By James Bergeron
Day 1:

2007 VW New Beetle Conv.
Click Image to Enlarge

This week I’ll be driving a vehicle that I have to say is probably the least masculine of anything I have ever driven — not that that is a bad thing. Not so new anymore, the New Beetle is now in its tenth year on the market — oh, how time flies.

When asked what I am driving this week, I admittedly shy away from the question, only to eventually provide an answer, which is, predictably, followed by laughter from the questioner. It comes with the job: you can’t always be driving that hot new exotic from Italy — would be nice to sometime, though.

The new, New Beetle Convertible is now powered by the inline five cylinder engine available in the Rabbit, rather than the 1.8T or the anemic “two-point-slow” two-litre four-cylinder engine (used in the previous generation Golf and Jetta). Also new for 2007 is the 6-speed automatic transmission with tiptronic. Besides these updates, not much has changed on the New Beetle; it is still based on the “old” Golf chassis, although the exterior has apparently changed slightly — although only a trained eye could tell.

2007 VW New Beetle Conv.
Click Image to Enlarge

Starting at a base price of $27,790, the New Beetle Convertible comes very well equipped. To start off with you get a two-door coupe in convertible form with power windows (1-touch down/up), power locks. Air conditioning, heated seats, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, AM/FM/CD with 6 speakers and an AUX jack, 4 wheel ABS brakes and stability control are all standard.

My tester adds leather seats and luxury package which includes a power raise and lower top for $2,995 and the previously-mentioned automatic transmission for $1400 (a five-speed manual is standard), for a grand total, with freight, of $32,900.

The weather outlook for the week looks good, so it should be the perfect week to test this convertible’s usefulness and fun factor. Perhaps by week’s end I’ll have a new appreciation for the VW Beetle and it’s almost cult-like following.

2007 VW New Beetle Convertible
MSRP as tested: $32,900

For more information on VW and the New Beetle visit VW Canada

Day 2:

2007 VW New Beetle Conv.
Click Image to Enlarge

Typically, the more I drive a vehicle the more comfortable I become in the driver’s seat; the more I begin to appreciate the finer points of the car and the more I enjoy it. Sometimes I feel I may not be critical enough of some vehicles as I grow to like them over the course of a week of driving.

Well it is day two for me in the Beetle Convertible and it has not grown on me yet. In fact some of the “finer” points are beginning to really annoy me, which is quite rare, to be honest. The interior is not a horrible place to be, although it does seem somewhat dated. I actually like the large, easy-to-use dials and simple controls — a little different from other current Volkswagens, which seem to use a lot of little buttons.

2007 VW New Beetle Conv.
Click Image to Enlarge

But the rest of the interior just screams of an old design that was not thought out that well. I’d have to search through some archives, but I’m sure the New Beetle got many praises back in 1998 when it was released. Today, on the other hand, some things glare at me as simply bad design.

The first is the trunk. It is not too tiny — you can fit a couple of gym bags in there — but the opening is small and it is nearly impossible to close without slamming it with all your might and don’t even get me started on opening it: fat fingers need not apply. The second really annoying “quality” are the sun visors, they are too small and too far forward to be of any use, especially considering the side windows are extremely huge… but I digress.

There are some redeeming features as well, like the extra button to lower all the windows at once — more cars should have this, as it is convenient. The power top operates quickly, taking only nine Mississippis to raise or lower. Locking it into place though may be a challenge for some, though: my other half had a hard time and even I find it takes a good pull to get it latched.

Unfortunately, top up, the engine is very noisy and sounds like a diesel at idle. Thankfully once underway the six-speed transmission keeps the revs very low and the engine noise is diminished while cruising — hopefully tomorrow is better.


Day 3:

2007 VW New Beetle Conv.
Click Image to Enlarge

Ok, I admit it — I feel like a goof driving a Beetle Convertible — just a little. But today was different, I have driven Porsche’s, BMW’s and Lexus’ but have never had this happen to me. There I am sitting at a red light and the guy next to me honks, I casual roll down the window thinking “What’s up with this guy?” only to be followed by “Hey buddy, how’s the power in that thing? Any engine choices? Looks good!”

Ok, chalk that up to one other man I am thinking… then further on down the road I get a thumbs up from a green Beetle driver, then another. Odd, truly this car still has some appeal, more than I certainly expected — I was wearing my super cool shades today so that could have been part of it … nah.

2007 VW New Beetle Conv.
Click Image to Enlarge

So, how is the power? It is pretty good actually, 150hp and 170lb-ft of torque from the five-cylinder 2.5L engine moves the Beetle along fairly easily. To get sporting you can always shift the automatic transmission into sport mode, or use the tiptronic feature to hold the revs around corners. The brakes are extremely responsive and the steering is firm and well balanced, all and all a pretty good driving feel.

The arch shape of the Beetle is a very strong shape, unfortunately when you chop the top off though that advantage is lost and it can be felt. With the top up, the roof rattles over bumps and with it down the entire car feels like a loose noodle over pot holes and man hole covers.

Visibility is good all around though, perhaps limited some when reversing with the top up, but all convertibles suffer from this. With the top down you feel extremely exposed sitting fairly high-up in the vehicle. It really does feel like you are driving a bathtub, just sitting out in the open for all to see — perhaps I’m use to being lower in a convertible; a little more secure in the shell.

Day 4:

2007 VW New Beetle Conv.
Click Image to Enlarge

The New Beetle definitely has a cult following even now, nearly 10 years after it was launched. I even got a few more comments on the car while it sat in my driveway or in front of my house this weekend. It seems to appeal to all ages and demographics.

As far as driving it though, I don’t feel it really it performs up to its price tag, especially my tester with a price tag of over $32,000; this certainly puts the Beetle into a niche price bracket for a second / fun vehicle. I suppose one could drive this Beetle all year as it does have a glass rear window with defroster, but it just doesn’t seem all that practical as a daily driver.

I averaged 10.2L/100km in mostly city driving, which is not great nor horrible. The inline five-cylinder engine has gotten a lot of flack in the press in the Rabbit as not being as fuel efficient as one would expect for a small economy car, but it does have a good amount of power to keep you moving along.

*Rating out of 5:

2007 VW Beetle Convertible
Acceleration 3half
Handling 3
Comfort 3
Interior 2half
Audio System 3
Gas Mileage 3

*Rating based on vehicle’s classification

2007 VW New Beetle Convertible
MSRP as tested: $32,900

For more information on VW and the New Beetle visit VW Canada

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