Used 1999 Volkswagen Cabrio

1999 Volkswagen Cabrio
List price range
1999 Volkswagen Cabrio

Pros

  • German ride and handling. Optional side impact airbags. Glass rear window with defogger. Amazing powertrain warranty. Free scheduled maintenance for 2 years or 24,000 miles.

Cons

  • Engine taxed by 2,771-lb. curb weight. Styling is more chunky than sporty.

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Edmunds' Expert Review

vehicle overview

Volkswagen replaced the venerable Cabriolet with this Golf-based convertible in 1995. The difference between the Cabriolet and the Cabrio was enormous and welcome. The old Rabbit-based car hasn't been missed.

The Cabrio is good fun. For $18,500 you get a four-seat convertible with simple good looks, reasonably spry performance and premium sound. Road feel is superb, and the thick four-spoke steering wheel falls readily to hand. While the 2.0-liter motor is no barnstormer, it moves the Cabrio quick enough to squirt through traffic. At high speeds, the VW feels solid and sure; this is a car that will get you speeding tickets if you're not careful.

Handling is excellent, in the Volkswagen tradition. The chassis and suspension communicate clearly with the driver, and the Cabrio's multi-adjustable seats are comfortable. The basket handle rollbar remains intact on the Cabrio, but the top stows much more neatly than it ever did on the Cabriolet and a stout top it is, sporting six layers and latching tightly to the windshield header. The glass rear window is thoughtfully equipped with a defroster, making the Cabrio a true four-season car. Cabrio GLS has a power top that makes life in sunny climates so much easier.

Two trim levels are available: Base and GLS. Both come with standard door pocket liners, a trunk cargo net and sport seats that feature height adjustment for both the driver and front passenger (driver only on Base model). Base models are de-contented versions, eschewing air conditioning, power windows, heated exterior mirrors, cruise control and anti-lock brakes to attain a price thousands of dollars lower than the loaded Cabrio GLS. GLS models add fog lights, alloy wheels and leather interior trim (among other items) to the standard equipment roster. Buyers who must have ABS are forced into buying the pricey GLS model, since the system is not available on Base models.

Yes, the Miata is more fun to drive, and of course, Mustangs are more stylish, but the Cabrio is no longer the Barbie car it once was. It imparts a sense of class and sophistication, and with a starting price of $18,500 (which includes a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and free scheduled maintenance during the first two years or 24,000 miles of ownership), we think this Volkswagen will appeal to those more interested in style than speed.

1999 Highlights

Volkswagen imparts new Euro-styling on the '99 Cabrios, making them more aerodynamic and adding twin headlights that show their elements through the lens. Cabrio interiors also receive makeovers.

Top consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1999 Volkswagen Cabrio.

Fun Ride
kamipost, 03/17/2002
Great value for a convertable car.
99 vw CABRIO GLS, What A Fun Car!
toycollector, 07/26/2014
I purchased this 99 VW Cabrio used some many years ago. I wanted a convertible and My Grand mother swore by VW. Lest we forget, she bought her VW's when Volkswagon was still Volkswagon. So, as my Cabrio ages, I would be in for some of todays technology short falls or upgrades that the car could/should have done without and be better for it . I prefer it's look to todays cars, it has a great ride and handles well. Very enjoyable ride in the summer, and decent traction, for a small car in the winter. And where do they come up with no power in the reviews. Mine goes like a bat out of, err a hot oven. It is pleasing to drive, fantastic when the top is down and the mid support has a good look. I have now gone through a top change out as the original became brittle and cracked. I installed the top myself, took a little over a day to do and restored the new top look. Paint wise, the paint held up very well until the clear coat began to peel off in 2009. But I have yet to see a car where the clear coat has not failed when the car is in its 2nd decade. It is just irritating to see the clear coat peel away and then be told the entire car needs to be repainted. Mechanically at this late date, Jan 26, 2016, the mechanicals of the car are still pretty much in very good shape, runs like a top and gets great mileage. The downside would be the electric windows motor which can be an off/on working operation. The other would be the less than stellar reliability of the inside door handle which over time will stop working from plastic breakage. The RADIO is teamed with a cd player and the sound is still booming. VW had a poor design to the radio face and if you try to take it out too many times, will crack the plastic face to a point that it will fall apart. I am on my second radio for that exact reason. Keeping a car over the 10 year mark for many is unusual and to still have a '99 vw Cabro today in 2017 seems to be a rare thing. The secret to it all is to keep up on any repairs as best you can. If you let it sit, it will deteriorate. For the most part, this Cabrio is still running well and still has great looks with the top still operating to a down position for open air enjoyment. I drive this car anywhere I care to go with a big smile on my face. UPDATE: July 26, 2017 Well I still have this fun car. The New top still opens and closes perfectly. Covered the area where that crap clear coat peeled with a plastiDip coating, looks good. Have one window motor acts up now and then but still workable. ... The car is still solid, handles very well and is amongst my most reliable cars. I had an episode where the after market installed, keyless alarm system locked me out and wouldn't start the car. This started when the battery went dead in the middle of Winter. The dealer had to remove the aft market alarm sys and she came back to life. So this reflects NOTHING on the car itself but watch out for that after market crap. ... Also, the hydraulic pump that opens and closes the roof can now have just the impeller replaced for a small amount of $ instead of replacing the entire pump for a lot of $$. ... Ok so that is the history of my VW Cabrio. On the road, she is still quick, smooth, solid and comfortable. The top still works, goes up and down smoothly and is so nice to drive with the top down. ... The Cabrio is a very fun little car to drive, handles very well and it is going to be very difficult to think about getting rid of, when the time comes. ... No long built, there are a few Cabrios available used but I can't vouch for what condition you will find it in but if you find a good one, you'll have some very enjoyable drives. Very nice Car. UPDATE: 01/25/2018: Still driving this gem. in good condition and great fun to drive. Had a shifting problem, VW wanted to sell me a new transmission. Turned out the shift linkage had some rust on it preventing it from going into gear. A little lubrication cleared that up. Runs great, rides great, still a very fun car to drive. Would be an "E" ticket ride. LOL.
FUN AND PROBLEMATIC + $$
forreal1, 07/03/2013
The reviews point towards a car that is fun to drive, good-looking (unique style), comfortable for even tall drivers, higher clearance than many convertibles, a/c and heater works, heated seats put out moderate amount of heat, good winter driving capability (if you choose to), good on gas and easy to park. I think these points are valid and are the experience of the majority of owners. For me, the problem was a leaking transmission, which turned into a replacement of the filter and fluid. This was the beginning of an expensive problem. Many transmissions don't like changing older fluid for newer fluid. It upsets the balance inside the transmission. Stay away from cars with trans work.
Very Dependable
C. Jones, 01/01/2003
The only notable problem has been the electrical window motors.
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Features & Specs

MPG
21 city / 28 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
115 hp @ 5400 rpm
MPG
21 city / 28 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
115 hp @ 5400 rpm
MPG
21 city / 28 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
115 hp @ 5400 rpm
MPG
21 city / 28 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
Gas
115 hp @ 5400 rpm
See all Used 1999 Volkswagen Cabrio features & specs

Safety

IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Poor

More about the 1999 Volkswagen Cabrio
More About This Model

How could a vehicle that I was so proficient at hating in high school manage to win me over during a recent road test? After all, isn't this the same "cute" VW that served as the quintessential cheerleader carriage throughout the late '80s and early '90s? A car voted "Most likely to be filled with Pompoms" and covered in shoe polish stating, "Beat the (insert innocuous high-school mascot name here)." While it may not be a politically correct, in-tune-with-the-approaching-millennium view, I've always pictured these things as the ultimate expression of automotive femininity. In other words, they're chick cars.

At least, that was my impression before driving the latest Volkswagen drop-top. What used to be the Rabbit-based Cabriolet has been transformed into the Golf-based Cabrio, resulting in a superior convertible in every way (with the exception of the goofy "Cabrio" name itself). This platform changeover came in 1995, giving us an open-air Golf much like the recently introduced New Beetle gave us a fun and nostalgic Golf. Normally we don't praise automakers for simply redecorating the same platform and calling it a new model. But when it comes to the Golf, Volkswagen has such a stellar chassis that we'll take as many versions of it as the company is willing to produce.

What this means for the latest Cabrio is a solid, refined and comfortable ride, whether cruising at highway speeds or clipping apexes on your favorite mountain road. The single most alluring aspect of this convertible is the pure driving thrill imparted by its capable and confident underpinnings. MacPherson struts and an anti-roll bar control front-end movement, while Volkswagen's own "independent track correcting torsion-beam rear axle" keeps the Cabrio's hindquarters in line. This suspension is complimented by a perfectly weighted, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system that offers excellent turn-in and fantastic feedback. Here is where the Cabrio makes its leap from cute Barbie-mobile to serious driver's car.

Volkswagen's antilock braking system, standard on the upscale GLS model but not available on the base GL, further contributed to the Cabrio's performance abilities. Maximum braking tests showed a 60-to-zero distance of 134 feet, but the real test came during repeated braking on a canyon run. A quick jab at the easily modulated pedal would kick the Cabrio's tail out for improved corner-entry angles in the twisty roads above Los Angeles.

If we could make one improvement to the Cabrio's technical readout, it would be in the horsepower department. The stock 2.0-liter in-line four makes an uninspired 115 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 122 foot-pounds of torque at 2,600 rpm. This is fewer horsepower than any of the Cabrio's competitors (but three more foot-pounds of torque than the Miata). When you consider how capable the Cabrio is in terms of handling and braking, it seems almost criminal that this car receives a measly 115 horses, while far less capable ragtops like the Toyota Celica and Chevy Cavalier get 130 and 150 horsepower, respectively. This engine heaves the five-speed Cabrio from zero-to-60 mph in a belabored 10.8 seconds. That's one of the slowest convertible times we have on record. Only the automatic versions of the Miata and Celica convertible are slower.

Another area we'd like to see Volkswagen work on is exterior styling. Despite the "new Euro-styling" (which is essentially just an updated twin headlight design and revised taillights) the car still looks basically the same as it did 15 years ago. There's nothing terribly wrong with the Cabrio's appearance, but it's not particularly exciting or inspiring, either. If Mazda can successfully update the Miata's look, we're certain Volkswagen could do the same for its convertible.

Where Volkswagen has kept pace with today's best cars is in the design of the Cabrio's interior. Everything from comfort to ergonomics has been addressed, putting the "fun" back into functional and giving passengers a great place to spend a sunny day with the top down. Front seats offer substantial bolstering, firm padding, and a wide range of adjustments to satisfy drivers of all sizes. This is one of the few small cars we've driven recently that had front legroom to spare. Rear seating is a bit tighter, but two average-sized adults will fit back there without moving the front seats all the way forward. There's neither a seatbelt provision, nor room, for a center passenger in the rear seat.

Climate and radio controls are within easy reach and have a logical layout. The one-touch operation of both the front and rear windows makes going from a closed to open-air configuration a simple procedure. The two convertible latches unhook easily and the power top (manual on GL models) stows in less than 10 seconds. Placement and labeling of the rear window buttons (under the climate controls in the central dash) is a bit confusing, and we had a problem with our driver's side rear-window. If the convertible top was up and we tried to use the one-touch up feature, the window would raise and immediately retract again. Volkswagen's "pinch protection" is designed to keep the windows from closing on fingers, arms or anything else that might get caught between the window and the top. This window's sensitivity was obviously off a bit, requiring it to be raised slowly and incrementally to avoid the retraction reaction.

Once stowed, the folded top can be quickly concealed under an attractive boot. Using just two snap fittings (one on each end) and some creative tucking, this unit is one of the easiest, yet attractive, boots we've ever encountered. Compared to the complex system used on the Sunfire/Cavalier drop-tops, it was downright brainless. Top-down travel was a joy with minimal buffeting below 40 mph. Raise the rear windows and that number climbs to 60. With all four windows up you can hit 80 without risking your prom date's freshly coifed hairdo.

Even more impressive was the Cabrio's ride quality with the top up. At highway speeds there was a subtle increase in road roar compared to a hardtop Golf, but no specific wind noise or rattles could be detected. Turn up the radio a little and you could easily forget you're in a softtop automobile.

Besides the horsepower and styling issues, our list of complaints was relatively short. We didn't care for the non-adjustable cupholders that are located too close to the dash to accommodate tall drinks. A general lack of interior storage space was mentioned as well. Despite a multitude of small pockets and bins (including an under-seat shelf and lockable center console) there was no single space that could hold a 35mm camera. This problem is exasperated by the miniscule (8 cubic feet) amount of trunk space. While the interior can carry four adults for a weekend getaway, we're not sure where those adults would store their belongings.

We were also disappointed with the Cabrio's sound system that featured an in-dash cassette player and trunk-mounted six-disc CD changer. With all that hardware on board, we expected a stunning audio experience. Instead, the system buzzed and was unable to reproduce effective bass. In Volkswagen's defense, this car had over 8,000 test miles on it and we suspect a partially blown rear speaker (or speakers) was to blame.

Even with its faults, we have to give Volkswagen points for building such a fine car. Instead of creating a convertible whose only redeeming factor is a roof that stows away, the Cabrio GLS offers comfortable seating, excellent ergonomics, sumptuous leather, high levels of luxury and a sublime driving experience. And all this comes before you lower the top. It's unfortunate that so many people (Edmund's staffers included) have trouble seeing past the double-X chromosome image of this car. For those who can, the Cabrio offers an attractive blend of value and fun. If those same individuals are primarily interested in the Cabrio's top-down (rather than top-speed) characteristics, this is a great car.

Used 1999 Volkswagen Cabrio Overview

The Used 1999 Volkswagen Cabrio is offered in the following submodels: . Available styles include GLS 2dr Convertible (midyear), GLS 2dr Convertible, GL 2dr Convertible (midyear), and GL 2dr Convertible.

What's a good price on a Used 1999 Volkswagen Cabrio?

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Can't find a used 1999 Volkswagen Cabrios you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Volkswagen Cabrio for sale - 2 great deals out of 10 listings starting at $24,736.

Find a used Volkswagen for sale - 2 great deals out of 12 listings starting at $24,520.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volkswagen Cabrio for sale - 2 great deals out of 16 listings starting at $9,304.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volkswagen for sale - 8 great deals out of 21 listings starting at $17,362.

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Should I lease or buy a 1999 Volkswagen Cabrio?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Volkswagen lease specials
Check out Volkswagen Cabrio lease specials