If I could sum up the VW New Beetle convertible in one word, it would have to be: Surprising!
Probably the biggest surprise with the New-Beetle was the fact I actually got it. I went to Volkswagen to pick up a Tiguan, but they handed me the keys to the Beetle. Apparently, there were no more Tiguan’s at the moment, so the natural replacement would be… a New Beetle Convertible! I was disappointed, but I knew my wife would be thrilled because she’s been bugging me for a couple of years now to get one for a test drive. Oh well, I grabbed the key and went looking for my ride. What color would it be? Burnt Orange? Perhaps Lime Green – or what about that weird white color I’ve seen? Nope – plain boring silver – with a burgundy top. Ugh. I hate silver almost as much as gold. Nothing I can do about it now…
I opened the door and peered inside. I looked at the seats and thought –oh oh these don’t look too comfortable. The second surprise of the day… they were much better than my first impressions even though there was no lumbar adjustment, but they are heated. The seat is height adjustable and has my favourite back adjustment – rotary dials so you can fine-tune it to the perfect angle. I grabbed the handle on the seatback to put my bag in the back. The seat folded forward and lifted up out of the way. Pretty cool, I wasn’t expecting that. That’ll make it easier for people to get in and out of the back seat.
The steering wheel is large and simple – in keeping with the whole style of the New Beetle. Although it doesn’t have any audio adjustments on the steering wheel, you don’t need it because the stereo sits so close to your right hand, making it far easier to make adjustments that way, than to go searching for the buttons on the steering wheel. The wheel is adjustable for reach as well as height, so combined with the ideal seat adjustments, there’s no way anyone couldn’t get comfortable in this car.
Looking down for the shifter I was aghast – it’s an automatic! Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
I started the engine and it made this very odd sound – it’s not a diesel, is it? As soon as I dropped the lever into “D” everything went quiet. Gave it a little gas and off I went. Touched the brakes – FULL PANIC STOP!!! Yikes. There’s no squeezing these brakes – they are either not on or on full lock up. This was my only real issue with the car. I don’t remember ever driving a vehicle that had brakes this touchy.
Pulling out into traffic I got another surprise – this thing moves pretty good for a slush-box. I didn’t squeal the tires or anything, but merging with traffic is easy. Stopping at the first set of lights was another shock as the brakes grabbed instantly and I stopped well short of the line – good thing there wasn’t anyone behind me. Greenlight. Touch the gas – I’m off like a scalded cat. Man – this car has only ON or OFF – nothing in between.
On the highway, it was far quieter than I expected. I’ve driven luxury convertibles that weren’t this serene inside. I’m zipping along in the left lane wondering why there are only a couple of us traveling at the speed limit – everyone else crawling along. Then I look at the speedo – I’m doing 130kph! It’s so quiet and the car gets up to speed so fast, I didn’t even realize how fast I was going. That can be a good thing… or that could be a bad thing – depending on how much you’re paying attention.
The audio system is a single-disc AM/FM/MP3 unit with 6 speakers (10 speakers in the U.S.), is the ultimate in simplicity and I think that’s a good thing. It’s quick and easy to understand – no need to dig out the owner’s manual. The sound quality was a bit odd at first, but after a few minutes I realized just how clean and clear the music was.
Coming off the highway, one of the first things I come to is a set of railroad tracks – rough ones, I know these well. This’ll be a good test. I went over the tracks at a good clip. Very impressive, with very little cowl shake, the suspension absorbed the ruts surprisingly well. Next test is the steep hill test – this separates the good cars from the bad. Usually a vehicle gets bogged down about 75% of the way up the hill. In a manual transmission you have to keep your foot down and shift to 3rd gear – shifting to 4th just kills the forward momentum. One more surprise… I went screaming up the hill like it was a gentle hill – very impressive considering I just left in auto to do its thing.
Before I knew it I was home – 2 hours just flew by.
As an everyday car, the New Beetle is more than up to the task. With humungous headroom, even very tall people find it open and airy. The rear seating is a little more cramped than the standard hard-top version, but still acceptable for short journeys. I set the front seat and then climbed in back. Getting in and out was very easy, and there was more than adequate foot, knee, leg and headroom. The rear seatback it very upright, so long distances back there would be less than ideal, which is typical of most four-seater convertibles.
Storage compartments are what I’d call adequate. The glove box is very small when you take into consideration the vast expanse of the dashboard. It’s still bigger than plenty of other vehicles I’ve driven lately though. The centre armrest/storage is very small, so the majority of storage is limited to the door panels. Trunk space is… surprisingly good at 5 cu./ft. While it’s nothing to get all excited about, when the top is down it doesn’t infringe on the trunk at all. There’s enough room there for some soft-sided travel bags – definitely not enough room for golf clubs though. There’s a handy ski pass-through for longer items.
Parking the New Beetle took a little getting used to at first because you sit towards the middle of the car. I didn’t expect the sharp turning ratio, so for the first couple of times I over-shot the spot. Reversing out has its own challenges because the roof takes up so much of the blind-spot area you could lose a whole family in that area.
Dropping the top is as easy as pushing a big button that says: ‘push” and then rotate the large handle that pops out. Press the button and presto! Open sky. The windows stay up for a draft-free drive, or they can all be lowered with the push of a single button – very handy. The top sits quite high on the back, blocking much of the rearview mirror and making it a little harder to view traffic from behind. Thankfully the side mirrors are a decent size so that helps immensely.
Obviously, the couple of issues I had with the car (parking for example), wouldn’t be an issue for anyone after a couple of days – it’s just something you’d get used to when you drive it every day. It’s probably sexist to say this, but it is really a “Chick” car. When do you ever see a guy driving one of these? As such, it has the right amount of cutesy stuff and plenty of get-up-and-go that any women could ever want! It’s loaded with plenty of safety equipment including loads of airbags (whether women are present or not), ABS, EBD and Traction Control. Locking the car, you get a very quiet beep from the horn. It’s a small thing, but I hate my wife’s Mazda that announces to the world “Hey! I’ve just locked my car!!”
Surprises all around….
Very well equipped for the price
It’s a convertible – who doesn’t love a convertible?
Can’t think of anything really
MINI, Smart ForTwo
By The Numbers…
Pricing for the 2009 VW New BEETLE Convertible
Base price: $29,175 Cdn [U.S. – $25,990]
As tested Blush Edition: $31,175 [U.S. – $26,990]
Destination & Delivery: Canada – $1,360 / U.S. – $750
In Canada it’s 4 years/80,000 kms Bumper To Bumper, plus 5-year/100,000 kms Powertrain.
In the U.S. it’s 3 years/36,000-miles and a 5 year/60,000 miles Powertrain
Roadside assistance is also included for 4 years/80,000 kms in Canada / 3 years/ 60,000 miles in the U.S.
Fuel Consumption: [Regular – 87 Octane]
The 2.5 L, is rated at City – 11.7 L/100 kms [20 mpg] and Highway – 8.4 L/100 kms [28 mpg]
I averaged 9.0 L/100 kms [26.1 mpg] during combined driving
Powertrain: 2.5 Litre 5-cylinder engine, 6-Speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic, FWD
Copyright © 2009 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text / Images: Iain Shankland