Motoring Review: VW Beetle Cabriolet 50s edition

Do we still have the bug for the retro Beetle cabriolet?

Price: £24,655 (as driven)
Engine: 1,390cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, turbo and super-charger, 160bhp at 5,800rpm
Transmission: Six-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive Performance: 128mph, 0-62 in 8.6 seconds, CO2 158g/km

A remake of a remake. That's VW's latest-generation Beetle, the replacement for the late-1990s cartoon Beetle which started the trend for reinventions of vital past cars. Think Mini, Fiat 500 and… well, that's about it because the idea doesn't really work with anything else apart from, arguably, a Porsche 911. And that never went away in the interim.

People fell out of love with the cartoon Beetle once the visual joke had worn off. Today's version, launched nearly two years ago, looks tougher and more credible, with proportions more like the air-cooled, clattery original's. It's meant to be a bit more macho, to reflect the Beetle-tuning culture rife in the US in the 1960s. And, as expected, there's now a convertible version.

Here it is. The part I really like is that as well as the basic Design and Sport trim levels there are also three much more interesting-sounding special editions: 50s, 60s and 70s, representing the three decades during which the original Beetle was a cultural, er, icon before becoming a classic car.

So the 50s version, pictured here, comes only in black and has big, chrome hubcaps just like old Beetles often had. The 60s comes in the pale blue often seen on that decade's Beetles, and its wheels are a nod to the five-spoke Fuchs design first used on Porsches in that decade but sometimes found unofficially adorning the Porsches' Beetle blood-cousins.

I'm not quite sure what the 70s Beetle is supposed to represent, but it is painted metallic brown and has very large, chrome hubcaps which are eaten into by shiny silver spokes. Here, the retro look is less focused. All of them, however – along with the regular Design model – have a dashboard painted the same colour as the bodywork, even if it's no longer the painted steel it once was.

Now, the practical part. This is a proper four-seat convertible, and the soft-top retracts electrically in just 9.5 seconds. You can lower it, or raise it again (11 seconds), even when driving along provided your speed is below 31mph. Roof-up, the Beetle is impressively quiet and snug with practically no wind noise around the side windows. Roof-down, there's plenty of fresh air but little buffeting if the side windows are raised.

This is a refined, well-built car, with a solid feel to its fittings and a structure almost immune from shakes and shudders over bumps. VWs had a reputation for solidity and quality in the 1960s, and this new Beetle faithfully reproduces the tactile promise that goes with the visual one. All models in the range have the multi-link rear suspension reserved only for the grander models in the saloon Beetle line-up, which improves ride comfort and steering precision, both of which the open Beetle has in abundance. It gives a smooth, comfortable, responsive drive, most excitingly with the 200bhp, 2.0-litre petrol engine, most economically with the 1.6-litre, 105bhp turbodiesel.

You'd have to be in love with the Beetle idea to consider one of these over a Golf Cabriolet, but this time the open Beetle is a pleasing car in its own right. Surprisingly, it's also cheaper than a same-engined Golf despite having to come all the way from the Mexican factory. Make it a 50s edition, though. I would. 1


Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

    £6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor