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Volkswagen Beetle Dune Cabriolet engines, drive and performance

2016 - 2018 (change model)
Performance rating: 3 out of 53.0

Written by Keith WR Jones Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 6 June 2019

  • Only two engines; one petrol and a diesel
  • Both available with manual and auto ‘boxes
  • Neither is quick but they don’t need to be

The Volkswagen Beetle Dune Cabriolet isn’t a car that was conceived with performance as a core attraction, and with only two powerplant options momentum is best described as sufficient rather than sprightly.

Punchy TDI diesel

Those 2.0-litre TDI motors have been mechanical stalwarts in the VW range for years now, customers enjoying their combination of decent real-world performance and frugality, although for some a soft-top car with a clattery diesel under the bonnet’s an anathema.

In this guise it packs 150hp making it the faster of the two Dune Cabriolets available, aided by 340Nm of torque which comes on stream from 1,750rpm.

You’ve a choice of two six-speed transmissions: a familiar and slick-shifting manual or a twin-clutch DSG automatic.

Stick with the manual for a top speed of 123mph and a 0-62mph sprint time of 9.6 seconds; opt for the DSG and while the 0-62mph time is identical, top speed drops by 1mph.

Turbocharged petrol engine

If you don’t cover the kind of mileage to recoup the fuel-saving advantage of the more powerful diesel Dune, then the 1.2-litre TSI petrol is the better choice: it’s quieter, more refined and the real-world fuel economy drop isn’t severe.

It packs just 105hp which suggests it’s barely got enough grunt to get out of its own way, but in reality it’s hardly a slouch. Key is the 175Nm of torque available from just 1,400rpm, removing the peril from junction pullaways and joining motorways from slip roads.

Again, two gearbox choices are on offer: the six-speed manual or a slicker seven-speed DSG twin-clucth automatic which suits the engine’s smooth-running nature very well.

Officially the TSI’s top speed is 109mph, while the 0-62mph test takes 12.1 seconds – identical figures for both gearbox types.

  • Handling provides little entertainment
  • Not designed to entertain behind the wheel
  • Decent ride quality and little body flex

Neat and tidy best describes the handling characteristics of the Volkswagen Beetle Dune Cabriolet – but this isn’t a car you’ll choose for a thrill behind the wheel.

Raising the ride height by 10mm over the regular soft-top Beetle and fitting 18-inch alloy wheels to it hasn’t made the handling worse than before – if anything, the extra suspension travel makes the ride quality marginally more comfortable without introducing additional body roll.

For a convertible, the Beetle Dune Cabriolet’s reassuringly stiff with little scuttle shake – where the body flexes due to the lack of a roof – in evidence.

It’s not a car that enjoys being hustled through a series of bends, although traction is good when your press on in corners. Just a pity there’s so little road-feel through the steering wheel communicating what they’re up to.

Consider the Beetle as more of a cruiser than an engaging drop-top like the MINI Convertible and you won’t be disappointed.