Review and photos by Russell Purcell

2005 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo Convertible
Click image to enlarge


Return of the punch buggy


The Volkswagen New Beetle has been a resounding success since its introduction in 1998, but it was the topless version that hit showrooms as a 2003 model that pushed all the right buttons. It was immediately apparent that the stylish little beach cruiser with its nostalgic good looks and apparent build quality was a keeper.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a week with the 2005 edition of this little crowd pleaser, and it was packing some extra punch. My Sundown Orange test vehicle was a Turbo model, and this 1.8-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder produces a healthy 150-hp and 162 lb.-ft of torque which is more than enough to hustle this shapely retro-rocket to 100 km/h in about nine seconds.

Quality is impressive

2005 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo Convertible
Click image to enlarge

Volkswagen has been moving its entire line-up up-market, and the overall quality of its cars reflects this from the Phaeton on down. While switchgear, panel gaps and fit and finish are vastly improved for what is basically an entry-level car, lopping off the roof to create a convertible can lead to disaster. The transition from fixed roof to a folding one often leads to shakes and rattles as the body structure twists and flexes, while less durable cloth and vinyl headgear seem to age prematurely in the sun and elements. Luckily this is not the case with the New Beetle Convertible, as the car was designed from the ground up as an open-topped machine.

2005 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo Convertible
Click image to enlarge

The top itself was designed by legendary German coach builder Karmann, and the materials used are top-quality. It is fitted with a proper glass rear window and provides enough insulation to keep the car both comfortable and quiet. In fact, the fit and design of the top is worthy of those seen on sister company Audi’s upscale cabriolets.

Surprisingly roomy

When Volkswagen’s designers penned the New Beetle Convertible it was important to preserve the unique semi-circle profile of the coupe. The end result is that the car offers generous headroom both front and rear, a rarity in most convertibles.

The rear seat is surprisingly useable but the same cannot be said for the trunk, as it is very miniscule. A set of golf clubs may fit, if you play mini golf.


Convertible top

2005 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo Convertible
Click image to enlarge

With the tug and twist of a central lever and the touch of the console mounted switch, the power top quietly retracts in a scant 13 seconds. All four power windows automatically lower slightly to keep them from hindering the process, but a separate window switch is also available to lower all four windows completely with a single touch.

Volkswagen officials claim that the stacked top actually acts as a spoiler at speed when retracted, and even provides a vinyl cover to smooth air flow (and protect the roof) over its surface.

Having the wind in your hair and the sun kissing your ears comes at a cost. Backing up and performing shoulder checks in the New Beetle Convertible are both a challenge when the top is down as it severely restricts rearward visibility.

2005 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo Convertible
Click image to enlarge

I stand 6’2″ tall and cannot see over it when it is stacked high on the car’s round haunches.

Wind buffeting can ruin an otherwise enjoyable drive so Volkswagen offers an optional wind deflector that mounts behind the front seats to help reduce this effect for front passengers. This one-piece unit folds down to the size of a briefcase and is stored in a vinyl case in the trunk.


Equipment

2005 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo Convertible
Click image to enlarge

All Turbo models come standard with perforated leather seating surfaces, while the normally-aspirated GLS cars come with ‘Leatherette’ as standard. My tester was fitted with the ‘Monsoon’ audio system (part of the GLX package) which utilizes ten speakers and a bigger amplifier to help overcome the loss of sound quality that comes with removing the roof. Nice touch.

2005 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo Convertible
Click image to enlarge

Heated seats are standard, as should be in any modern convertible. Manual A/C, power windows and mirrors are all standard, and the latter incorporate integrated turn signals and are body-coloured. The rear-view mirror features an integrated clock and temperature display as well as an animated roof display to signal roof operation. Remote power door locks and a security system with ignition immobilizer complete the package.


On the road

My test vehicle was equipped with the 5-speed manual, but a 6-speed automatic with Tiptronic is available as an option. Shifting was very precise and smooth, and gear spacing seemed spot on.

2005 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo Convertible

2005 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo Convertible
Click image to enlarge

Steering is responsive, and my inputs placed the car exactly where I wanted it to go. The chassis is well developed, and the suspension (independent up front; semi-independent rear) handled road irregularities very well, with just a hint of cowl shake.

The New Beetle’s design perches the car on its four wheels, just like in a go-kart. Having the rolling apparatus at each corner gives the car a very toss-able feel, while the extra weight carried by the convertible (vs. the coupe) lowers the car’s centre of gravity.


Safety

As this car was designed as a convertible from the ground up, it retains the structural integrity required to give it tight handling and a safe feeling body structure. Squeaks, rattles and flex are virtually non-existent.

2005 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo Convertible

2005 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo Convertible
Click image to enlarge

Front occupants benefit from dual-stage air bags as well as seat-mounted side impact units, complete with unique head extension capabilities for both driver and passenger.

In the event of a collision or a rollover, twin automatic rollover supports deploy from behind the rear seats, ensuring that rear occupants will have an acceptable level of head protection in the event of a major accident. This is a great bonus on a car at this price point.

Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist come standard, and VW’s well-proven Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP) is also available as a $430 option.

 


Conclusions

When the New Beetle Convertible debuted in 2003 as a replacement for the aging Cabriolet, it had virtually no competition save the Miata.

2005 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo Convertible
Click image to enlarge

However, a host of inexpensive drop-tops have entered the arena this past year, including Chrysler’s PT Cruiser and Mini’s equally retro Cabriolet – causing the Beetle to lose a little of its lustre. As a result, the non-turbo version of this car fitted with the 115 hp 2.0-litre 4-cylinder may be better positioned to compete as it is priced a little closer to the $30,000 mark. However, enthusiast drivers will appreciate the added performance of the turbo, even if it costs them more both at the pump and in the showroom.

As for the Punch Buggy reference, you best be warned if you plan to putt a New Beetle in your driveway. Kids and adults alike seem to remember the game (spot a VW Beetle, punch the person closest to you in the arm!), and I have a neighbourhood full of bruised kids to prove it!


Technical Data: 2005 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo Convertible GLX

Base price $37,020
Options none
Freight $595
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $37,715
Type 2-door, 4-passenger convertible
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 1.8 litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 20-valves, inter-cooled turbocharger
Horsepower 150 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque 162 lb.-ft @ 2,200 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual (opt. 6-speed automatic w/Tiptronic)
Curb weight 1,436 kg. (3,166 lb.)
Wheelbase 2,509 mm (98.8 in.)
Length 4,091 mm (161.1 in.)
Width 1,724 mm (67.9 in.)
Height 1,502 mm (59.1 in.)
Trunk space 339-litres (12.0 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 9.5 L/100 km (30 mpg) (Imperial)
  Hwy: 7.1 L/100 km (40 mpg) (Imperial)
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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