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2004 Volkswagen New Beetle Convertible


     Everybody loves the Beetle; it’s just such a happy vehicle. I think it has something to do with the smiles. I mean, just look at the thing. It smiles coming at you and it smiles going away. I don’t know how anybody could be upset with a face like that looking back at you. Implied emotions aside, guess who wound up at the mercy of the little car quota again. At least the Beetle is well received by the female half of the species. This could turn out all right after all.
     As Beetles go, I am glad this one was a convertible. The black cloth top helped extract what little bit of masculinity there is in a Sundown Orange Bug. The 17” dual five-spoke wheels also added a little more character to the body’s bubbly lines. Young and old alike were attracted to the cute friendly lines of the Beetle. The Beetle had a way of attracting crowds in all but the most remote of locations.
     With a short wheelbase and petite dimensions, the Beetle manages the road nimbly. Maneuvering in and out of traffic is accomplished with just a flick of the wrist. Except for the folded top directly behind you, blind spots are nonexistent with the top down but can hide whole overpasses while the top is up. But who wants the top up, honestly? You simply can’t look cool with the top up. Besides, those daisies in the standard flower vase want to see sunlight. Raising and lowering the top took a little more effort than some of the more expensive roadsters these days, but was an easy operation nonetheless. A quick turn of a lever above unlocks the top and with the press of a button, happily motors it south. A vinyl boot comes standard to dress up the top while in the stacked position, which also installs easily with two large buckles.
     Our GLS cabriolet had the optional 1.8-liter Turbo motor, good for 150 horses. Which in a little car like this will move it along at a nice pace but don’t expect anything too spirited. This car is made for cruising after all. The new 6-speed automatic kept things moving but too often we found it hunting for the right gear. This is one of the few times we actually desired one less gear. A reprogrammed computer would solve some of the tranny’s problems, as we finally got fed up with the Tiptronic and left it in drive. No matter how you shifted, the computer always seemed to have a better idea. The real kicker is that even with an extra gear over the manual, fuel mileage was still rated an unspectacular 22 to 29 vs 24 to 31. As is to be expected when the topped is whacked off, we experienced plenty of cowl shake—and maybe a little rattle and roll! With the top down and wind blocker installed, a normal conversation could occur with little interference. However, be warned, those sentenced to the back seat will find themselves at a loss for words, or toupee.
     Inside you will find a happily straightforward dash, with typical VW / Audi quality. Materials are in good shape with mostly pleasing grains and textures. Large plastic panels surround the upper doors in your exterior color choice. The switchgear is logically placed and within easy reach; with the exception of the clock and outside temperature gauge, which are placed overhead on the cowl. Visibility out the front is hindered a bit by large A-pillars that are way out there, due to the exceptionally long dash. You can pretty much forget about seeing the four corners of the car too, as they just kind of fall off. The seats are comfortable and supportive with aggressive bolstering. They fit me just right, but I suspect someone of larger berth might find them a bit constricting. Our only complaint with the black leather interior is that on a hot day with the top down our backsides quickly turned into rump roasts. A problem best remedied with more speed. Ordering the cold weather package for an extra $150 adds heated seats and washer nozzles.
     Well it was fun while it lasted. I must admit the novelty wore off after a few days with the car. Aggressive driving was out, as the smile this thing brought at cruising speeds was just too much to ignore. Which is ok, everyone likes a polite driver. With a base price of $24,820 the New Beetle Cabrio is attractive, but with $2550 in options and delivery charges, it loses the sense of being a relative bargain. At $27,370 many other sedans and coupe alternatives come to mind, almost all of them more practical with real back seats and trunks. While the Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet is not the most practical method of motoring, it is definitely the most cheerful looking automobile on the road.

The Good:
Fun to look at, fun to drive, draws lots of attention.
The Bad:
Draws lots of attention, transmission hunts for the right gear, unspectacular mileage for its size.
The Verdict:
A good mix of cheerfulness and wind-in-the-hair driving, just not that practical.
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