Think of Volkswagen’s Beetle Cabriolet as a personality test on wheels. Whether you like it or not depends on how sunny you are…
SINGAPORE — How is the new Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet like a durian? Easy. Not everyone likes it, and to enjoy it you have to open it up. (Bonus question: How are open top cars in general different from durians? Caucasians don’t like durians.)
This means that, as cute as it is, the Beetle Cabriolet isn’t going to enjoy universal appeal here simply because convertibles aren’t for everyone. But if you’ve read this far it’s worth assuming that you at least like the thought of having a car whose roof removes itself, in this case at the touch of a button, and in only 9.5 seconds flat (11 seconds when you want it back up).
The roof works while you’re rolling at up to 50km/h, too, in case you were wondering, so you needn’t find a place to stop if you spot a flock of birds up ahead and suspect they’re all eyeing your head as a toilet.
A fast, automatic roof that works on the go is a convertible essential these days, but the Beetle isn’t without other frills. The air-con system remembers what settings you last used with the roof open, for example, so you can fold the thing and get back to driving without having to fiddle with the climate controls.
The roof itself is a nice piece of work, too. Okay, it’s a bit pram-like in the open position, but when it’s closed it retains the coupe-like line of the Beetle faithfully. It has the virtue of feeling pretty tight and quiet when overhead, and when it whirrs out of the way it does so in a hushed, well-mannered way.
The cabin isn’t compromised in terms of headroom, but as with the Beetle in general, the back seats are pretty much token items. They’re so hard and upright they feel like something a cruel orthopaedist came up with to correct children’s posture.
The boot, too, has had 85 litres of space gobbled up by a home for the roof, leaving you with just 225 litres.
Still, no one buys a convertible to make daily trips to Ikea or drive surly teenagers around. The whole point of the Beetle Cabriolet is to have fun, and this is a car that suits the sunniest of personalities.
Indeed, the Beetle itself in whatever form is an ostensibly jolly thing. If you can look at its retro lines, soft curves and cheery face without smiling, you have a lump of coal where your heart should be.
To some eyes it’s outrageously feminine, but a macho tail spoiler and 18-inch wheels add a bit of androgyny to the Cabriolet’s looks.
It’s all in good fun inside, too, with delightful details like a bank of instruments mounted on the dashboard, and a flip-up glovebox that pays neat homage to the old Beetle — a good place for parking coupons, that, because there are door straps instead pockets. That’s not the only way things are a bit basic either, with a rear view camera being the sole nod luxury.
You start the car with a standard key, use muscle power to adjust the seats, and the touchscreen system doesn’t come with satnav (though you can specify Apple CarPlay and let your iPhone tell you where to go).
Basic, yes. Dour, no.
But just because it’s basic doesn’t mean the Beetle isn’t fun. The 1.2-litre engine feels a lot peppier in real life than it looks on paper, and the fast-thinking, fast-acting gearbox helps to make the most of the torque that it musters.
The handling isn’t pinpoint accurate but the Beetle doesn’t feel sloppy, and when you add the lively little engine to the mix you can streak along at a merry pace in a pleasant enough reverie.
Much of the enjoyment behind the wheel is also down to the fact that driving a car with no roof tends to amplify the sensation of speed, of course. It’s far more immersive to see the world from the seats of an open top car, as well, precisely because you’re not shut inside a sealed cabin.
That makes the Beetle Cabriolet something of a personality test on wheels. It’ll be viewed as a fun car only if you’re a fun person.
Some folk will look at it and see only a cabin that needs to be routinely cleared of leaves at best, and the prospect of someone knifing the cloth top at worst. Needless to say, this isn’t the car for them. People like that can’t see the durian for the thorns.
NEED TO KNOW Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet 1.2 TSI
Engine 1,197cc, 8V, turbocharged in-line 4
Power 105hp at 5000rpm
Torque 175Nm at 1500-4100rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-cluth auto
Top Speed 178km/h
0-100kmh 11.7 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.9L/100km
Price $131,400 with COE