Volkswagen Convertible, 2007: Weidel on Wheels

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This is the ultimate cute car, which is why there aren’t many men tooling around in a Volkswagen Beetle convertible. While most women feel perfectly at home in this adorable vehicle, the majority of men liken it to driving a mini-van.

Even though the Beetle is still loved by women, the luster has worn off over the past decade even for the fairer sex. The Beetle has become commonplace and there is no big fuss or heads turning when the little “bug” is cruising down the road.

When Volkswagen came back with the Beetle after a near 20-year departure in 1997, no hype was required for the unveiling. It seemed like every woman I knew was enamored with the endearing little Beetle, which became part of a successful retro campaign that drifted through the auto industry.

Even my then 7-year-old daughter made it clear this was the car she wanted. Yet when I was driving the VW convertible last month, my teenage car snob never uttered a word of praise for the “triple” white convertible with the matching interior.

Despite the drop off in excitement, there has been no 10-year itch from the Volkswagen design team. This year’s model is not much different from the 1997 edition because no major redesign has ever been undertaken at the Karmann plant in Germany.

For 2007, the Beetle is offered in only one trim and still has the lone engine, a 2.5-liter, 5-cylinder with 150 horsepower. Choices do come with either a 5-speed manual or the 6-speed automatic transmission.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the manual version remains fun to drive. Put the top down on a cool evening and the Beetle will reveal its cheery personality. It is fairly quick for a subcompact and possesses solid road manners. The Beetle corners well and the braking is strong. It also absorbs the bumps and remains relatively quiet for a convertible.

Of course, driving a convertible (the Beetle also comes in a hardtop coupe) is quite the thing in the summer months. For a Fourth of July evening, the top came down in an instant and no one had to leave the vehicle as we viewed the fireworks display.

Like most modern-day convertibles, the Beetle is simple to operate. There is no longer the tricky matter of getting the top rolled back, then trying to get in back in place when needed. These days you merely pull a lever above the rear-view mirror, then hit a button, and the fabric top rolls down and folds neatly above the back seat. Unlike most convertibles, this top does not stow in the trunk.

Unlike the VW I bought from my Dad back in the early 1970s, this one has an array of safety features, like automatic rollover supports, side air bags, stability control and anti-lock brakes. The price is $25,990 and gas mileage ranges from 22-30 mpg.

The modern VW is also roomier. The 2007 model offers comfortable front seating, good leg room and enough space for a 6-foot person to spread out. What isn’t so good is the driver’s view. The best advice is be careful when changing lanes or backing up.

Not much has changed for anyone stuck in the back seat of the Beetle. Legs will be cramped and head room isn’t much better. Yet those are common straits for all sub-compacts. What has improved is the cargo space, which despite its size holds more than expected.

Fast Facts: 2007 Volkswagen Convertible

Power — 2.5-liter, 5-cylinder, 150 horsepower; Mileage Estimates — 22-30 mpg;                                    Standard Features — stability control; automatic roll bars; center console; daytime running lights; CD/MP3 player; rear defogger; keyless entry; power windows, doors, mirrors.

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