A recent addition to the Kansas City Automotive Examiner test fleet was a 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI convertible. This car was a surprise for several reasons. In spite of its cutesy retro looks, this is more than a novelty car. This is a well-conceived machine with an innovative power plant that is sure to appeal to even the most hardened motorist. Let’s take a look at this solidly built German rag top.
You hear this description so much it has become cliché, but the Beetle really is like driving a go-kart. That short wheelbase helps it dart wherever you point the electronic steering, and a stiff but not punishing suspension keeps you flat in the curves. Plus, it’s not super powerful, so you often find yourself dropping to a lower gear or otherwise thrashing it to eek out more speed. If you’re in the right frame of mind, this set-up can be pretty fun.
The relaxed power delivery on this particular car comes from the “TDI” designation. That tells you it is a turbo-diesel. The 2.0-liter four is only good for 120-hp, but it churns out a generous 236-lb/ft. of torque @ 1,750-RPM. That means it’ll pack a wallop off the line, but grows some pretty long legs once you’re cruising. The big advantage to this, of course, is fuel mileage. Volkswagen claims MPG numbers of 28/city, 41/highway, and 32/combined. And I’ve read reports of even better mileage (probably from people who were not driving it like a go-kart).
For a small, economy-type car, the Beetle can be equipped with lots of high-tech equipment. This one had a touch-screen navigation system that actually says “please” when telling you where to turn, keyless entry, and Sirius Satellite Radio. That radio was broadcast through eight lovely-sounding Fender speakers.
The convertible top itself is also worth noting. The whole thing fits together tight with little-to-no wind noise. It even has a nice, finished headliner. You don’t have to unlatch or latch anything. Just hold down one button for a few seconds, and the top and all the windows go down. Hold it again, and they all come back up. There’s a fabric top boot that’s kind of a nuisance, so we just didn’t use it, and a wind deflector that blocks off the back seat, but for instant roof-to-no-roof action, this thing would be tough to beat.
The Beetle obviously has some drawbacks, and most of them have to do with styling. On one hand, the bubbly, retro look is a major selling point for this car. But it is so different that some people despise it. Of course, it everyone wanted to buy the exact same bland car, the Toyota Camry is the only car anyone would be able to sell. This car looks unique. And with a recent styling upgrade that makes the top and windshield flatter, among other things, it should appeal to a few more people now.
The styling also limits practicality a bit. If you wanted the guts of this car with a little more utility, you could buy a Golf. If you like this style better, and can handle a smaller trunk and somewhat constricted interior accommodations, don’t worry about it.
The takeaway is that the Volkswagen Beetle TDI convertible is a much better car than expected. It seems to have a quality and practicality that belies its cartoonish appearance. It’s a good car, and a fun car. For many, that combination is hard to beat.
For more information on the latest Volkswagen Beetle convertible, visit http://web.vw.com/convertible/beetle/.
For a photo slideshow of our test vehicle, visit https://picasaweb.google.com/100606331116384712953/2013VolkewagenBeetleTestDriveJune302013.
And for more from this author, including car show coverage, automotive history, and local automotive event calendars, visit http://www.hovermotorco.com/.