Comfortable and easy to drive, if not particularly exciting
Dashboard combines retro styling with clear, modern VW controls
Hatchback version has excellent score from Euro NCAP
Should prove as good as the Golf
Good boot but rear seats are tight
Cheaper models are fine; higher trims are expensive
The 1.2 engine is the one to go for as long as you don't mind it's slightly weedy acceleration: apart from this, it's smooth and happy to be revved, and makes the most financial sense. The 1.4 petrols are the best choice if you like to pick up pace quickly, but while the 2.0-litre diesel and petrols are punchy and responsive, they're not really worth the extra expense. We haven't yet driven the 1.6 TDI model. All Beetle Cabriolets get the advanced rear suspension you find on top-spec Beetle hatchbacks, but at urban speeds the soft-top still shudders a bit over poor surfaces; things get better when the pace quickens. The slow steering response means you won't want to throw this car round twisty B-roads, however. A large plastic windblocker keeps buffeting down to a minimum; the downside is that when it's in place it puts the rear seats out of use. All the engines are quiet, and there's no more wind noise than on other convertibles.
The plastics in the Beetle's cabin don't feel as classy as those in a VW Golf, with more hard panels used instead of soft-touch surfaces. The controls are just as solid and easy to read as those in other Volkswagens, but as the dashboard has been inspired by the original Beetle's, it's taller than in most modern cars and has a flat - rather than sloping - front. You can go even further with the retro look and specify the dash in the same colour as the car's exterior.
There's plenty of space for those up front but the rear seats are only really suitable for children as legroom is tight, and even kids might not relish journeys in the back as the low fabric roof makes rear occupants feel rather hemmed in. The boot is a decent size but a small, letterbox-shaped opening make it a little awkward to load. However, you can fold the rear seats forward to expand the loadspace when you need to carry larger items.
The cheapest trim, confusingly named 'Beetle', comes with steel wheels, DAB radio and air-con, but it's available only with the 1.2 TSI or 1.6 TDI engines. Design trim adds a body-coloured dashboard, alloy wheels, Bluetooth, USB input, CD changer, multi-function steering wheel and a monochrome touch-screen. Top-spec Sport models get sports seats, front and rear parking sensors and bigger alloys. An extra £300 will get you a colour touch-screen and sat-nav on Design and Sport models. All models have Isofix fittings on both rear seats, with top tether points.
The Beetle shares most of its parts with the Golf, so reliability should be good. The Beetle hatch received a five-star rating from Euro NCAP, including an impressive 92% for adults safety and 90% for children, and the Cabriolet should keep you similarly protected. On the security front, you get an alarm, deadlocks and plenty of marked parts.
The Beetle Cabriolet is big on style but short on space, and if this isn't an issue then it's worth knowing that a Mini Convertible is cheaper and retains more of its value, too. However, the Cabriolet is actually quite well priced next to most other four-seat cabriolets, and both tax and fuel bills should be low.