June Neary gets the love bug as she checks out the improved second generation Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet
Will It Suit Me?
I have an infatuation with quirky cars. I don't like to be a sheep and follow suit. I like my cars to have lots of personality, a cheeky aura and that little something extra that makes them different from everything else on the market. When I found out that we were going to be looking at the improved second generation Beetle Cabriolet, my heart jumped with glee. The Beetle is definitely a feminine car, I don't know of any man that owns one, but I know lots of female owners and potential female owners. My siblings and I used to sit around watching Herbie films on video and my brother can proudly say that he has all the films on DVD. We even went to see the latest Disney creation when it came to the cinema not so long ago. We were all Herbie obsessives - how could anyone not be? A car that was terribly loyal with a mischievous streak. If I could have any car in the world, it would be a real-life Herbie.
If you're looking for a spacious model but aren't so bothered about storage space, then this could be the machine for you. When you step into the car, you get the immediate feel of space, yet when you look behind you, you can see that there's not a lot of room for rear passengers. The boot is of adequate size and you might get a suitcase and a vanity case in there, but not much else. The soft top is easy to lower and raise: just loosen the latch and flick the switch enabling you to go from roof to no roof in just 9.5 seconds. Unlike most convertibles, the Beetle Cabriolet doesn't have a special compartment for the roof when you are not using it. It just sits on the back for when you need it, which makes the second generation Beetle cabriolet's shape reminiscent of the 1960's version. As promised, the interior does indeed feel more akin to that of the original post-war Beetle, in the unlikely event that you remember one of those, with the slab-sided dash the same colour as the paintwork in most models, even if it's no longer fashioned from crudely painted steel. The twin gloveboxes are a nod to the early car too (which is nice) but just as tiny (which isn't). In real time use, the elastic straps over the doorbins (supposed to be able to hold a 1.5-litre bottle) aren't very practical either. There's more use of hard plastics in this Mexican-built model than you'd find in a German-made Golf, but they all seem tough and potentially long-lasting. As you'd expect from the bubble-like shape, there's enough room inside to wear a flamboyant Philip Treacy number should the mood take you. More practically, that high roofline does make travelling in the rear reasonably palatable - though legroom can be limited if someone tall sits in the front.
Behind the Wheel
This MK2 model feels a fair bit sportier than the original 'new Beetle' Cabriolet. 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. 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 in the range. There are also 110 and 150PS version of VW's familiar 2.0 TDI diesel powerplant. Around the bends, you notice that this generation Beetle Cabrio is an awful lot stiffer than much older versions, 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.
Value For Money
Like all modern Volkswagens, the Beetle feels like it's hewn from stone, with the kind of build quality you'd expect from something twice as expensive. Compared to what you'd pay for a fixed-top Beetle, there's a model-for-model premium of just over £3,000 to find for this soft-top version, leading to pricing mainly pitched in the £20,000 to £28,000 bracket. 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. There's also the option of a trendier-looking 'Dune' version of this Beetle Cabriolet, a car with a higher ride height. That's based on the 'Design' trim level and is priced from around £24,500. Equipment levels include most things on the average wish list. Apart from the electric hood and tonneau cover that's part and parcel of the Beetle Cabriolet package, all models get Climatic semi-automatic air conditioning that also cools the glovebox, a trip computer, power heated mirrors, electric windows, an 8-speaker MP3-compatible CD stereo with aux-in point and a hill-holder clutch to stop you from drifting backwards on uphill junctions. Go for the sporty 'R-Line' variants and you can expect to find 18-inch 'Twister' alloy wheels, 'Sports' instrument dials, aluminium pedals and scuff plates featuring the 'R-Line' logo. Inside, 'R-Line' buyers get a leather-trimmed three-spoke multifunction steering wheel, which has an R-Line badge insert and coloured stitching too. The seats are finished in 'Kyalami' cloth and the R-Line badge is resplendent in the headrests.
Could I Live With One?
I would love to look out the window and see this in my driveway. It's cute, it's quirky and it would get envious applause from all my female friends. I may have to beg my other half to sit in the passenger seat, but who cares? I have definitely been bitten by the Love Bug.