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2013 Volkswagen Beetle review:

Retro-stylish Beetle ragtop makes people smile

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The Good The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible's Fender system is still one of the best affordable premium audio rigs in the business. The '70s Edition rolls all of the tech worth having into one stylish package.

The Bad The weather seals of the convertible top creak over rough roads with the roof raised. Affixing the roof cover is more trouble than it's worth. The RNS 315 navigation system doesn't feature traffic data.

The Bottom Line The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible's tech is a bit outdated, but this retro-stylish ragtop with its kicking stereo brings a smile to every trip.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

6.9 Overall
  • Cabin tech 7.0
  • Performance tech 6.0
  • Design 8.0

After VW squared off the shoulders and flattened the roof of the Volkswagen Beetle coupe in an attempt to inject a bit of masculinity into the model, the fun-loving 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible seems like a bit of a step back toward "cutesiness." That's probably OK, because to be honest, short of moving the engine back to the rear of the vehicle where it belongs, there's not much that VW can do at this point to butch up the Beetle.

So, a chick car it will remain and I suppose that's just fine. Sorry, male and masculine Beetle fans. Don't blame me, I don't make the rules.

On the other hand, anthropomorphizing and assigning gender to a hunk of metal, plastic, and rubber is a bit silly, so let's quickly move along.

Going topless
We've already driven the Beetle coupe and most of the lessons learned there apply here. The cabin materials, ride quality, and cabin technology are all the same. The major difference in the brown Beetle that arrived in the Car Tech garage this time was the power-folding fabric top.

My first spin in the Beetle Convertible was en route to a photo shoot with the Bentley Continental GT Speed on a cold San Francisco morning. I took the trip through downtown with the top up and was disappointed to hear quite a bit of creaking and groaning from the seals where the glass of the windows met the roof. This led me to believe that there was quite a bit of chassis flex as the Beetle crawled over the lunar surfaces of downtown San Francisco's perpetually-under-construction roads. This was not a good first impression.

Two brown Volkswagens
The Beetle Convertible shared the Car Tech garage with the Bentley Continental GT Speed. Antuan Goodwin

Aesthetically, the rag-topped Beetle loses just a skosh of the abovementioned flat-topped masculinity gained in the recent refresh; its rounded roofline harkening, to my eye, back to the circular dome of the previous-gen New Beetle.

I find that I'm also not 100 percent pleased with the top-down aesthetic, either. The way the roof piles up at the back of the passenger compartment looks untidy to my eye -- though I suppose that some prospective owners will see the visibly and neatly folded pile of fabric as a sort of a classic VW cabriolet touch. That said, I found that I preferred the topless look to the raised roof.

Lowering the fabric top requires only the touch of a button and a few moments of your time while the power folders do their thing. It's so easy to drop the top that I found myself doing it almost every time that I settled in behind the wheel. Sunny morning? Drop the top. Quick trip to the store? Drop the top. Chilly nighttime drive at freeway speeds? Max the heater, activate the heated seats, and crank the stereo, because I'm dropping the top.

Back when I drove the 2.0T coupe variant of the Beetle, I was surprised by how fun the cute coupe was to pilot 'round a bend. In this 2013 Convertible model, I was surprised by how equally satisfying yet wholly different the driving experience is. The handling is responsive, but relaxed. The engine is competent and smooth and the automatic transmission is inoffensive. The Fender premium audio system is, well, kick-ass.

At the risk of being unfairly called an Apple fanboy, the VW Beetle Convertible "just works" like an iPhone. It doesn't have the best engine, the best chassis, or even the best tech, but the bits work together to create an experience that's slightly greater than the sum of its parts.

2.5-liter engine
Our example of the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle came powered by a 2.5-liter gasoline five-cylinder engine. Output is estimated by the automaker at 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, which is multiplied by the six-speed conventional automatic transmission before reaching the road at the front wheels.

The transmission largely stays out of the driver's and its own way with smooth shifts that match the relaxed character of the Beetle. The gearbox features a Sport mode that is activated with the press of a button and adjusts the shift program to hold each gear a bit longer for increased engine responsiveness at the expense of a bit of fuel economy. However, while the 2.5-liter engine features good low-end torque and off-the-line responsiveness, it seems to run out of steam near the upper reaches of the revolutions-per-minute range, seemingly precluding any real "sport" benefit from the Sport mode. As long as they're not trying to autocross the topless slug bug, most drivers will be happy with the 2.5-liter's very usable power.

Left in its standard drive mode and driven with care, the EPA estimates that the VW Beetle Convertible will average 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, and average out to 23 mpg combined.

'70s Edition
The VW Beetle's styling has, since the model was revived in 1997, been a mashup of modern and retro designs. Our 2013 tester seeks to play up its retro heritage with special-edition packaging. I was born in the '80s and I missed the '70s, but if this Beetle's '70s Edition styling is any indicator, the decade was

Now I love brown cars, possibly more than any guy should, so I was pleased as punch by the '70s Beetle Convertible's Toffee Brown Metallic paint, which is continued in the cabin on select color-matched interior panels. The complementary beige fabric roof, leatherette seat and interior trim, and roof cover complete the two-toned, earthy palette. Chrome-alloy disc-style wheels have a highly polished mirror finish, while chrome '70s badges hang out in the space just aft of the fenders and ahead of the doors.

70s Edition via Instagram
The '70s Edition comes with handsome brown paint and all of the tech options that matter. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

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