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Vital Stats

Engine:
2.0L Turbo Diesel
Power:
140 HP / 236 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
0-60 Time:
9.2 Seconds
Top Speed:
118 MPH
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,296 LBS
Seating:
2+2
Cargo:
7.1 CU-FT
MPG:
28 City / 41 HWY
Top Down In North America's Only Diesel Convertible



Want proof that diesel is finally taking hold in North America? Look no further than this 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible. For a while now, it's become easier to understand why more automakers are opting to pair their large-volume models with diesel, but it's only when a given technology or feature starts to infiltrate the industry's smaller segments that we can argue that something has truly taken hold. After an agonizingly slow buildup, we're prepared to say that the high-mileage fuel has finally come of age here, and the evidence is right under this VW's bulbous hood.

Consider this: Diesel has become so viable that it's trickled down to this car, a niche-within-a-niche-within-a-niche model. Niche number one? The Beetle is a retro-styled spinoff of VW's volume hatchback, the Golf. Niche number two? It's a convertible. It isn't until we get to niche number three that we even discuss its oil-burning nature. In fact, if you want to get even more stratified, the Tornado Red tester seen before you has a manual transmission, itself a lamentably narrow sliver of the marketplace. Yes, the outgoing New Beetle was offered here with TDI power, but its convertible variant never was. We've watched for years as Europe has played host to a whole mess of diesel droptops, but we simply can't remember the last time one was offered here.

That Volkswagen is bringing this triple-specific model to its North American dealers not only says a lot about the confidence it has in its TDI powertrains, it also says something about the company's relentless drive for volume, a fever pitch that seemingly cannot abide any white space left unfulfilled.
2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible side view2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible front view2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible rear view

We've seen dodgy nichemobiles in the past – hell, the automotive landscape is littered with them – particularly convertibles. Thankfully, this Beetle is something of a sweetheart, with an easy charm and a flexible, efficient heart that just happens to burn oil.

The addition of diesel motivation really helps this car come into its own.

Of course, for the less adventuresome, VW will happily sell you a gasoline-fed Beetle Convertible motivated by its enduring 2.5-liter five-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, or its 2.0-liter turbocharged TSI four with 200 hp and 207 lb-ft. Both are reasonable alternatives – the 2.5 is a lazy revver with a funky soundtrack and a standard automatic, but it makes for a perfectly serviceable (if uninspiring) cruiser, and the 2.0T delivers additional fun thanks to its added power, flatter torque curve, sport suspension and manual or dual-clutch gearbox ($1,100) choices. But despite monumental dynamic improvements over their New Beetle predecessors, neither model is really likely to make an enthusiast's shopping list.

Truthfully, even with a heaping 236 lb-ft dollop of torque and 140 horses, this 2.0-liter TDI isn't going to set the performance world on fire. But it really doesn't have to – that's not the Beetle's primary mission in life. And paradoxically, the addition of diesel motivation really helps this car come into its own. For one, it's well in line with the bubble-body's offbeat and frugal hippy ethos. For another, its peak torque chips in from just 1,750 rpm to readily facilitate the sort of leisurely, low-rev open-air cruising that the lidless Beetle just begs for.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible headlight2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible wheel detail2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible taillights2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible logo

41 mpg highway is the best efficiency figure you can get in a convertible.

We were admittedly concerned that clatter from the TDI might be off-putting in a model with no roof, but the engine is so well behaved that passengers probably won't even notice that your ride gets fuel from those other pumps. The TDI Beetle's method of internal combustion is generally only noticeable if you're standing next to it at idle, or from inside when pulling away from a stop light with the top down. Even then, it's only a momentary distraction, one not much more unpleasant than the base 2.5's low-rev acoustic wobble. Oh, if you really want to pile on the revs, you'll hear more of the engine, but with markedly better torque than either of the range's two gas-powered offerings, you won't need to dip into the throttle deeply as often, let alone depress the easily modulated clutch.

In addition to the TDI's torque windfall, its primary benefit is a matter of economy. The EPA rates this manual transmission model at 28 miles per gallon city and a whopping 41 mpg highway, the latter being the best efficiency figure you can get in a convertible. If you're the shiftless sort, VW will happily sell you a DSG dual-clutch example with 28 city and 38 hwy ratings, but we liked out tester's six-speed self-stirrer just fine, and our drive loops emanating from around hilly Santa Monica suggest the Fed's fuel economy figures will be easy to attain.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible engine

We'd be remiss if we didn't note that we never really warmed to piloting its predecessor, the New Beetle – its cartoonish proportions made for a strangely unrewarding driving experience. The car's oversized, half-moon greenhouse offered tremendous headroom, but also placed the windshield way out front like a minivan, seemingly well ahead of the driver's feet. This made the New Beetle somewhat dimensionally tough to grasp, hurting the driver's confidence when placing it in aggressive corners. But there's no such problem here – like its hardtop counterpart, the new model now incorporates a flatter roofline and repositioned windscreen that not only gives the VW more traditional proportions top-up or top-down, it helps the driver feel more in control behind the wheel.

Curb weights start at just over 3,200 pounds, a 220-pound increase.

Aiding that new sensation is the Beetle's chassis, which is longer, lower and wider than its predecessor, not to mention stiffer – VW officials tell us that key reinforcements have been made all over, including the A-pillars and front roof crossmembers, along with the lower bodysides and between the B-posts. Altogether, the changes account for a 20-percent increase in rigidity, though there's a weight penalty. As a result of those strengthening measures and the one-touch power top mechanism, curb weights start at just over 3,200 pounds, representing a 220-pound increase. The result is worth it, though, at least over the LA Basin's well-tended roads riding on 17-inch rubber. The Beetle Convertible delivers a smooth ride with almost no perceptible cowl or steering column shake. There's also surprisingly eager turn-in thanks to the adeptly tuned front strut and rear multilink suspension and new electric power steering (the base 2.5 model sticks with hydraulic assist, but it's no more or less engaging). The 2.0T model receives an XDS electric limited-slip differential, inch-larger rubber and a bigger front antiroll bar – all of which make it the better handler – but the truth is that all models are plenty enjoyable for the type of driving this car character engenders.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible interior2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible front seats2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible top2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible trunk

As with the hardtop model, the Beetle's interior is fine work for the money, with genuine flair and a surprising amount of utility thanks to the new generation's larger dimensions. There's none of the decontented, built-to-a-price feel that mars the current Jetta – the cabin is notable for its robust switchgear and nice textures, along with its more supportive seats. Things can get predictably Germanic dour if opting for a black interior, but there are other choices available, including the painted body-color accents on our tester. We'd probably forego the optional navigation system, as the touchscreen is small and the menu logic not our favorite.

The top does a nice job sealing off the outside world – this is a true four-season car.

Thankfully, there's plenty of room up front for drivers of all statures, and the rear seats can actually a pair of grown adults surprisingly well, though the rear seatback is a bit upright. The latter split and fold to offer a decent-sized pass-through to the trunk, which has grown to 7.1 cubic-feet, a major improvement over the outgoing model's miserly 5.0 cubes. Behind the rear headrests is a new pyrotechnic pop-up roll bar system, a welcome bit of safety equipment not often seen on convertibles of this price point.

The three-layer top feels reassuringly stout, opening in 9.5 seconds and closing in 11 at speeds up to 31 mph, and it does a nice job sealing off the outside world when the weather isn't cooperative – this is a true four-season car. Just like it always has, the top furls up in a pram-like heap behind the rear headrests, but the stack is low enough that it doesn't compromise the driver's rear view – that demerit is reserved for the rear headrests, which really ought to be shingle-style for visibility's sake.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Convertible rear 3/4 view

Is the Beetle Convertible for you? That probably depends on your reaction to its styling as much as anything else. The new generation is far more masculine and purposeful than its predecessor, a fact underscored by its growing male ownership. While the New Beetle's pink slips went out to just 28-percent men, the 2012-present model is trending at 40 percent – 50 percent on turbo models. Regardless of one's sex, buyers can look forward to better standard equipment levels, interior space and fuel economy than its chief rival, the Mini Cooper Convertible.

VW is offering a trio of limited edition launch models with decade-themed motifs – '50s, '60s, and '70s.

Incidentally, VW is offering a trio of limited edition launch models with decade-themed motifs – '50s, '60s, and '70s. The latter is our favorite, with its rich Toffee Brown Metallic paint with beige top and matching leatherette seating surfaces, but sadly, it's only available with the base 2.5-liter. There aren't too many droptops available at average new car prices anymore, but even if there were more choices in this end of the market, the 2013 Beetle Convertible would still be charismatic enough to warrant consideration. It's smartly styled, is surprisingly good to drive, and in TDI spec, it offers genuinely excellent fuel efficiency. It may be a niche-within-a-niche-within-a-niche play for the moment, but we're hoping that changes as more and more buyers take notice of the smiles on owner's faces as they breeze past gas stations with the wind in their hair. For VW's sake, we just hope the TDI Convertible finds favor more quickly than the fuel that powers it.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 75 Comments
      Avinash Machado
      • 2 Years Ago
      So cute.
      RidinLow
      • 2 Years Ago
      Lidless Beetle? Acoustic wobble? Nicely written!
      brennemanbelkin
      • 2 Years Ago
      Had a beetle in the 60's, talk about a reliable car.
        Koz
        • 2 Years Ago
        @brennemanbelkin
        Yup That it was and got better gas mileage and was half the weight.
      dansha
      • 2 Years Ago
      I owned Volkswagens in years past, aircooled Beetles, a Thing, even a Dasher, and loved them all. German engineering is a benchmark in the automotive world. I would buy the hardtop, TDI version of this Beetle except for one glaring problem. It is their decision to use a rubber timing belt on an interference engine. Cars with non-interference engines using rubber timing belts will just stop running if the belt breaks. Replace the belt and you're good to go. If the rubber belt breaks on an interference engine and yes they do regardless of what we are told, the pistons will slam into the valves resulting in MAJOR engine damage. Volkswagens are great well made cars but too big of an investment to have hanging on a $100.00 rubber belt. They need to change it to a timing chain, double row preferably. American cars have had chains for years, Subaru, Honda, and some larger engined Toyotas have changed to chains.
      mr.vw
      • 2 Years Ago
      You might try the clean diesel out before you speak.
      Mr E
      • 2 Years Ago
      help me, guys, i'm really starting to want this thing. the diesel + manual powertrain almost makes up for the front-engine/front-wheel-drive layout too.
      FuelToTheFire
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why anyone would buy diesel is beyond me. Diesel pollutes much more than gasoline, and releases more particulates into the atmosphere. Diesel particulates also contribute to a higher risk of cancer than gas. Diesel cars are also vastly overrated for mileage. My sister's 2010 Jetta TDI is rated at 30/40, but she is getting around 15/20. That is absolutely UNACCEPTABLE regardless of the circumstances.
        S.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        if your sis is getting 15/20 with a TDI, have her bring her Jetta in to the dealer, it obviously has several holes in the fuel tank and is leaking everywhere. No other explanation.
        wxman
        • 2 Years Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        Actually, the current generation of diesel technology releases far FEWER particles -orders of magnitude lower- than gasoline based on a myriad of studies. There's concern in Europe that gasoline cars will need particle filters because they currently can't meet the particle number limit that diesel cars are currently required to meet.
          montoym
          • 2 Years Ago
          @wxman
          Yup. In the quest to make gasoline cars more diesel-like (DI etc.), they've also been met with the increased PM that comes with it. Diesels have filters to deal with the PM problem, gasoline vehicles do you yet have to have them. I suspect they will though in due time.
        Quen47
        • 2 Years Ago
        @FuelToTheFire
        I can't wait to buy a BRZ or FR-S and replace the engine with a early 80's Mercedes diesel powered by French Fry oil just to piss you off
      navypond
      • 2 Years Ago
      I saw this car the other day. A man was driving it. This is not car for men to drive.
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @navypond
        It is not a car for men insecure about their sexuality to drive.
      Mike
      • 2 Years Ago
      Way to make an undesirable car even more so!
      Ak74
      • 2 Years Ago
      $30K for this? No thank you
      Egon
      • 2 Years Ago
      Eye-watering price. That and there's nothing like the wind in your hair and the stank of diesel exhaust.
        un.ruffled
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Egon
        Volkswagen's TDI doesn't have unpleasant exhaust odor...but if you still ride the school bus, and are only exposed to THAT type of diesel stank, then it's all you know.
        Shiftright
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Egon
        Why don't you go back to the future when it's not 1980 and diesels don't stink anymore?
          Egon
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Shiftright
          Why don't you stop by the local VW dealership with your checkbook? At the end of the day that'll be the only opinion that matters to VW. I'm sure they did some market research (and didn't include the demographic of 'internet forum posting hacks') and decided to take a chance. If they sell every one they can make, they'll look like geniuses. If not, the TDI Cabrio will quietly be removed from the lineup after a model year or two.
        ChrisH
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Egon
        you can sit at the tail pipe of one of these and all you get is warm air. My 2010 Golf has no smell whatsoever. Really, the exhaust is cleaner than a gasoline powered car.
          paulwesterberg
          • 2 Years Ago
          @ChrisH
          I bet that exhaust wont smell as sweet after 100k miles. The new diesels might run fairly clean to please the EPA, but once they get some miles on them I bet the bloom comes off the rose.
        Boon
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Egon
        Like gasoline smells any better?
      tylermars.design
      • 2 Years Ago
      LMFAO $30k
        Txdesign
        • 2 Years Ago
        @tylermars.design
        Have you priced convertibles lately? A Chrysler 200 starts at $28K and gets 13mpg less.
          ChrisH
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Txdesign
          Hell a Miata can top 30k, my 2008 SE was right close to that mark. So this Beetle Convertible is not out of line. My 2013 Mustang Convertible was 33k or such before discounts. (have to go look it up, don't know exactly what I paid on that one)
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