2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet
2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Chris Chase

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Ottawa, Ontario – Some designs never get old. Case in point: the 2007 Volkswagen New Beetle. Nearly 10 years after Volkswagen reincarnated its original people’s car on a modern front-engine, front-wheel drive chassis, the new bug still gets attention everywhere it goes. In the case of my Salsa Red Cabriolet, little girls squealed, 30-something women went home to see if a new car was in the budget and even middle-aged guys would try to downplay their interest in this “girly” car by asking “manly” questions like “what’s it got under the hood?”

But never mind the typical parking-lot gawkers – try taking a New Beetle Cabriolet to a wedding. I was the best man in a good friend’s wedding the week I was driving my red convertible bug with its contrasting beige roof. I’m not sure who got more attention: the bride and groom as they walked out of the church, or me as I pulled the car in front to whisk them away to central Ottawa’s arboretum, where photos would be taken.

2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet
2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

It’s a popular spot for wedding photos in the summer, and again, we were the envy of other wedding parties who had schlepped there in rented Chrysler 300s and limousines (that’s so “last year”).

For sure, this car is all about looks. You don’t buy a New Beetle – cabrio or not – because you want a truly useful car; that’s what the Golf is for. The idea here is to combine practical mechanicals – in this case the same 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine used in the Rabbit and Jetta – with standout styling. And like the original Beetle, little has changed with this new one since its debut in 1998. The 2007 model carries on with the same mildly revised exterior that came along in 2006, with the exception of the beige roof, which is a new option this year and is available with the Salsa Red paint, as well as blue and a cream hue called “harvest moon.”

2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet
2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet
2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet
2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

Inside, things are even more familiar: there’s the same simple dash controls – all within easy reach, though almost too close to hand – and the gauge cluster featuring a large speedometer, fuel gauge and the so-tiny-it’s-pointless tachometer.

The ride isn’t as sporty as it could be, but I suspect it’s a little softer here than in the hardtop version to save the car’s structure – which is weaker without a fixed roof – from having to take as much abuse over rough roads. As it is, large bumps send all kinds of reverberations up through the cowl, where they manifest themselves by shaking the rear view mirror. The only time you really feel it is in larger mid-corner bumps; these tend to upset the car quite severely, so while handling on smooth surfaces is entertaining, you’ll want to slow down for less-perfect corners.

As always, front-seat occupants get plenty of room, but the real test here was how well the not-so-large back seat would accommodate the groom’s six-foot-three height and the bride’s voluminous dress. Not having a door to duck through made it much easier and erased any worries about headroom (with the top up there’s not much, but a lovely summer day meant we could ride with the top down), but legroom was certainly tight, though livable for our purposes.

2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet
2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet
2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

From the driver’s seat, my biggest beefs were that the convertible roof created blindspots whether it was up or down, and the front seatbelts – which by necessity emerge from the top of the door, instead of attaching to this car’s nonexistent “B” pillar – are a pain to get at when it’s time to buckle up.

Base New Beetle Cabrios get a fully manual top, but my tester had the $2,995 Luxury Leather Package, which added a semi-automatic top that powers itself up and down, but leaves you to lock it into place with the big handle in the windshield header. Doing so takes a bit of a yank, but it’s not a terrible hardship.

That option package also brings a rear window defogger, front fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, leather seats and leather-wrapped shifter and hand brake, and a ski sack that allows long, skinny items to be slid through the trunk and into the passenger compartment. The trunk itself looks pretty tiny – and it is, with a volume of just 141 litres – but it proved surprisingly useful, easily accommodating a week’s worth of groceries and then helping us haul a bunch of sundries away from the wedding reception.

And while I always have praise for VW’s six-speed automatic transmission – a $1,400 option present in my tester – it takes an unusually long time for the selected gear to engage.

2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet
2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

At least shifts are smooth, and the manual-shift mode is more responsive than most examples of its ilk. The five-cylinder engine is torquey, but doesn’t offer much excitement in the upper reaches of its rev range; it’s noisy too, whether at idle – where it sounds like a diesel – or at high revs, where it just sounds unrefined. Fuel consumption was only okay, averaging a little more than 11 L/100 km.

At $27,790, the New Beetle Cabrio’s base price seems reasonable enough, but it starts to look less appealing at $33,000, the as-tested price-tag for the car I drove. Then there are the compromises that the car forces on its owners: tight rear seat, small trunk and shaky structure.

I have to admit that, despite those negatives, the car still left me with a case of the warm-and-fuzzies. My opinion is surely coloured by how nicely it contributed to my friend’s wedding,

2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet
2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

but even given its utter lack of any of the typical things that turn me on to a car – butchy looks, lots of power, terrific handling – I still felt a pang of regret when I handed the keys back at the end of the week.

Normally, I’d bemoan a nearly 10-year-old design like this, calling it outdated and past its prime. And while many aspects of this car could indeed use a serious refreshing, there’s no getting past the fact that it’s still great at what it was meant to do: turning heads.


Pricing: 2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet

  • Base price: $27,790
  • Options: $4,395 (Luxury Leather Package of semi-automatic convertible top with defoggable rear window, front fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, leather heated seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift lever and ski sack, $2,995; automatic transmission, $1,400)
  • Freight: $715
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Price as tested: $33,000 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives


Specifications

  • Click here for complete specifications


Related stories on Autos

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Competitors

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 VW Eos
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Ford Mustang convertible
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Mini Cooper convertible


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