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LA show: VW unwraps Beetle convertible

Fresh air: The latest Volkswagen Beetle convertible retains a retro folding roof design, but it can be deployed in a thoroughly modern 10 seconds.

Drop-top VW Beetle confirmed for LA show but chances for Australia look shaky

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Volkswagen logo4 Oct 2012

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

VOLKSWAGEN has finally revealed the convertible version of its second-generation New Beetle, but the chances of it being added to the already bulging Australian line-up look small.

Announced while the Paris motor show is still in full swing, the Mexican-built, retro-styled drop-top is now confirmed to make its public world debut at next month’s Los Angeles motor show as expected.

Volkswagen’s Australian outpost is remaining tight-lipped about its intentions for the Beetle convertible but has confirmed the hard-top will launch early next year with just one variant following its local debut at the Sydney motor show later this month.

Just 741 units of the previous-generation Beetle convertible were sold in its five years on the Australian market, making it tough to find a business case – and showroom space – for the new model alongside the Golf Cabriolet and Eos folding hard-top.

The new four-seat convertible was previewed by the two-seat E-Bugster concept at the Beijing motor show in April and leaked across the internet in August as a die-cast 1:43 scale model.

It retains the retro soft-top design that gathers on top of the rear deck when open, but improved to fold flatter for increased rear visibility in top-down driving compared with the previous model that launched here in 2002.

The automatic roof takes just 10 seconds to open or close, with activation possible at speeds of up to 48km/h. It comes standard with a fabric cover to tidy up the looks when folded.

As before, an active roll-over system is fitted to the soft-top Beetle, comprising two “extendable modules” that automatically pop up from behind the rear bench if the airbag activation system detects a roll accident.

The company says the system, in conjunction with the strong windscreen pillars, provides “effective protection” for all four occupants, while front and side head-thorax airbags are also standard.

Compared with the previous-generation Beetle convertible, Volkswagen has tried to more closely resemble the silhouette of the 1949 original – which remained in production until 1980 – with its more upright windscreen and flatter roof line.

A chrome rim running below the car’s window line “accentuates the borders between steel and fabric”.

Boot capacity of 225 litres is a 24-litre improvement over the previous model, while the split-fold rear seat provides additional storage during roof-up driving.

Although the hard-top Beetle will launch in Australia with a single 118kW 1.4-litre petrol engine, the convertible will be available overseas will a full complement of familiar Volkswagen powerplants.

Engine choices for the convertible will start with 77kW petrols and diesels – the latter available with efficiency improving Bluemotion Technologies – with a 103kW diesel, 147kW petrol and aforementioned 118kW petrol also in the mix.

As reported in August, Volkswagen Australia has only approved the 118TSI version of the hard-top beetle for this country, offered with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmissions and alloy wheel sizes ranging from 16-inch to 19-inch.

Options will include a sunroof and premium gas-discharge headlights, along with front fog lights and a static cornering-light function.

When matched with the seven-speed DSG transmission, the 1.4-litre consumes 5.9 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres, a 34 per cent improvement over the equivalent Audi-sourced 110kW 1.8-litre turbo-petrol unit of the superseded model.

Given its niche status, a respectable 7717 examples of the first-generation New Beetle – including convertibles – were sold in Australia during its almost 12-year showroom lifespan.

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