2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Road Test Review
2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible puts the F-U-N in ragtop functionality
Scores High: Engaging driving experience, wide range of engines and transmissions, top moves quickly
Scores Low: Near vertical rear seatback angle, trunk space grows but total volume is still limited
Total Car Score Analysis
The all-new 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible is the latest introduction in an aggressive Volkswagen product onslaught. This stream of new models over the past two years has given the German automaker a 30-plus percent bump in U.S. sales in 2012. But it’s not just new product causing the sales spike; it’s compelling product that successfully taps into what American car buyers want.
In the case of the 2013 Beetle Convertible, Volkswagen has created a drop-top that improves on the Beetle’s styling mantra while providing a confident driving experience, upscale cabin design and genuine practicality (at least by convertible standards). A wide range of engine and transmission choices allows buyers to prioritize price, performance or fuel efficiency, but even the base Beetle Convertible, priced at $24,995, comes well equipped with features like 17-inch wheels, heated front seats, Bluetooth connectivity and full iPod integration. As the latest interpretation of Volkswagen’s most iconic model, the 2013 Beetle Convertible carries on the car’s tradition of value, fun and functionality.
Just like the latest Beetle coupe, the new Convertible offers a more upright windshield, longer (6 inches) body, wider (3.3 inches) stance and lower (1.1 inches) roofline. This gives the Convertible a more aggressive appearance without loosing its trademark profile. To ensure adequate body rigidity for the open top version Volkswagen added thicker A-pillars made from ultra-high-strength, hot-formed steel. High-strength steel is also used in both the lower B-pillars sections and the Automatic Rollover Support System (it deploys from behind the rear seats in case the car rolls over). All this high-strength steel makes the latest Beetle Convertible 20 percent stiffer than the previous version. Volkswagen says the flatter roof (with the top up) on the 2013 Beetle Convertible also looks more like the classic Beetle. We agree, and think this latest version will appeal to a wider range (read: higher male percentage) of customers.
Even if the evolved styling of the 2013 Beetle Convertible doesn’t appeal to you, the car’s increased functionality surely will. For instance, the fully automatic top now opens in 9.5 seconds and closes in 11. It can operate at speeds up to 31 mph and doesn’t impact trunk capacity when lowered. More compelling is the increased rear visibility (compared to the last Beetle Convertible) available when the top is stowed, as it sits lower behind the rear seats. The top’s three-layer design keeps the cabin quiet at highway speeds when its up, and the optional wind-blocker effectively eliminates wind buffeting when it’s down.
Ensuring a placid cabin at highway speeds is a good thing, because the Beetle Convertible readily achieves those speeds with any of its drivetrains. The base 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine only comes with a traditional 6-speed automatic, and while it isn’t the most advanced engine in VW’s line up (a revised base engine to replace the 2.5-liter is in the works), it still gets the job done with variable valve timing, 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Fuel efficiency is adequate, at 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, as is power delivery and overall refinement.
More entertainment, and fuel efficiency, is available from the 2.0-liter turbodiesel (or TDI) engine that can be matched to a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed DSG (dual clutch) automatic. This engine offers 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, making it quick from zero to around 40 mph. Highway passing, as with most diesels, can take a bit longer than with a gasoline engine, but the TDI’s low-end torque makes the Beetle Convertible feel quick under most driving conditions. AT 28 mpg city and 41 mpg highway – when equipped with the manual transmission – this version of the Beetle Convertible is the most fuel-efficient drop-top available right now.
Buyers looking to maximize fun over fuel economy can order their Beetle Convertible with the same turbocharged 2.0-liter engine found in Volkswagen’s GTI. With 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, along with larger brakes, red brake calipers, 18-inch wheels and stiffer suspension tuning, the Turbo version of the Beetle Convertible drastically elevates the driving experience. The increased power is sent through an electronically controlled limited slip differential, and the Beetle’s composed handling when driven aggressively on twisting roads makes for a “GTI convertible-like” experience. This engine can be mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed DSG automatic, and it still manages an impressive 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway with the automatic (21/29 with the manual).
Interior Design and Function
The increased functionality seen in the 2013 Beetle Convertible’s exterior shape and top design carries through to a more practical cabin. Increased interior volume (from 78 to 81.4 cubic feet) comes in the form of more headroom, shoulder room and legroom than the previous model. Trunk capacity has been improved from 5.0 to 7.1 cubic feet, and a split-folding rear seat allows for more flexibility when carrying bulky items. A shelf in the trunk area is specifically designed to house the wind blocker when it’s not in use.
But the new cabin doesn’t just work better, it looks better too. The easy-to-read, three-gauge instrument panel provides a large speedometer (with an integrated multifunction display window) between the tachometer and fuel gauge. An additional three-gauge pod, with oil temp, sport chronometer and turbo boost information, is optional on base models and standard on Turbo and TDI versions. Paying homage to the original Beetle is a dual-glovebox design offering separate upper and lower compartments. The three-spoke steering wheel has a classic look and can feature color accents -- depending on trim level.
As noted, the extra interior space and improved visibility make the Beetle Convertible a more real-world car. Rear seat legroom and shoulder are surprising given the car’s overall size and shape, but we did note a rather upright angle to the rear seatback. This shouldn’t be a deal breaker for most rear passengers, but it’s something to keep in mind if you plan on using the rear seat on a regular basis.
Primary Features and Options
Standard features on the $24,995 base Beetle Convertible include 17-inch wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an 8-speaker audio system with Bluetooth phone connectivity and iPod integration, ambient lighting, heated front seats and exterior mirrors, cruise control and leatherette seats that won’t absorb water if the top is down when it rains. A “Sound” package with steering wheel buttons, keyless access, push-button engine start and a touchscreen audio control system with Sirius XM radio can be added for $1,700. The TDI model includes all these features, plus the turbodiesel engine and additional gauge package, for $27,895 with a manual transmission or $28,995 with the DSG automatic. A navigation system and Fender premium audio system can be added to the TDI for $1,300.
The Turbo Convertible starts at $27,795 and includes the 200 horsepower turbo engine, 6-speed manual transmission, 18-inch wheels, sport suspension, larger brakes with red calipers, alloy pedals, foglights, additional gauges and a leather shift knob. The DSG transmission adds $1,100, and the “Sound” package adds a multifunction steering wheel, keyless access, push-button engine start and touchscreen audio system with satellite radio and the Fender premium audio system for $1,400. For an additional $2,000 a navigation system and leather seating can be added to the Turbo models.
To celebrate the launch of the all-new 2013 Beetle Convertible Volkswagen is also offering three special edition models. The ‘50s Edition will be painted black with a tan interior and “dog-dish” styled wheels. The ‘60s Edition has “Denim Blue” paint and two-tone blue seats. The ’70s Edition is painted “Toffee Brown” with chrome wheels. All three are appealing, but we like the classic ‘50s Edition best.
It’s Perfect For…
Convertibles have always been perfect for carefree buyers willing to prioritize fun over practicality. But Volkswagen has upped the ante on drop-top driving by imbuing the 2013 Beetle Convertible with modern safety technology and real-world utility. An impressive level of standard equipment, and enough options to personalize the driving experience, mean you can enjoy the Beetle Convertible’s classic vibe in a functional, everyday package.
Vehicle Tested: 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $27,795
Options on Test Vehicle: DSC 6-speed automatic transmission ($1,100), Destination Charge ($795)
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): $29,690
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The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos Courtesy of Volkswagen of America