hill holder clutch to stop you from drift­ing back­wards on up­hill junc­tions. The two top petrol en­gines also get the XDS dif­fer­en­tial lock sys­tem that im­proves han­dling through fast bends.

Cost of Own­er­ship

If run­ning costs are a key con­cern, then you’ll nat­u­rally grav­i­tate to­wards the 2.0-litre TDI 110PS diesel ‘Bluemo­tion Tech­nol­ogy’ Cabri­o­let vari­ant. Thanks to a Stop/start sys­tem that cuts the en­gine when you don’t need it, stuck at the lights or wait­ing in traf­fic, this model is able to re­turn 65.7mpg on the com­bined cy­cle and put out 112g/km of CO2.

In­side there’s a stereo and dig­i­tal ra­dio

And to put that in per­spec­tive? Well, it’s some way off the stan­dards set by a smaller ri­val MINI Con­vert­ible Cooper D but po­ten­tial Bee­tle own­ers will be look­ing at pretty much the same kind of re­turns as they’d get from a base diesel Golf Cabri­o­let or Re­nault Me­gane CC and they’ll be do­ing about 10% bet­ter than from a Peu­geot 308CC 1.6 e-hdi.

Else­where in the Bee­tle Cabri­o­let range, the story’s very sim­i­lar. Yes, you can get lower run­ning costs from a smaller soft top like a MINI or a Fiat 500C but if your search is cen­tring on af­ford­able con­vert­ible that can ac­tu­ally take four peo­ple and more than a to­ken amount of lug­gage, then you’ll find that this Volk­swa­gen’s re­turns are pretty par for the course.

Choose, for ex­am­ple, for the larger ca­pac­ity 2.0 TDI 150 diesel and you’re look­ing at 61.4mpg on the com­bined cy­cle and 119g/km of CO2, well ahead of a com­pa­ra­ble Peu­geot 308CC 2.0 HDI and com­pa­ra­ble to a ri­val BMW 118d con­vert­ible. Opt for this top diesel Bee­tle with a 6-speed DSG auto gear­box and your re­turns will be hit by about 10%.

Sum­mary

Like the idea of a Bee­tle Cabri­o­let? Then you like this one very much in­deed. If you don’t, then noth­ing your lo­cal Volk­swa­gen sales per­son will say about the more ef­fi­cient en­gines, the bet­ter driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and the ex­tra bootspace is likely to con­vince you. Retro de­sign is like that — which is why Volk­swa­gen also of­fers a soft-top Golf for those who can’t re­ally see the point.

That’s ar­guably a more sen­si­ble choice, but then who ever bought a small con­vert­ible for sen­si­ble rea­sons?

A car like this is — and should be— an in­dul­gence, a bit of fun. Ex­actly like soft-top Bee­tles al­ways have been. And, af­ter years of be­ing viewed as a nov­elty car whose ap­peal had long worn off, this Volk­swa­gen’s back as a hot ticket in this seg­ment.

Will that last? Who knows? MINI has shown that retro styling can have durable ap­peal and this Bee­tle Cabri­o­let seems to have em­braced its her­itage a lot more clev­erly than its pre­de­ces­sor. Per­haps the best part about this Bug though, is that even if the nov­elty does wear off, you’re left with a very good car. And that’s a very welcome Plan B.

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