Test Drive Notes Library
- Sun. Like most convertibles, the VW’s flaws all disappear when the top is down and the sun is out.
- Convertible top. The VW comes with an excellent convertible top. You might remember the last cloth-topped convertible you rode in, and think of a flimsy, rubbery cloth, whose thin splines you can see above your head while the top flaps in the wind. This car’s top is the opposite. From the inside of the car, the top appears to be a roof. It looks solid, with good insulation, and excellent structure. Push one button, and hold it for about 10 seconds, and the top and all four windows zoom down. On the way up, it all comes back together and locks the top in place in seconds. It couldn’t be easier or quicker to operate. That’s important, because even if you’re just taking a five minute drive, there’s no disincentive to lowering the top and enjoying the sun and wind, even for a trip down the street to put your barber to work covering your bald spot.
- Good wind and sound protection. With the top down, even at highway speed, you can converse with your passenger or listen to your favorite Big Brother and the Holding Company album.
- Comfort. It's a surprisingly comfortable ride for a small car, especially on the highway. It benefits from the Golf chassis, and it’s good balance between ride and handling. But it leans even a bit more towards comfort, perhaps because of its extra weight. You really notice it on the highway, where the ride is exceptionally smooth.
- Handling. Like the proverbial Golf's rib from which it was created, the Beetle Convertible is a competent handler. It’s more than precise enough for around town.
- Retro. The current VW Beetle is already retro, as it’s the second iteration of the famous original. This “Coast” trim package adds some additional retro touches, our favorite of which are the “straight out of the 70’s” wheels that look like old Beetle hubcaps. Our tester also came with a teal paint job, tan convertible top, and some fake driftwood on the dashboard. We received a number of compliments on the color--all from women, who apparently really like teal.
- Good, clear, simple controls. Nothing complicated. Easy to use dedicated buttons for the important stuff.
Test Drive Notes Library
- Jerky operation at low speeds. Since the 2.0 liter turbocharged engine is used and admired throughout the VW lineup, we’re going to blame our drivetrain disappointments on the six speed automatic transmission. It seems unresponsive at times. You step on the gas, and then often wait until it decides to react and move the car. This was particularly noticeable at lower speeds, and in stop and go driving. At highway speeds, with less shifting going on, the Beetle operated smoothly. But around town, the delays got annoying.
- Claustrophobic with top up. Like most convertibles, it’s a different, and less appealing, car with the top closed. With the top up, it feels like the subcompact car it is. You notice the enormous C-pillar, which blocks your view to the back and rear-sides. And the small, glass rear window further limits rearward visibility. Blind spot monitors came with our test car, and are absolutely necessary. The rear view camera, while small, makes backing up, without plowing into any garbage cans, possible.
- Two plus two. It’s a four-seater, but the back seats are really marginal. There’s very little leg room back there, and the angle of the seat encourages you to wedge your butt back and pull your knees up. Since it’s a two-door, you also have to clamber back there, and back out. Consider the back seats for kids, or occasional adult use.
- Virtually no trunk space. If you’re picking up a six pack, you’ll be fine. But if you need two sixes… OK, that’s an exaggeration. But there’s very limited room in the trunk, compared to cars we’re all used to.
- Small video screen. It offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which help a lot. But if you’re not using Apple CarPlay, the screen can be hard to read, and feels a generation behind most others we’ve tried lately.
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