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Review: 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle Convertible

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PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Buyer's Guide

By Carre Joyce Gordon

The New Beetle convertible and I were both looking damn good, top down (only the car’s), my skin glowing in the summer sun, and a smile beaming from ear to ear because I was driving such a cute car.

I pulled up to a stoplight and found myself next to a male friend driving in his 1993 Bonneville.

The light turned green, I put “the pedal to the metal,” and as I waited for something to happen, the old Bonneville took off leaving me in its dust. Yeah, yeah, I know the New Beetle has only 115 horsepower, I know it’s built for beauty…but knowledge does not always overcome embarrassment!

This non-turbo powered model would be a great (and safe) car for a lead footed teenager, but not for an experienced driver who enjoys some zip and wants a car’s performance to be commensurate with its looks.

The New Beetle is definitely a looker a real cute car; everyone agreed on that, it is a cute feminine car.

After a week with this car, my male friends who were not in touch with their feminine side pronounced that they would not be caught dead driving this car, but on the other hand all of my female friends now want a New Beetle of their own.

“It is so cute” and “Where’s the testosterone in this car?” are the two remarks I heard over and over during the week I drove the soft yellow 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle convertible.

I really loved driving around in this car, but there is no way I could live with a New Beetle convertible as my only wheels. On the practical side I could barely fit my laundry basket in the trunk and when I took a friend to a golf driving range we had to put our club bags upright in the backseat.

I need a lot more space in my car; actually I believe all girls need a lot more space because of our need for a traveling closet.

With the top down the VW New Beetle convertible is like a mullet haircut…business up front and party in the back. There is so much wind at speed that there is absolutely no way to sit in the tiny (understatement) back seat and then walk straight into a meeting or a party without having a whole hair salon at your disposal…unless you want to make a fashion statement, “…my hair?, oh I just drove over in my friends VW convertible”.

The wind conditions in the front seats are much tamer as long as you keep the windows up. An even better solution is to use the temporary wind screen (optional $275), which does eliminate most of the wind damage, but changes this VW into a two seat’er…no friends or pets in the back fact no nothing except for maybe grocery bags or small overnight bags. Don’t plan on a long road trip with a companion if you would like to take a change of clothing or golf clubs, or boogie boards, or even Fido.

I do give credit to the Beetle for my new tan, with the top down and the wind blowing, it’s even better than lying out on a raft in the pool.

However, due to the difficulty (understatement) of putting the roof up and down, (Volkswagen must have tested this top on Helga the woman weightlifter), it was sometimes more expedient to just leave the top up and go out of the car to bask in the sun and not risk that a sudden shower that might fill the topless car with rain during an epic top- closing experience.

On nice sunny days with absolutely no chance of rain I put the top down and cruised around town really enjoying my topless experience.

Unfortunately I learned that with the top down, in just the short time it took me stop and run into a fast-food restaurant for lunch, the black (leatherette) vinyl seats absorbed enough heat to make them feel like a pile of hot coals. Although this allowed the backs of my thighs to soon match the already sunburned fronts, it is not something that VW should be proud of.

I did come up with a low tech solution to prevent vinyl burn: place a big, thick towel on the seat… a better solution would be to use real leather which wouldn’t get nearly as hot.

Hot seats, tepid acceleration; and impossible to operate convertible top aside, there are quite a few nice features to the car.

Besides looking mahvulous, the CD player and sound system are awesome; the tiptronic transmission is as smooth as it can be; the car is really easy to parallel park; and the electronic door locks(automatic) gave me the secure feeling that there is no way for someone outside to unlock the doors while I was inside.

Carre’s Call: At about $24,000, the VW New Beetle is like a trophy companion, it has great looks, smells good, and causes stares wherever you take it, not bad if you are just into looks, but I think it needs a little more going for it.

How cold is that?

C.J.Gordon is a 20 something freelance writer based in Louisville, KY