Full 2014 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the Volkswagen Beetle convertible sees a handful of small but notable changes. The Beetle Turbo picks up 10 horsepower and a name change: It's now called the Beetle R-Line to avoid confusion later in the year when VW replaces the base Beetle's 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine with a new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Finally, the base Beetle picks up a few more standard features, and Volkswagen's telematics system (dubbed "Car-Net") debuts, along with a rearview camera (late availability).
Producing a retro-themed version of an iconic car can present automakers with quite a challenge. On one hand, they'll want it to pay proper homage to the original, but on the other, they don't want exaggerated styling cues to overshadow functional design. Unlike the previous "New Beetle" drop top, the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle convertible deftly hits the sweet spot, appealing both to nostalgic hippies and modern hipsters, as well as plenty of people in between who merely want a stylish yet practical four-seat convertible that lets them feel the wind in their hair.
The reasons for this V-dub's broad appeal are many. Within the classic yet tastefully updated shape, there is ample passenger space, sensible ergonomics, a decently sized cargo hold and suspension tuning that provides an agreeable balance between sporty handling and a comfortable ride. Variety helps, too, as one may select from a number of color and trim options and pick a gas or diesel engine.
Speaking of power plants, the base and rather humdrum 2.5-liter five-cylinder gas engine will be replaced later in the model year by a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that boasts not only slightly better power output but notably better fuel economy as well. Furthermore, because there will be two turbocharged gas engines (the new 1.8 and the carryover 2.0), the Beetle Turbo is renamed the Beetle R-Line.
As affordable convertibles go, the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle is pretty appealing. Compared to other retro-fashion small cars like the Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper, the Beetle boasts a roomier backseat, a stronger base engine (with the new 1.8T) and a larger cargo area. That's all true in comparison to a Mazda Miata as well, though the Miata is much more fun to drive through turns.
Meanwhile, you'd have to move up to the Chrysler 200 convertible to find something roomier in back, or a Chevrolet Camaro or Ford Mustang ? both of which provide stronger performance. VW's own Eos provides extra security and noise insulation thanks to its retractable hardtop design, but it's much more expensive. Overall, if you're looking for a small coupe or convertible that provides equal amounts of style and function, the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle should be on your consideration list.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Volkswagen Beetle convertible is available in three main trim levels: Beetle 2.5L (2.5-liter gasoline), Beetle R-Line (turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline) and Beetle TDI (turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel). Note that later in the model year the 2.5L will be replaced by the 1.8T (turbocharged 1.8-liter four).
The Beetle 2.5L comes standard with a power-operated fabric top, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated windshield-washer nozzles, heated mirrors, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated and height-adjustable front seats (with lumbar adjustment), leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a trip computer and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack. Also standard is VW's new Car-Net telematics system.
The Technology package adds keyless ignition/entry, satellite radio and a touchscreen audio interface. The Sound & Navigation package includes the above plus 18-inch wheels, a navigation system, a rearview camera (late availability) and a premium Fender audio system with a subwoofer.
The Beetle R-Line adds the following to the Beetle 2.5L's equipment: a more powerful engine, 18-inch wheels, foglights, a sport-tuned suspension, sport seats, unique cloth upholstery, a performance gauge package, faux carbon-fiber accents and alloy pedals.
The R-Line Sound package adds the same items as the 2.5L's Technology package along with the Fender audio system. The R-Line's Sound and Navigation System adds 19-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, leather upholstery, a rearview camera and a navigation system to the above package.
The Beetle TDI includes the 2.5L's standard equipment along with keyless ignition/entry, satellite radio, a touchscreen audio interface and a performance gauge package. It similarly offers the 2.5L's optional Sound & Navigation package.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the Beetle Convertible 2.5L is a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Later in the model year Volkswagen will replace this engine with a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that generates 170 hp and 184 lb-ft. Every Beetle is front-wheel drive.
For the 2.5L, a six-speed automatic transmission is standard. Estimated EPA fuel economy for the 2.5L is a disappointing 23 mpg combined (21 mpg city/27 mpg highway).
The Beetle R-Line convertible gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 210 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard and a six-speed automated manual (known as DSG) is optional. Fuel economy with DSG is actually better than the base five-cylinder at 25 mpg combined (23 city/39 highway).
A turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel engine with 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque powers the Beetle TDI. As with the R-Line, buyers can choose between a six-speed manual and the six-speed DSG. Fuel economy estimates stand at 32 mpg combined (28 city/41 highway) for the manual and 31 combined (28/37) for DSG.
Every 2014 Volkswagen Beetle convertible comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes and front side airbags that protect the body and the head in side-impact collisions. Volkswagen's new Car-Net telematics system features crash notification, roadside assistance, stolen vehicle location, remote door unlocking and geo-fencing (which allows parents to set boundaries for teenage drivers). A rearview camera is optional.
In government crash tests, the Beetle coupe received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars awarded for total frontal protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave it its top "Good" rating in its moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. In IIHS's newest small-overlap frontal-offset test, the Beetle scored a rating of "Marginal," the third lowest of four, although not every car has been subjected to this test and few have earned a "Good" rating.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2014 VW Beetle convertible's cabin draws design inspiration from the original flower-power model, yet includes the same features, controls and construction as modern Volkswagens. The trim that runs across the dash and doors can be color-keyed to the exterior just as in old Bugs, while the Turbo gets secondary dash-top gauges and available two-tone seats.
It's a pretty cool passenger environment, and unlike a Mini Cooper, it doesn't induce the sort of head-scratching that can come from odd control placement and frustrating ergonomics. The optional navigation system is easy to use, though its small screen limits usefulness. The premium Fender sound system, on the other hand, is well worth the extra cost and provides impressive sound quality.
The Beetle still provides plenty of room for tall drivers, and most people will find the front seats pretty comfortable. Rear-seat passengers will find a modest amount of legroom and a bolt-upright seatback, but no mainstream convertible save for the Chrysler 200 offers anything substantially better. The soft top folds lower atop the rear deck, and a tonneau cover can be affixed to the folded roof for a cleaner look and less wind noise. The car's trunk holds up to 7.1 cubic feet, and that space can be expanded by flipping down one or both halves of the 50/50-split rear seatbacks.
How the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle convertible drives largely depends on the engine you choose. The base five-cylinder is respectably powerful, but it sounds unrefined and gets disappointing fuel economy. Having sampled the new turbocharged 1.8-liter engine, we suggest waiting to get a base Beetle with this engine, as it's much smoother and far more fuel-efficient.
The Beetle Convertible R-Line is still the top dog here, and has plenty of punch and sounds great. As with other Volkswagen diesel models, the Beetle TDI drop top provides plenty of low-end grunt and ample passing/merging power along with very good fuel economy.
The R-Line's six-speed manual is quite possibly the most easily shifted do-it-yourself transmission around, while the sophisticated DSG gearbox is a nice compromise for those who want the convenience of an automatic with the performance and control of a manual. However, the DSG's responses can be frustratingly slow when accelerating from a stop while using the normal drive mode.
The Beetle's handling is respectably adept, though the car's overall abilities and steering response are well short of what you'll get from a Fiat 500 Abarth or Mini Cooper S. Then again, most convertible drivers just want to cruise city streets or local highways with the top down, and driven in this manner, the Beetle is pretty comfortable. Even the R-Line's sport suspension shrugs off bumps and ruts in the road. You'll notice the road's imperfections, but there's very little harshness.