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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Volkswagen New Beetle Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Volkswagen New Beetle Overview

Drop-Top Beetle Loves to Play in the Sun

The New Beetle convertible is a hit. People everywhere seem to love the cars look that is so reminiscent of the original 70s drop-top bug. Unlike the original, this Beetle has its engine in the front, it does not float in water and it features some pretty un-bug like options such as power windows, a six-disc CD changer and a power-operated soft top. To those die-hard Beetle purists out there, all we can say is welcome to the 21st century and the new, more upscale Volkswagen.

The New Beetle Convertible comes in three trim levels: GL, GLS and GLX. The GL and GLX remain pretty much unchanged from last year, but the GLS now offers the option of VWs wonderful 1.8T turbocharged engine. We have to be honest here and say that as nice as it is, the GLS base 2.0-liter engine does not exactly inspire sporty driving and can be downright sluggish during high-elevation climbs. The addition of the 1.8T gives the New Beetle Convertible a considerable boost in pickup and allows one to pass and merge with complete confidence. The top-of-the-line GLX comes standard with the 1.8T.

Transmission choices include a standard five-speed manual (which we think is just a blast to drive with the turbo under the hood) or a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual shifting (the next best thing to working a clutch). No matter which engine you choose, you can be sure that your New Beetle wont eat you alive at the gas pump. Amazingly, the 115-horsepower 2.0-liter and the 150-horspower 1.8T achieve the same fuel ratings: 24 city/ 31 Highway with the five-speed manual.

The New Beetle Convertible is really a year-round car. Its insulated soft-top latches securely to the windshield post via a clever one-handed latching clamp. Once in place, youll be amazed at how hushed the New Beetles interior becomes, even at highway speeds. The rear glass window is another plus because unlike plastic, it never yellows and during the winter, you wont have to scrape it thanks to the rear defroster. When the time comes to enjoy the sun, you simply unlock the top and pull (if you have GL) or power the top back. Unlike other convertibles that stow the top in a trunk-hording well, the New Beetle allows its top to gather accordion-style just behind the rear seat. This design not only mimics the original Beetle convertible, it permits the New Beetle to offer a usable rear seat and trunk. One other feature youll find on the convertible that you wont find on the hardtop Beetle are the roll-down rear windows. With the top up, this feature allows you to get better airflow throughout the cabin and with the top down, you can raise the windows to reduce buffeting (you can also hear the stereo much better when the windows are rolled up).

If you are familiar with convertibles, you know that the one problem inherent to the design is body flex. Anytime you cut the roof off a car, it loses a primary source of rigidity. Convertible manufacturers compensate for this loss by adding bracing to the cars underside and engine compartment, usually with only minimal results. This is not the case with the New Beetle; its body is amazingly stiff, with no detectible flex, even in hard cornering. The ride is somewhat on the soft side, which fits the character of the car to a tee. Youll find the steering and braking response to be first rate, right in line with other fine-handling VW cars.

Inside, youll find some of the best front seats in the business, with manual adjustments to move you in just about every direction. The New Beetles seats are wide and supportive, with excellent back support. The dash is pretty cool in a retro sort of way, but the tiny tachometer is difficult to see and the lack of a proper in-dash CD player means youre stuck either with cassettes or the limited selection in the optional six-disc changer.

With the New Beetle Convertible, safety is one of the cars strongest selling points. Not only does the car come standard with dual-stage deployment front airbags, it also features a head and thorax side-airbag protection system and pop-up rear-roll bars that lock into place should the cars onboard sensors detect an eminent rollover.

The New Beetle Convertible comes generously equipped with such standard features as air conditioning, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, power-adjustable heated mirrors, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, a 10-speaker audio system with cassette, cruise control and a rear-window defroster. The GL and GLX levels offer such luxuries as leather seating, heated seats, trunk-mounted CD changer, the Monsoon high-power audio system, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming interior mirror, traction control, 17-inch alloy wheels and Xenon headlamps.

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