• 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T - Driven

    Mark McNabb spent some time with the 2015 Beetle Convertible 1.8T; check out his review at TopSpeed.com to find out if he still has his Chuck Norris beard after a week with Beelte, or if he swapped it out for a "soul patch."

There is perhaps no other vehicle in the automotive history that is more steeply drenched in history, pop culture, and longevity than the Volkswagen Beetle. Commissioned in 1934 by Adolf Hitler himself, designed and built by Porsche with assembly starting in 1938, and sold continually in its (mostly) original design until 2003. It holds records for the longest running and most manufactured automotive nameplate of a single design. The car’s iconic design included a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine that powered the rear wheels. Several engine sizes were used throughout the years, though the basic flat-four design remained. Despite the original Beetle’s continuation into the 21st century, Volkswagen released a new take on the classic design. In 1997, VW released the “New Beetle,” a retro styled compact car that evoked the past while still adopting current technology. A front-mounted engine powered the front wheels while the trunk moved to the rear. The New Beetle lasted until 2008 when it was put on hiatus. The car arguably suffered form an acute lack of testosterone, leaving the Bug to be very gender-specific with buyers. The optional dash-mounted flower vase, for example, didn’t help the car’s appeal toward the male audience. The Beetle returned for 2012 sporting an updated design, VW’s swanky new interior styling, a host of engine options, and without the “New” nomenclature. Thankfully the overall design took on a more gender-neutral appeal, though the car still fights the girly stereotype.

I recently spent a week with a 2015 Beetle Convertible complete with the new-for-2014 turbocharged, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine. Without spoiling the suspense, I did walk away with a new appreciation for the car and a stronger respect for its historical significance.

Click past the jump for the full review of the 2015 Volkswagen Beetle

  • 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T - Driven
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    six-speed automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    170
  • MPG(Cty):
    24
  • MPG(Hwy):
    32
  • Torque @ RPM:
    184
  • Energy:
    Direct Injection, Turbocharged
  • Displacement:
    1.8 L
  • 0-60 time:
    8.2 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    120 mph (Est.)
  • Layout:
    front engine, FWD
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

TopSpeed Garage


Exterior

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T - Driven Exterior
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2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The combination is certainly on the cuter side of spectrum, but other color combinations and wheel offerings change up the look.

Volkswagen has done a good job at growing the Beetle’s image and maturity. Though it still holds similar lines as the New Beetle, the overall look is more sculpted despite its very rounded shape. A more rectangular Cheshire Cat lower grille helps in this tremendously. My tester came coated in bright-red paint with the base-level wheel covers. The combination is certainly on the cuter side of spectrum, but other color combinations and wheel offerings change up the look.

Chrome accents around the car help add flair. The large VW emblem, the rings around the headlights, the trim along the bottom of the doors, the rear VW emblem, and those wheel covers shine like the chrome accents on the original Bug.

My tester’s black cloth top proved to be a smooth operator. Top up, the clean lines and flattened roof design help dispel the bubbly Beetle shape; top down, the car simply takes on the personality of a California beach cruiser. Only some seven seconds stand between a sealed car and a retracted top with windows down. It takes a bit longer — 11 seconds — to fully raise the top and windows. What’s more, the top can be operated at speeds up to 30 mph.

Interior

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T - Driven Interior
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2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T - Driven Interior
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2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T - Driven High Resolution Interior
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A car seat does fit, though the the seat ahead needs to be slid forward.

There’s a lot to love about the interior. My eyes kept gravitating to the body-colored dash, steering wheel spokes, and door toppers. Bathed in the bright red, the look is fantastic, especially contrasted with the rest of the black interior. Though my tester came with literally zero options, the interior still featured heated leatherette seats, a leather-covered steering wheel with controls, customizable interior lights, and Bluetooth connectivity. I did miss having satellite radio and a touchscreen navigation system.

The little touches make a difference. The trim around the seats looks like carbon fiber, the mood lighting sets a cool glow at night, the ergonomics are great, and the gauges are easy to read.

Comfort is mostly reserved fro the front two passengers. The same can’t be said for the rear seats. I can sit behind myself, but the space is very limited and would get uncomfortable over any extended distance. A car seat does fit, though the the seat ahead needs to be slid forward. Headroom for all four seats is great, however, and not just with the top down.

I did walk away with a few complaints. The interior is surprisingly quiet, even at highway speeds. However, there is some slight wind noise along the top of the windshield. Secondly, the sun visors are nearly useless. They don’t extend far enough down nor do they slide — both are problems with such huge windows to cover. Lastly, the cup holders are somewhat cramped. The rear holder is covered by the center armrest that requires folding up before accessing the second drink. Otherwise, the interior was a great place to spend time.

Drivetrain

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T - Driven Drivetrain
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The transmission works well at shifting smoothly, but isn’t the quickest at changing cogs.

This Beetle comes powered by the recently released base engine. The engine is lighter and more efficient than the 2.5-liter four-cylinder it replaces, the 1.8-liter, turbocharged four employs direct fuel injection and variable valve timing, along with a integrated exhaust manifold to help reduce fuel consumption and turbo lag.

The engine puts out 170 horsepower between 4,800 to 6,200 rpm and 184 pound-feet of torque at a surprisingly low 1,500 rpm. While the horsepower is the same as the older engine and torque is increased by just seven pound-feet, the figures come at 700 and 2,750 lower in the rev band, respectively.

Mated to the engine is a six-speed automatic with a manual shift gate. A six-speed manual transmission is offered in the Beetle, just not with the drop top. The transmission works well at shifting smoothly, but isn’t the quickest at changing cogs.

The combination is EPA rated at 24 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined. While those numbers aren’t bad, I somehow only managed around 22 mpg over the week. Perhaps I have a heavy foot.

Driving Impressions

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T - Driven Interior
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That said, normal operation of the skinny pedal on the right means shifts blend into the background of driving.

Sitting behind the wheel of the Beetle and tooling around town or even down the interstate at speed is a pleasurable experience. The cabin’s ergonomics and quality materials make a good environment to spend time in. The thin, leather-wrapped steering wheel powers an electronic steering rack that provides minimal feedback, but offers enough feel for an everyday driver.

Throttle response is somewhat slow and the transmission does take its time when downshifting under heavy throttle. That said, normal operation of the skinny pedal on the right means shifts blend into the background of driving. Outward visibility is really good thanks to the large greenhouse. Even with the top up, blind spots are minimal. The brakes are linear and are easy to manipulate with small movements. I did find the distance between the pedals a touch too far. I had to almost pick up my heel and come rearward in order to move to the brake pedal.

Overall, the Beetle offers a pleasant driving experience. Dropping the top makes all the nit-picky issues blow away, of course. The car does come with a mesh wind deflector as standard. Installing it means a more pleasant open top experience for the front two occupants, but no room for rear seat passengers.

Pricing

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T - Driven Interior
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My tester carries a base price of $25,345. Since it has no options to speak of, the $820 destination charge is the only addition to the sticker price. All told, the final dollar amount was $26,165.

Competition

Mini Cooper Convertible

2011 Mini Cooper & Cooper S Exterior
- image 391198

Like the Beetle, the current Mini Cooper harks back to older days when small, inexpensive European cars were hot. Under the ownership of BMW, the new Mini brand has been cranking out the Cooper since 2001 with several other models added as well

The standard Mini Cooper comes powered by a 1.5-liter inline-three-cylinder that makes a surprising 136 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. Sixty mph comes in 7.4 seconds with a top speed of 130. Not bad for a three-banger. Of course, the Cooper S offers even more grunt with its 2.0-liter four-cylinder.

Pricing for the 2014 Mini Cooper Convertible starts at $25,700 and $28,700 for the Cooper S.

Fiat 500c

2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio High Resolution Exterior
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While the Fiat 500c is smaller than the Beetle and Mini in nearly every direction, it also holds a ton of historical value. Built in retro styling harking back to the original 500, the new version is a fun, quirky little city car that hauls far more character than it does cargo.

Powered by a 1.4-liter four-cylinder only making 101 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque in its base form, the 500 offers enough power for city streets and just enough for cruising down the highway. For speed junkies, there is the Abarth 500 Cabrio with 160 horsepower, 170 pound-feet of torque and tons of compact-hatchback-bombing fun.

The Fiat 500c certainly has price in its favor. A base model with only set you back a touch over $20,000 while the Abarth will run you $27,245.

Conclusion

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The Beetle is more than a car, it’s a lifestyle statement. It says "free spirited" and other fancy free things about the owner, much like the original Beetle did for owners back in the 1960s. Affordable, quirky, fun, eye-catching, and fun loving are all outwardly announced attributes of the car’s styling and visual attitude. Besides its exterior appearance, the Beetle is a good car. Its quality interior, subdued engine, and quick-folding soft top earn it high marks for everyday living.

The Beetle, now more than ever, represents its historical heritage of being a people’s car; of being a Volkswagen.

  • Leave it
    • Still caters to a specific demographic
    • Slow-shifting transmission
    • A few interior ergonomic issues
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