2019 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Final Edition SEL Review

Goodbyes can be awkward


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Good handling and steering that's very VW, well-built, stylish interior, easy infotainment controls, good small storage options.
Negatives: Still too juvenile, noisy engine when pushed hard, incredibly small back seat
Bottom Line: The swan song for the current generation of the Beetle is its best yet, but we still can't support its existence. It's too niche, not very practical, and a bit silly. And that's too bad because it's well made and fun to drive.
It seems modern Beetles just don't have the staying power of the original. Volkswagen produced the first-generation people's car from 1974 to 2003. When the New Beetle showed up in all its cuteness in 1998, it only made it to 2010 when a Final Edition was made as a sendoff. Then, the redesigned Beetle returned in 2012 with Ragster concept-like proportions and styling and a much-upgraded interior. Alas, it's not enough, and we find ourselves saying goodbye to the current generation car with a Final Edition in coupe and convertible trims. We got to test the convertible in the dead of winter for a week to see how this second farewell would, uh, fare. Read on for the full details.
 

Driving Experience

8.1

 

The way the Beetle drives belies the way it looks. Okay, so it's not exactly a rocket, but that's okay. The fact that it's Golf-based means its well-tuned for fun driving. We were so occupied with its embarrassingly feminine looks that we forgot it's actually quite good to helm.

Ride Quality: The ride has some firmness, but the Beetle absorbs bumps well. It's got a surprising well-compromised ride that leans a little toward sporty.

Acceleration: Off the line, it feels spritely, but in higher gears there's some lag. The six-speed auto manages downshifts well, and it's pretty smooth. 60 mph comes in the low seven seconds, which is decent.

Braking: Brakes modulate well, and the pedal feel is good. They bring the Beetle to a stop quickly.

Steering: The steering is well-weighted and precise. There's even a modicum of feedback coming through.

Handling: The Beetle handles turns very well with minimal understeer. It feels balanced and composed with very little body roll.

Technology

7.8

 

VW's newer systems are very good, though they're not aesthetically mindblowing. The Beetle sadly gets a small touchscreen that's in serious need of an upgrade. Too bad that will never happen.

Infotainment System: 6.3 inches is a small screen these days, and the Beetle Final Edition deserves better. At least it's easy to read and operate.

Controls: VW controls are good but on the smallish side. The audio knobs are tiny and shallow, and the climate control knobs are also smaller than we'd like. At least it's all pretty easy to reach, and they didn't try anything weird. Physical controls are always welcomed, versus all onscreen.

Styling

8.2

 

It's hard not to like the Beetle. It's cute and fun to look at. We just don't like to be seen in it. It's definitely the best looking modern Beetle, even in convertible format.

Front: Iconically Beetle in its roundness. The circular LED headlights match the aesthetic nicely, and the front isn't overstyled.

Rear: Gone are the circular taillights from the last-gen car (thank goodness, no more ladybug decals). These LED units look good and have some elongation to them. The spoiler is a great touch that breaks up the curvy body, and the cloth top is well made.

Profile: The Beetle accomplishes its look here quite well. It's well proportioned and handsome, albeit still too cute.

Cabin: The leather seats are very handsome with the diamond quilted stitching. The cabin remains fun and well-crafted. Tan and black coloring is very attractive. The stainless steel pedals and tan dash top things off nicely.

Comfort

7.4

 

Only front occupants fare well here since the back is practically non-existent. It's a cabin that's not suffocating visually, and the overall feel is pleasant.

Front Seats: The seats are firm and a bit on the flat side, but they're more comfortable than we thought. They could use a bit more bolstering.

Rear Seats: The rear seat backs are very vertical, but who cares? No one shy of very small children are going to fit back there, and even then they won't be especially happy. Adults shouldn't even try. There is hardly any legroom to speak of.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The soft top does a good job of insulating the cabin. There were no errant noises. You can hear the buzz of the engine when it's pushed, though.

Visibility: For a convertible, hte visibility is pretty good, at least out the front and the sides. Cameras are imperative for rearward maneuvering.

Climate: VW climate systems are good. Ours worked just fine in the cold winter, and the heated seats were great. We weren't stupid enough to put the top down in a Chicago January.

Safety

6

 

Though the Beetle does decently in crash tests, it's not at the head of the pack. The Mazda3 does far better. There's also not a ton of accident avoidance tech here.

IIHS Rating: It didn't win any awards. It only received a "moderate" for the driver's side small front overlap crash.

NHTSA Rating: The feds gave it five stars for the 2017 model year, the same generation as our tester.

Standard Tech: The SEL comes with a Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, and an Intelligent Crash Response System. There's nothing pro-active in the set. Tire Pressure Monitoring System

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

4.7

 

The coupe is actually decent when it comes to cargo room, but the convertible is pretty weak in that department. This is definitely a lifestyle car. No road trips in this one, unless you're one person with a duffel bag and some snacks.

Storage Space: The cabin isn't very practical for small storage items. A small center stack cubby, a tiny cubby below the armrest, and some of the worst door pockets we've ever seen (elastic? really?). At least the glove comparment is good.

Cargo Room: The trunk gets a paltry 7.1 cubic feet of cargo room. Put the top down, and that small number disappears.

Fuel Economy

8

 

VW compact cars are pretty good when it comes to efficiency. The Beetle's numbers are right there, too. We didn't drive the car very far, so it was hard to extract accurate numbers. That being said, the turbo four is spirited and pretty efficient based on the ratings.

Observed: 26.2 mpg

Distance Driven: 15 miles

Audio

8.2

 

The SEL comes standard with the upgraded Fender system, which is surprisingly good. Kinda weird when the infotainment screen is so danged small. We didn't crank it with the top down at highway speed because we didn't want to look crazy. That being said, it's a clear and pretty powerful system.



Final Thoughts

The Beetle is definitely a car for a narrow band of customers who want something nostalgic and playful. It's not for the pragmatic, that's for sure. VW did a great job of creating a fun-spirited car that evokes the past, but it's just not enough to sell in big numbers or keep it around. The Golf is a better all-around car that's fun to drive, handsome, and well-priced. We're not sad to see the Beetle go away because it will likely return in a few years as an EV. Now THAT might be weird.

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