2019 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Review

2019 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible - Seventy years marks retirement milestone


Time once again for Volkswagen's long-serving Beetle to ease into retirement.

The 2019 model year marks the final model year globally of the two-door domed Bug, marking exactly 70 years since arriving stateside, and a fitting age to retire (again).

The Beetle first entered the U.S. market in the post-World War II era circa 1949 in a rear-wheel, front-engine form, eleven years after its 1938 introduction in Nazi Germany. It amounted to basic if not durable transport at a temptingly attainable price.  Beetle's first U.S. retirement dates back to the late 1970s.

Europe's largest automaker tapped into a nostalgic frenzy when reintroducing a front-wheel-drive version in 1998 dubbed the "New Beetle" after a 20 year absence from the U.S. market.  

New Beetle provided plenty of buzz, generating volumes of foot traffic to VW dealerships. The interior dash came equipped with a diminutive single-flower vase, a nod to a past (real or perceived) 'Flower Power' generation of shoppers.  This four-cylinder subcompact found an audience with female shoppers (maybe it was the pretty vase) quickly achieving 'Chick Car' status.

A next-generation platform arriving in 2012 (dropping the 'New' prefix designate) featured a longer hood, wider stance and lower roof profile, but provided little incentive to entice a greater volume of male takers.

After 'New Beetle's' reintroduction to the U.S., sales topped an impressive 80,000 units in 1999.  Enthusiasm faded after initial binge buying and failed to reach 15,000 last year in the States.

To mark the end of an era, Volkswagen's throwing a bit of a 'Going Away Party.'  Two special editions hit the road in the 2019 model year: Final Edition SE and Final Edition SEL. Both are available with hard tops or a soft-top retracting convertible top.  These two join returning trims S and SE.

All generate power under the curved hood via a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine generating a respectable 174 horses.  A 1.8-liter turbo four cylinder exited the picture in 2017. The 2.0-liter four pairs solely with a conventional six-speed automatic transmission as the manual transmission itself retired a couple years back.

Beetle's lightweight design coupled with 174 horses provides decent four-banger acceleration, but entering a drag race may prove disappointing as Beetle's claim to fame is that of  urban commuter car; easy to drive and park. Highway fuel economy tops the 30 miles-per-gallon mark at 33 while utilizing regular, unleaded fuel. The smooth, (not sporty) suspension helps occupants enjoy the ride rather than tackle road imperfections head on.

A tip of the cap to VW for sending a convertible tester in early June, when open-top exhilaration delivers optimal impact.  Too often convertibles arrive when snow's in the forecast negating half the fun. Our well-equipped SEL Convertible final edition with Gray Metallic exterior hue included a starting price of $29,995 with the bottom reaching $30,890 after $895 destination hit.  The lowest-priced 2019 choice, an S edition, checks in at $20,895.

Final edition SEL models upgrade with Bi-Xenon circular headlights coupled with bejeweled LED daytime running lights, LED tail lights, fog lights, diamond-stitched leather seating surfaces and 18-inch wheels.

Chrome-like stripping starts at side view mirrors, framing side window bottoms and circling the bottom frame of the canvass roof.  The Beetles answer to a rear spoiler resides below this chrome frame, better separating the diminutive trunk lid from the canvass top.

Hub caps include a disc-like design with a polished mirror shine, reflecting nicely on the car and anyone staring incessantly and fishing for compliments.

The power canvas top retracts effortlessly in less than seven seconds. Continually pressing a ceiling tab adjacent to the rear-view mirror starts the action. Once complete, an audio ping gets emitted and a digital message appears within the retro-like instrument panel to alert of the task's completion.  

The convertible's glass rear window includes defroster coils, clearing off fog during cool spring mornings.  With the top down, side blind spots are a distant memory.  With the top up, right side views gets compromised.  

Smartly, both 2019 final editions come standard with blind-spot monitoring, alerting drivers when nearby vehicles side saddle too long.  Another radar-centric tech nuance with practical, every-day applications that's standard: cross-traffic alert which senses moving vehicles when pulling backward out between two parked vehicles (usually full-sized SUVs).  Add to this a bulbous safety cage reinforced with high-strength steel and Beetle circa 2019 boasts a level of safety earlier generations greatly envy.  

Push-button electronic start comes standard with the circular button left of the floor transmission shifter. A rectangular, rather shallow, passenger-side dashboard glove box (which VW dubs the Beetle Box), is one of many storage nooks. It's one of two available as a lower, deeper fold-down glove box resides below.

As with most manually-sliding VW front bucket seats, an under-seat inboard easy-grab loop lets slide, an easier operation than the standard pull bar.  

Long side doors swing open wide also easing access to the second row and include a thick diagonal grab bar, helping ease the closing process from within. When migrating to the two-person second row, careful negotiations are instore as leg room gets determined by the positioning of front buckets.  However, back side windows power down, a bonus since static back-seat side glass remains the norm in many coupes.

Our dashboard's beige color insert surrounded all four air vents, in-dash 6.3-inch touch screen and instrument panel, contrasting nicely with the rest of the interior's black hue.  The beige insert shared a color scheme with the convertible top and seat inserts.  Limited trunk volume measures in at 7.1 cubic feet for convertibles, but grows to 15.4 cubic feet when opting for the hard-top. Split rear back rests down, allowing addition cargo-carrying opportunities.

The in-dash screen includes tactile knobs for volume and station select along with framing push-buttons acting as quick select options. The logical design works in tandem with intuitive tactile touches.  Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink connections allow Smartphone interaction through the pinch-and swipe captive-touch sensor screen.

The time-tested circular Volkswagen logo stacking a V atop a W adorns the curved front hood and rather vertical trunk lid, where the disc functionally doubles as a latch, and the hidden home to the wide-angle rear-view camera lens.

Automakers remain a fickle bunch.  Vehicle popularity ebbs and flows.  Ford's Ranger pickup truck exited in 2011 only to reappear with a big splash in 2019 boasting a slightly bigger mid-size presence. While Beetle enthusiasm of the late 1990s long ago fizzled, don't think VW completely closed the door forever with the end of the sixth-generation Beetle. Retirements are just a fickle.

Back in 2018, Volkswagen introduced its six-year/72,000-mile "People First" warranty, covering just about all Volkswagens sold in America.  'People First' is a bumper-to-bumper, limited warranty including the powertrain, transmission and mechanical parts.   Coverage is transferable, allowing the subsequent owner to absorb the remaining time/mileage parameters.  Another notable perk, 24-hour roadside assistance covering towing, jump starts and lock-out situations for three years or 36,000 miles.

2019 Beetle SEL convertible

Starting price:  $29,995

Engine:  2.0-liter four-cylinder

Horsepower:  174

Fuel estimates:   26 mpg city/ 33 mpg highway

Length:   168.4 inches

Wheelbase: 100.0   inches

Height: 58.5 inches

Width: 71.2 inches

Curb weight:  3,239 pounds

Drivetrain warranty: Six-year/ 70,000 miles

Assembly: Puebla, Mexico

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.