So tonight I thought I'd give my thoughts on my 2014 VW Beetle Convertible TDI now that I've been driving it for a week and as someone who drove a 2006 VW Jetta TDI for the past 8+ years.
I really think I got my money's worth with my last car. I've driven it nearly 160K miles now, and she still gets me between 50-55 mpg when I commute with her into the office. I'm also a fan of stick shift/manual transmission cars and for now the only hybrid with a manual is the Honda CR-Z. I'll admit that as a former Honda CRX Si driver, the CR-Z was a tempting throwback to my newlywed days.
If my memory serves correctly, the Jetta had three, maybe four, mechanic-worthy malfunctions that were outside the norm. First early in its life (~30K miles) VW replaced the transmission at no cost to me. It was mainly the inconvenience of driving a rental for a couple of days, but hey: new transmission for zero dollars!
Second about a year ago the keylock on the steering column failed and wouldn't accept my key. That was just weird! I rented a car for several days while a brand new lock mechanism adapted to my existing key set was created, shipped, and quickly installed.
The third was a coolant leak that occurred about a month ago. That was odd because it was coolant that VW sends to the EGR valve for reasons I'm not sure of.
The possible fourth was a problem with the trunk lid latch mechanism. Since my car was rear ended by a Ford Explorer about a year prior to that, I'm not sure how to place that blame. Would it still have happened to a "virgin" trunk? I don't know.
So overall for a car with 8½+ years of heavy driving, I enjoyed her economy, her German handling, the amenities (i.e. heated leather seats, sunroof, etc.), the smooth shifting. I could go on. Having come from a solid Honda family, it faired better than I'd feared. I bought the 100K warrantee on that car and never used it because nothing happened between 40K and 100K.
Last Sunday Claire Bear took over the TDI Jetta and drove it up to college. The gas Jetta she had been driving now awaits Abby to finish her prep for her license. I've spent the past week driving this new car. We haven't settled on a name but Timothy suggested "Shadow". A friend suggested "Onyx". The car is "damn it's dirty again" shiny black. No metalic finish. Just shiny, finger print showing black. The kind that looks great when it's clean, but ... well perhaps I should stock up on car wash coupon books.
The car feels just as nimble and a bit more so. The 2006 Jetta TDI was 100hp/177 ft-lbs torque. The Beetle TDI is up at 140hp/236 ft-lbs torque. A nice bump in performance over those 8+ years. Because of the added weight of a convertible Beetle (adding about 250 pounds vs the hatchback), both cars weigh roughly the same 3300 lbs.
The Bluetooth capabilities of the audio system work very well, especially in conjunction with the steering wheel controls. Dial up your favorite music source on your phone (in my case Google Play Music, but it could be Pandora, Rdio, Spotify, whatever...) and the volume and track are easily controlled at the steering wheel with track info shown on the head unit. The car also has the option to use the sound system for phone calls, but I prefer Bluetooth headsets for their superior sound quality and more importantly noise cancellation ability. Luckily my phone had no problem pairing to both and separating the audio streams: phone to headset, entertainment audio to the car.
The steering is familiar to me and the gear shifting is very smooth. And now I have a sixth gear! A surprise to me was that VW did not make the ratios closer to each other as far as I can tell. I only use sixth when I'm really near the speed limit on the highway and holding a steady state.
Operation of the convertible top is trivial. It is one button simple. The system handles the latching and unlatching, folding and unfolding, and the four windows. I'm told the top is three layers of material thick and if so, it shows because the car is very quiet when the top is up. Certainly quieter than my Jetta.
In addition to the top I've had the chance to use the optional wind deflector with the car. It makes a tremendous difference in top down motoring around. It removes a majority of the buffeting and turbulence when in place. The downside is that you can't use the back seats because of the way it's mounted when in use. Luckily it takes only a minute or two to stow in the trunk if needed. And if you're putting it away for a long stretch, as I will be in a few weeks, VW has a special holder mounted to the top of the trunk to store it up and out of the way.
So what things have bugged me (pun intended) about this Beetle?? First and foremost, rear visibility when the top is up is much lower than the ol' Jetta. And worse yet there is no backup camera as one sees in most well trimmed cars these days. It seems so obvious. VW ... please just put a sensor over the license plate and route the video to the sound system head unit display. Bam, you've avoided a bunch of potential problems.
Second is the push button start. I'll get used to it eventually, but to me push button start is a solution in search of a problem. For nearly thirty years I've pulled out my keys, stuck them into the column, and turned. Never have I said, "damn, there's got to be a better way" about ignition.
Third is that due to it being a two door, the distance to the seat belt is significantly further over your shoulder when you're trying to put the seat belt on. You really have to twist around to grab it! I think that many two-doors have similar issues.
A factor that I predict will be annoying soon is the TPMS (tire pressure management system). We have that on the van too. It's becoming almost a standard. Yes, TPMS is nice in that it helps you be aware of a low tire. But when they fail, and they do fail when their batteries run out, they are expensive buggers to get fixed/replaced. I'm not sure the theoretical fuel savings will be enough to cover the cost of replacing the TPMS sensors. And in my case, I like to keep a second set of rims with snow tires for easy swapping. TPMS adds an expensive wrinkle to that.
Overall I'm quite happy with the purchase. I'm sure there's a bit of post-purchase rationalization/choice-supportive bias involved, but I've tried to be honest regarding the things that do annoy me. When I was a new driver (mid-1985) I was tempted to get a used VW Beetle but instead a year later I got a MG convertible in shiny lacquer black. I enjoyed driving with the open air whenever possible but it was: a) noisy as hell with the top up and b) as unreliable as small British cars are stereotyped to be. This car feels like a blend of both things I was drawn to as a young driver. Hopefully I can add to it the efficiency and reliability I had with my previous VW TDI. I'm blessed to still have the 2010 Honda Odyssey for those times I still need to haul the Bilik clan around, but 90+% of the time it's just me driving solo.