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The 1.4 Litre version of the New Beetle Cabriolet is a low cost entry into open air driving. This review addresses the things that are different to the higher specification models and help you decide if you can do without them. Importantly, the specification includes all the things that are really important ,such as having terrific safety features that are included across the whole range. Primary safety features include ABS, traction control and ESP and, in the event of a crash, 4 airbags and rear roll "bars" which eject if the car thinks that it is about to turn over.
It loses out on three things that the more powerful versions may have. Lets look at each in turn.
1) A manual rather than electric hood. Well its less to go wrong! But there is a more serious point: the hood has a neat cover, if this is used then it seems to me that there is little point in having an electric hood as one has to get out of the car to put it on or take it off anyway and the act of opening or shutting the hood by hand at the same time takes almost no extra time. In fact the hood looks pretty good without the cover and I suspect many owners will not use it - in which case the electric hood is useful.
2) No air conditioning. Almost, by definition, not needed. However that can be times in heavy rain when air conditioning can help do de-mist the windscreen. So far hot air has done the trick.
3) Smaller tyres - 195/65 rather than 205/60. The slightly narrower tyre may not fill out the wheel arches quite so well but they should have plenty enough grip - many 2 litre cars have had this size fitted in recent years. The higher profile tyre gives a small improvement in ride quality at the expense of handling - but with a 1.4 engine handling is not going to be a problem!
If anything, I regard this latter point as positive and am quite happy to live without the first two.
Now the crunch point - is the 1.4 Litre version underpowered?
In the real world I really do not think so unless 4 adults are to carried much of the time - not a good thing anyway. The power at 74 bhp (yes it is 74, not 75) seems pretty low compare to some 1.4 L engines that give 100 or more. In fact VW do a 100 bhp version of the same engine but not for the Beetle. What matters most in real word driving is the torque that an engine produces and at what revs it becomes available. The 74 bhp engine give the same torque (93 ft pounds) as the 100 bhp version and which is as much or more as 1.4 L engines from any manufacturer. It is at a maximum at relativly low revs - there is some confusion over this; some references say 3300 revs, which is excellent, others 3800 revs, still good. But whatever, 90% of the torque is available at 2200 revs which is superb. The fact that the engine is tuned for low down torque is why the peak power is relatively low. Unless you habitually use 4-5000 revs you will not know the difference except that the engine is more flexible. Unless you use the high revs the low power version, as in the Beetle, will be better.
Basically, with two adults and weekend luggage, it feels fine. There in no problem keeping up with other cars in normal traffic and it tackles hills - ours spend much time in Snowdonis - OK. Compared to my fairly powerful 2 Litre it may require more revs or a lower gear for the same hill but it has never struggled. (The Beetles are relatively low geared anyway - 70 mph in 5th gear is 3800 rpm rather that ~ 3200 in may cars.) Our "runabout" has a similar specification 1.4 Litre engine (not identicle) in a Skoda Fabia and the fact that that performs fine was partly why I was happy to go for the base model Cabriolet. The Cabriolet is somewhat heavier though.
If one looks at the weights and axle ratios of the various models in the range one sees that the 1.4 L is ~ 40 kilos lighter than the 1.6 and ~ 100 kilos lighter than the more powerful models. This must help a bit. The axle ratio is nearer the ideal 50/50 as well. Oh yes: the fuel consumption isn't at all bad either. On weekend trips to Snowdonia it returns just over 40 mpg.
As a couple of reviews in the press have said, sometimes less is more.
This review has tried to address those aspects of the base version that are different, but I would just like to add one or two comments that relates to all.
The windscreen is far forwards of the passengers. One good result of this is that the view upwards and forwards from the seating position is quite open - driving through the Alps you can see the mountains in front as well as at the side giving a very open feeling. Many cabriolets limit the forwards vision upwards.
The car appears very well made. The design of the rear is pure pefection of line. This limits the boot size. Its not quite as bad as I expected - provided you use soft bags. It holds two weekend bags, rucksacks containing walking outfits and walking boots with room to spare. Its no problem for couples who may occaisionally wish to carry two other adults (fine if the journey is not too long). Its not the only car for a growing family. But, if there are usually two of you, its a fun car to own -and the stereo is great too!