2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Rocky Mountain Review By Dan Poler
By Dan Poler
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel
Reviewing a convertible in a cold climate in Winter? Mind you, convertibles in general have come a long way from the days of the stereotypical creaky, leaky, freezing machine of old – it’s not that they’re unpleasant in the Winter anymore, but having a vehicle ready to have the top down at a moment’s notice when it’s cloudy and well below freezing is almost… Taunting. But Winter be darned, we accepted the opportunity to see Volkswagen’s all-new-for-2013 Beetle Convertible.
The modern Beetle presents an interesting challenge for VW – how do you create a car with current-day appeal that’ll be relevant to today’s buyers, yet still pay homage to the classic, which many buyers may remember from days of old?
While the fully-roofed version of the Beetle was all-new for 2012, the convertible follows as a new-for-2013 model. The new-new-Beetle Convertible receives updated exterior styling that trends more hip and less cutesy than the outgoing model. It’s a welcome change.
Inside, the Beetle Convertible has a 2+2 arrangement with decent legroom in the front, although nonexistent in the back. Passengers of average height or taller will not find the rear to be comfortable. The trunk offers just over 7 cubic feet of storage, and the rear seats can fold down to accommodate larger items.
Everything in sight in the interior is plastic – dash, trim, even vinyl covers the seats. Not that this is a bad thing; the materials used are decent and don’t try to pretend they’re something they’re not, proving that it’s possible to build an interior that is predominantly plastic yet still looks good. We particularly liked the smooth, body-colored plastic trim on the doors and the dash, although its slight shine does pick up reflections at night, which can be distracting.
Controls are generally logical and well-placed, perhaps with the exception of cruise control switches on the directional stalk, making them somewhat difficult to manipulate. We particularly liked the number of storage cubbies and spots, such as a second glove box and unique retaining straps for door pockets which nicely accommodated an extra bottle of water. We also enjoyed the Beetle’s accent lighting along the doors and around the front speakers, which could be switched between different colors – red, blue, white, or disabled – via a switch on the dash. If anything, the accent lighting was perhaps a bit dim.
Our tester included the Sound and Navigation package, providing an updated entertainment system including basic navigation. We found it to be fairly straightforward to operate although its controls felt a bit laggy and slow to respond at times.
Driving the Beetle Convertible can be a bit of a frustrating experience. Our tester was equipped with the base 2.5-liter inline 5-cylinder engine putting out 170 horsepower. The engine has a lot of weight to haul around and it shows – we found ourselves using the transmission’s Sport mode quite a bit out of necessity during operations like highway merging. It’s a shame, because the Beetle feels like it should be fast and responsive. We’d recommend evaluating the 2-liter turbo setup for a better overall experience. We also found the steering to be a bit on the squishy side as well.
One particular concern we found was the absence of a rear-view camera, an option becoming more and more prevalent. When the roof is raised, rear visibility is severely restricted, making backing out of a spot in a suburban parking lot a somewhat hair-raising experience. We hope that VW will consider inclusion of a rear-view camera in a future update. Apart from this omission, the VW Beetle comes standard with the safety features we typically see these days, including traction and stability control, ABS, front side airbags and side curtain airbags.
Putting the roof down is a quick operation by means of a button between the overhead light cluster; it retracts smoothly and quietly in just a few seconds. Despite the cold weather we found opportunities to get some sun and discovered that the heater is nicely powerful to compensate for cold outside air. While we enjoyed our time with the top down, we trust that it will be even more enjoyable in warm weather.
Ultimately, VW’s latest iteration of the Beetle Convertible lives up to its legacy of a lot of fun in a small package. Buyers both new and old will enjoy its charm. While we did find concern with its low power and mushy steering, it’s still a lot of fun to drive and brings with it a certain joy. All in all, a nicely executed update by VW.
2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Engine Type: Inline 5-cylinder, 20V, MPFI Engine Size: 2.5-liter Horsepower: 170 @ 5,700 rpm Torque (lb-ft): 177 @ 4,250 rpm Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic Wheelbase / Length (in): 168.4 / 99.9 Curb Weight: 3,206 Pounds per HP: 18.9 Fuel Capacity (gal): 14.5 Fuel Requirement: Regular unleaded Tires: Hankook Optimo H426; 235/45HR18 Brakes, front/rear: Ventilated disc / solid disc Suspension, front/rear: MacPherson Strut / Multi-link Ground clearance (in): 5.6 Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive EPA Fuel Economy - MPG city / highway / observed: 21 / 27 / 26 Base Price: $24,995.00 Base Trim Price: $28,495.00 Delivery: $795.00 Price as tested: $29,290.00