Vijay Pattni20 February 2013

First drive: new VW Beetle Cabrio

Want to know what the third-generation Beetle Convertible is like? Step this way…

Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet

It's a convertible Herbie!

That's quite enough of that. This, dear TopGear.commer, is only the third ever production Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet ever built. Astonishing, if you consider the model name has been knocking about VW's halls since 1949.

Look at its face!

Yes, please do, because that's at least 90 per cent of the appeal of a car like this. How it looks. Thankfully, the new, third-generation Beetle hatchback and its sporty, squatter, less cartoon-like proportions mean the convertible version has a fighting chance. To our eyes, it's not a bad looking thing. Though we wouldn't say that out loud. Oh, wait...

See more pics of the new Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet

It's still a pastiche though, isn't it?

Very much so. Volkswagen is keen to trade off the Beetle's heritage, and as such, this new Cabrio comes in a trio of trim levels designed to pluck at your ageing heart strings and rekindle its past glory: you can choose from one of the three ‘50s', ‘60s' or ‘70s' special editions. The 50s model gets monochrome black paint, cool wheels and chromed bits, the 60s one is available in denim blue and candy white, while the 70s one gets a beige hood and beige interior. Beige!

But I'm deeply passionate about lift-off oversteer and nudging apexes!

We'd suggest you put the driving gloves away for this one. While it's a perfectly acceptable motor to cruise around in, it's not so good at engaging you in a fine discourse over corner entry and exit points. On well-surfaced roads - ie, the kind we don't get in the UK - it feels reasonably satisfying to throw around. Though the steering is a bit too light, and despite having multi-link rear suspension, the ride soon gets annoying over choppier streets. It's still capable enough of going from point to point - especially in the rather tasty 2.0-litre, 200bhp TSI engine - just not very neatly.

Ah. Driving gloves burned! Should I get my sun hat and Ray Bans out instead?

If you like. Because chances are, you've already made up your mind about buying a car like this. The interior is still part new-VW, part-retro with enough space for four, although the addition of three dials atop the dash (turbo pressure, stopwatch, oil temperature) feels a bit odd. However, the roof folds down in just 9.5 seconds and pops back up in 11, at speeds of up to 31mph. Roof up, the three-layer fabric insulates well too.

See more pics of the new Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet

That's quite enough road-testery nonsense: give me prices and some facts I can repeat on Internets!

The entry-level 1.2-litre TSI engine - a nippy, enthusiastic little thing - starts at £18,150, which is three grand cheaper than a Golf Cabrio. The ‘60s' edition 2.0-litre diesel with 135bhp and a six-speed DSG box tops the bill at £28,095. Oh, and for interesting trivia? Over 330,000 original Beetle Cabriolets were built from 1949 to 1980. And more than 230,000 of you out there - and you know who you are - bought the second generation New Beetle Cabriolet. Clearly, if you likes it, you likes it.

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