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  • 2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Convertible

    Posted on June 10th, 2007 ninarussin

    The New Beetle convertible is super-stylish, but is it more than a pretty face?
    By Nina Russin

    2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Convertible

    2007 Volkswagen New Beetle Convertible

    When Volkswagen designers unveiled the New Beetle, it grabbed the limelight as few cars do. The concept was the darling of the North American International Auto Show, and when production models arrived, they flew out of dealerships in record time.

    Then the Mini rolled out, and the New Beetle became yesterday’s news. Why? Because the Mini took the retro concept one step further. Not only did it look cool; it was also uber fast.

    Mini buyers found as much to love in the car’s BMW underpinnings as its pop-Brit exterior. They swarmed to SCCA races like a pack of bees, and on the track, the Minis took no prisoners.

    I’m not sure why Volkswagen engineers haven’t made a high performance version of the New Beetle. It’s certainly not for lack of talent. Just look at the GTI.

    This isn’t to say that the New Beetle is a bad car: it has the solid feel and well-rounded performance that European cars excel at. But with a zero-to-sixty acceleration time of 9.4 seconds, it isn’t going to win any races.

    White, white, white

    For 2007, Volkswagen offers a triple-white version of the New Beetle convertible. The white exterior and leather upholstery show off the car’s styling to its best advantage. Throughout, the design is clean and uncluttered. On the exterior, the Beetle’s hemispherical profile harmonizes with similar shaped wheel flares, elliptical headlamps and tail lamps. While the soft top limits the size of the rear window, the A and B pillars are narrow, to maximize the front and side glass areas.

    Inside, the while upholstery is downright elegant. The gauges are attractive and simple to read. The 140 mile-per-hour speedometer is a nice touch, even if top speed on the automatic model is only 124.

    Designers managed to incorporate the temperature and audio controls into a relatively small, uncluttered center stack. The center console has two generous-sized cupholders, and an armrest with a small locking bin. Map pockets in the front doors provide additional storage space. There is a second locking bin between the two rear seats.

    The standard ten-speaker audio system is a cut above: it has excellent sound quality, a standard CD changer and MP3 jack. The car is pre-wired for Sirius satellite radio.

    The glovebox is small but functional. A grab bar above the glovebox is a throwback to the original Beetle. It has no real value in the new car, except as decoration. Ditto for the bud vase next to the steering column.

    The front-row seats are firm and comfortable with good lower back support. The manual adjustments for the driver and front passenger are easy to use. The tilt and telescoping steering wheel allows smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag.

    On the convertible, the front seatbelts attach along the rear windowsill. There are hooks on the sides of the seatbacks to keep seatbelts positioned at the passengers’ shoulder height.

    Head, shoulder and legroom are excellent up front, but don’t plan to put passengers in back. There is absolutely no legroom, even with the front seats pulled far forward. The rear seats might hold a small pet, and they provide additional space for small packages, since the trunk has very little room. They also flip down to provide a pass-through to extend the cargo floor.

    The three-layer soft top does an excellent job of isolating road noise. It also keeps the interior cool in the hot Phoenix summer. Buyers in cold climates should find the same thing in the winter. The standard heated glass rear window enhances visibility in snowy weather.

    The top is easy to release with a single-handle. It piles behind the back seat, much like the original Beetle. On the convertible, the driver can lower all four windows with a single switch.

    Beach cruiser

    Getting behind the wheel, it becomes obvious that the New Beetle is a car to see and be seen in. It is most at home with the top down, motoring along a two-lane road: preferably one by the ocean.

     It is not a car for performance enthusiasts. Not only is the acceleration soft; so is the cornering. That’s a surprise, since the suspension is relatively stiff. Visibility to the front and sides is good, although the long dashboard gives the interior a bit of a fishbowl feel. The raked windshield makes the A pillars more noticeable, but they don’t obstruct visibility.

    There are large blind spots to the rear when the soft top is up. I found myself double checking traffic to the right before changing lanes on the freeway.

    The 150-horsepower five-cylinder engine has adequate power in the twenty-to-sixty range, for merging into high-speed traffic. Pickup is slow when passing other vehicles at highway speeds. The car has adequate acceleration off the line, but don’t expect to beat other drivers out of the tollbooth.

    The rack-and-pinion steering is responsive at all speeds with a nice, on-center feel. Turning radius is a respectable 36 feet. The front-wheel drive chassis doesn’t seem to have excessive oversteer. It should provide a little better traction on wet roads, assuming the driver doesn’t push the car too hard.

    High level of standard safety

    Volkswagen has been one of the leaders in airbag technology: it was one of the first manufacturers to offer side curtain airbags in its vehicles. While it’s impossible to have side curtain airbags in a convertible, the test car has standard front and side airbags with head and thorax protection. A new active rollover support system deploys two, spring-loaded aluminum posts to protect passengers in a severe collision. Other standard safety features include antilock brakes, traction control, and electronic stabilization program.

    Affordable fun

    As convertibles go, the New Beetle offers a lot for the money. Base price on the drop top is $22,120. Sticker on the test car is $26,630: well within the limits of our best value category. All cars come with a five-year powertrain warranty and four years of standard roadside assistance.

    Fuel economy is good: 22/30 miles-per-gallon city and highway, using the 2007 E.P.A. standards. Expect the fuel ratings to go down slightly for the 2008 model year, since the government has changed the certification system to more accurately reflect real driving conditions.

    The triple-white New Beetle convertible is currently on display at Volkswagen dealerships nationwide.

    Likes: Outstanding styling, inside and out: the New Beetle has the classic geometric shapes and simplicity of Bauhaus architecture. It is affordable, has good fuel economy, and a high level of standard safety features.

    Dislikes: Lack of engine power, especially low-end torque.

    Quick facts:

    Base price: $22,120*
    Price as tested: $26,630
    Horsepower: 150 Hp @ 5,000 r.p.m.
    Torque: 170 lbs.-ft. @ 3,750 r.p.m.
    0 to 60: 9.4 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: N/A
    First aid kit: No 
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Fuel economy: 22/30 m.p.g. city/highway
    Comments: *Base price does not include a 640 destination charge.

     

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