Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet 50s Edition first drive

Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet 50s Edition In time for Summer Volkswagen have wheeled out their Beetle Cabriolet range of retro styled two door rag-tops priced from £18,405 to £28,335.

The Beetle Cabriolet models are an average £3,000 more costly than their Beetle Coupe counterparts.

The engine line-up mirrors that of the Beetle Coupe so all are direct-injection turbocharged four cylinder units. There are three petrol 1.2/1.4/2.0-litre units and two diesels of 1.6/2.0-litre capacities. There is the choice of manual and automatic transmissions depending on which engine is chosen.

There is the usual choice of trim levels – Beetle Cabriolet, Design and Sport but for its launch there is the added choice of a three special edition levels created to promote the retro design. These are the stylish 50s Edition, the cool 60s Edition and the elegant 70s Edition.

Volkswagen expects to sell around 6,000 Beetle Cabriolets in the UK in a full year which equates to 40% of all UK Beetle sales. The most popular version is expected to be 1.4-litre TSI 158bhp Design manual gearbox version priced at £22,690.

VW Beetles have a long history dating back to 1938 when the original Beetle, just known then as a Volkswagen, was launched. The original Beetle Convertible came along in 1949 and continued with the New Beetle Cabriolet of 2002 until 2010. Over 21.5 million Beetles of all types were sold in 73 years with 330,000 original Convertibles produced from 1949 to 1980 and over 230,000 New Beetle Cabriolets were built in just eight years from 2002.

The latest Beetle Cabriolet made its show debut late last year but now it’s here in UK showrooms and ready for customers to buy. It is based on the almost as equally new front engined Beetle two door Coupe and shares the elongated length of 4,278mm, muscular styling, signature outboard wheelarches, eye styled headlights and clamshell front bonnet. Like the styling of the original rear engined Beetle the latest incarnation has a unique appearance, there is no other car on the road like them in Coupe or Cabriolet form.

Both the Beetle Coupe the new two door, four seater Cabriolet will be bought because of their styling rather than their practicality. With the Cabriolet access to the rear seats is not great and the rear legroom is tight. Headroom is fine but rear seat passengers could feel claustrophobic with the roof raised. The electrically Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet 50s Edition operated multi-layer fabric roof, which includes a glass rear window, can be folded down in 9.5 seconds with the car being driven at speeds of up to 31mph and it can be raised in 11.0 seconds. A tonneau is provided to cover the roof when it’s folded down. Unfortunately the roof does not disappear out of sight when folded down. Like most pram-type canvas roofs it sits above and behind the rear seat head-restraints so visibility is restricted. The interior of the car with the roof up seemed well insulated from traffic noise and with the roof down there wasn’t too much wind buffeting. There is a 225-litre boot and the rear retro style bench seat can be folded to increase load space up to 905-litres. That is useful space for the ‘designer’ luggage for that top-down stylish, wind in the hair ‘cruising’ holiday.

With the VW Golf we have become used to impeccable handling and ride qualities, the Beetle does not quite match the standard set by past and present Golfs. The new Cabrio pioneers the use in the latest Beetle of a new multi-link rear suspension and the Coupe will adopt it soon. Handling and control functions are improved with the use of more expensive multi-link system that the cheaper torsion beam layout. People who buy it will not care too much on its dynamic driving credentials but under the skin of course it uses all the highly rated Volkswagen Group components such as the platform, engine and drivetrain technologies so it will be durable, reliable, fuel efficient and cost effective to run.

For most retail customers the 1.2-litre 103bhp turbocharged petrol engine I feel is the power unit of choice. It is free revving, responsive, smooth and cheaper to buy and run. It is available with the choice of manual and automatic gearboxes. The 1.4-litre 158bhp turbo petrol engine will apparently be more popular though giving just that extra bit of acceleration performance but the fuel economy is not as good, the emissions are higher and there is no automatic gearbox option. The 1.6 TDI, 103bhp diesel unit is an option for higher mileage drivers but the Beetle Cabriolet isn’t that sort of high-use car. The 2.0-litre, 208bhp TSI petrol and 138bhp TDI diesel units probably rule themselves out for most retail buyers because of high purchase costs which make these models hard to justify, after all the latest Beetle is about style rather than performance.

Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet 50s Edition Although VW didn’t have the 1.2-litre TSI 103bhp engine available at the press launch for us to try I have driven the Beetle Coupe with this unit in manual and auto transmission forms and to me it would be the power unit of choice. Given its ‘cruising’ top down retro styling, I’d also go for the DSG auto gearbox which gives the Cabriolet with this combination of engine/transmission in the most popular Design trim an on-the-road price of £22,245 – which I think is good value. The power output looks a bit weedy on paper but really it isn’t when tried thanks to its turbocharger.

However we did get the sample the new Beetle Cabriolet with the 1.4-litre TSI, 158bhp, 177lb ft of torque, turbocharged petrol unit with the standard fit six-speed manual gearbox carrying a price tag of £22,690 if the Design spec is chosen. However our test car had the launch special 50s Edition spec which pushed the price up to £24,895.

Top speed is 128mph but the more important acceleration time from standstill to 62mph takes an impressively low 8.6 seconds thanks to its responsive torque output of 177lb ft delivered from only 1,500rpm. Officially this unit will return 41.5mpg and on my short test drive around the country roads of Wiltshire the figure was 32.7mpg. The CO2 emissions are 158g/km so VED road tax is £175. Insurance is rated as Group 22E.

The specification for all Beetle Cabrios looks pretty good with the base version only let down by its steel wheels. Talking of wheels, available as standard or as options, are a wide range of styled wheels from alloys through to the really retro VW multi-holed wheels with the VW centre chrome hubcaps.

The interior of the Cabriolet is very retro in its styling reminding us we are in a Beetle and there is the option of various colour finishes for dashboard. The most popular Design spec level has cloth upholstery but with leather trim for the multi-function steering wheel and gear/brake levers. Included as well is Bluetooth, a Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet 50s Edition touch screen, DAB radio, power operated roof, electric windows, air conditioning, alarm, 17-inch alloys and electronic differential for the 1.4 TSI petrol powered version. The 50s Edition adds those fantastic retro wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated windscreen washer jets, cruise control, sports instruments, front and rear parking sensors and various tweaks to the retro style of trim. The bespoke specification rises as you climb the ladder of models which can be customised to fit your requirements, including a Fender sound system from the legendary electric guitar firm of the same name.

Despite our changeable weather where we go from floods to sunshine in a matter of days, the UK remains the second largest market in Europe after Germany for cabriolet/convertible sales. So there is proven demand for such niche models and the new smart retro soft-top Beetle does not disappoint for those car-lovers where style matters.

MILESTONES. Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet 50s Edition 1.4-litre. Price: £24,895. Engine/transmission: 1.4-litre, four cylinder, direct injection turbocharged petrol, 158bhp, 177lb ft of torque from 1,500rpm , 6-speed manual. Performance: 128mph, 0-62mph 8.6 seconds, 41.5mpg (32.7mpg on test), CO2 158g/km, VED road tax £175. Insurance group: 22E. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,278mm, H 1,473mm, W 1,808mm, 2-doors, 4-seats, boot/load space 225 to 905-litres. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. For: Distinctive retro styling, wide range of models and trim options, strong and fuel efficient engines, attractive prices. Against: Lacks the fineness in the ride quality and handling of a VW Golf Cabriolet, cosy rear seat passenger space, restricted rear seat passenger access, poor rear visibility with the roof down. Miles Better News Agency

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