The Beetle Classic Convertible is a modern car, with vintage personality.
We ascribe human emotions to cars. I don’t know why, but we do. I do it all the time, and I think that for some reason, it helps us connect with them. It makes them more than just a hunk of metal and computers. For example, the first time I drove a PT Cruiser, I said, “It drives like it’s sad about something.” Ok, I didn’t actually say that, but it’s the most obvious emotion for that car. Almost daily, I say something like “My BMW is mad at me.” Or “Oops, my car didn’t like that downshift.”
We do this to entertain ourselves, but more importantly, the personification of a car helps us describe the experience to others, and maybe lets us feel a bit less lonely on long solo drives to work. With that in mind, I think this week, I drove the “happiest” car I’ve ever driven. After spending some time in the 2018 Volkswagen Beetle Classic Convertible finished in “Bottle Green” I can safely say that this car doesn’t know how to be anything but happy.
Before I continue to fill the page with cliches about its “character” and “personality” I should probably let you know that this VW Bug (reviewed here) is very good at just being a car. The driving experience itself is surprisingly refined. I’m not sure if it’s just because I expected a brightly coloured convertable to be compromised somehow, but the Beetle had a smooth ride, responsive steering and throttle, and the power delivery from the 1.8L TSI with 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque was nothing near sluggish (if not not quite exhilarating).
The six-speed auto did a great job of delivering the correct gear and I never really bothered with the Tiptronic mode. Not sure why. Probably because I was too busy cruising and listening to “Jitterbug.” The car was quiet with the roof up, and with the top down and the wind deflector up, there is literally zero annoying buffeting all the way up to highway speeds. If I was forced to be picky about the driving experience, I would probably say that there was a tiny bit of scuttle-shake into the steering wheel over bumps, due to lower structural rigidity in the convertible.
The interior was quite usable as well. The 6.33” touchscreen in the “Classic” was intuitive and responsive, with the only downside being that it’s not shaded, so it becomes difficult to see in direct sunlight. However the App-Connect and Apple CarPlay was welcomed. The rear seats can fit two adults (with the roof down) but they are fairly cramped and you wouldn’t want to do a long road trip with a group of four. The driver and passenger seats were quite comfortable and are eight-way manually adjustable. That coupled with the fact that they are nice and wide made it so there were no hard spots or cramped body parts for longer trips.
This “Classic” trim includes 17” heritage alloy wheels, which echo the chrome hubcaps of the past. The car tested here was the Classic Convertible starting at $29,390 and had the added “Style” package, for $2,520, bringing you dual zone climate, a Fender audio system, power soft-top with remote key fob operation, blind spot detection with rear traffic alert, and some LED lights. This made the car very usable as a daily vehicle, which is merely a bonus, considering the highlight of the Beetle is the style. In fact, it’s ALL about style.
Ok, I’ll admit, there is a definite image that goes with driving around a cute, green, Beetle Convertible. When people pull up beside you, they aren’t likely to expect to see someone that is on their way to an axe throwing, BBQ rib eating, flannel shirt festival. Lets just say that if you are a dude driving one of these, you probably won’t get much respect from the camo-wearing Duck Dynasty crowd. But you know what? This car won me over immediately. I’ve never cared less about what other people thought of me on the road.
I loved the open air, the shiny vintage-looking wheels, the deep green paint job, and the awesome checkered pattern on the seats. It was like driving around in a picnic. This car gave off a real human emotion; it felt happy. For some reason I felt like I was on vacation whenever I had the top down. Which was a lot, because it drops down in just under 10 seconds, and you don’t even need to be fully stopped to open it. The car comes with a matching tonneau cover that takes a minute or so to install and it looks great from the outside. It kills rearward visibility however, and if you choose not to use it, it takes up most of the minimal trunk space. Thankfully, the wind deflector folds up and can be stowed away under the trunk lid if you want to accommodate rear passengers.
By the end of the week, I turned out 9.0L/100km which is right on par for the city, but honestly, I wasn’t bothered with keeping track of fuel economy. I was too busy applying sunscreen so I could go for another afternoon cruise. Even though the 2017 Volkswagen Beetle Classic Convertible was genuinely modern, it retained a heap of vintage personality. It seemed to encourage you to drop the top and tune Sirius XM to “Simply Sinatra.” Sure there are a few compromises, but go drive one. I bet it will change your day for the better.