Blast from the past

The Beetle Cabriolet's Fender hi-fi system works well with the top down and the car's cockpit (far left) is a tribute to the iconic car baby boomers grew up with.
The Beetle Cabriolet's Fender hi-fi system works well with the top down and the car's cockpit (far left) is a tribute to the iconic car baby boomers grew up with.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
The Beetle Cabriolet's Fender hi-fi system works well with the top down and the car's cockpit (far left) is a tribute to the iconic car baby boomers grew up with.
The Beetle Cabriolet's Fender hi-fi system works well with the top down and the car's cockpit (far left) is a tribute to the iconic car baby boomers grew up with.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Volkswagen's latest Beetle Cabriolet takes you back in time in style and comfort

Just as you cannot mention pizza without thinking about cheese, you cannot possibly talk about the Beetle without making reference to a time of long hair, tie-dyed T-shirts and free love.

For someone who recalls vividly two of those three things, I can say the latest Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet is a blast from the past in more ways than one. And for that reason alone, it is a groovy car.

Step in and you will see right away the upright fascia and door panels are in sync with the body colour, like many of the original Beetles. A slim dash, an upright glove compartment, a thin-rimmed steering wheel and an array of dials framed by the air-conditioning vents, instrument gauges and steering wheel are a quiet tribute to the minimalist, iconic car baby boomers grew up with.

The Cabriolet somehow deepens the nostalgia. Maybe open-top driving reminds me of the days when car air-conditioning was a rarity and we had to cruise with windows down. The hard-top Beetle is just too well-insulated to be truly retro.

  • SPECS / VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE CABRIOLET 1.2

  • Price: $130,400 with COE

    Engine: 1,197cc 8-valve inline-4 turbocharged

    Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch with manual override

    Power: 105bhp at 5,000rpm

    Torque: 175Nm at 1,500-4,100rpm

    0-100kmh: 11.7 seconds

    Top speed: 178kmh

    Fuel consumption: 5.9 litres/ 100km

    Agent: Volkswagen Centre Singapore

Beyond its uncanny ability to take old-timers back in time, this Beetle offers everything people today love about a Volkswagen. Superb initial quality, perky drivetrain, appealing and functional design, high equipment level.

In the case of the convertible, more. Take its Fender hi-fi, for instance. This sound system works so well with the great outdoors that you would swear the acoustic engineers responsible were surfer dudes (or dudettes).

Indeed, it is so good that my passengers and I decided to go with the top down on a hot and glaring afternoon even when none of us had shades with us.

With the wind in our faces and the sense of speed growing keener with each passing lamp post, no one expects music to be so crisp, so enveloping. But that is exactly what the Fender system offers. With the volume turned up, it sounds as if the band are travelling with us.

The car's powerful air-conditioning helps mitigate the afternoon heat. You still feel the sun on you, but you don't feel the mugginess.

Conversation is out of the question. But who needs conversation when you have verve, wind and choir?

The car is not just for old-timers reminiscing about the past, of course. It has plenty of frills that modern cars provide.

The roof can be opened and closed easily and breezily with one button and there is a familiar infotainment system offering Bluetooth connectivity as well as a reverse camera.

The most prominent and pleasing feature is an instrument cluster atop the dashboard incorporating an oil temperature gauge, turbo boost meter and stopwatch.

Now, you may think that it is unnecessary for a 1.2-litre car with just over 100 horses to its name. But the Beetle Cabrio is livelier than its specs suggest. In fact, it is quite entertaining in Sport mode.

And you know what? Its 11.7-second century sprint feels like six seconds with the roof down.

So, if you have always wondered what it is like to be with a topless model with a past, you have got to check this baby out, man.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'Blast from the past'. Print Edition | Subscribe