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Buying Used: Fun convertible even in the winter

2009 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible


Since its introduction to the North American market in 2003, the new VW Beetle Convertible has been an appealing package. It's as comfortable as these kinds of cars can be, has never been short on power, handles itself well in most situations and has a disproportionately high fun-to-drive factor.

In 2009, power was provided by a transversely mounted five-cylinder engine that delivered 150 horsepower. There were two transmission choices: five-speed manual and six-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual shift mode. The '09 version was also virtually identical to the '08, incidentally.

Three models were available: Trendline, Comfortline and the top of the range Highline. Standard equipment included air conditioning, heated mirrors, heated seats, cruise control, tilt/telescoping steering, leatherette interior and that rather silly flower vase attached to the dashboard.

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As you climbed the model range, you could get extras like leather interior, upgraded suspension, larger 17-inch alloy wheels and a tonneau cover.

Driving the Beetle Convertible has always been a little like sitting in a horse trough. You're tucked well away from the elements and nasty wind turbulence, yet, with the top down, have the wide-open sky at your disposal. Raise the windows, and you're nicely shielded and well protected. You could drive this car, top-down, in all kinds of weather, if you chose, and still be reasonably comfortable.

Getting the top down involved releasing a hatch lever mounted over the windscreen by twisting it sideways, and it could be a little hard to get at. Those with manicured fingernails needed to be careful. The top was lowered and out of the way in about 15 seconds, and it folded flat behind the back seat.

When up and locked in place, the top fit snugly, and isolated the cars' occupants from traffic noise and harsh weather remarkably well. The quality of the Beetle's soft-top was also first-rate, with three layers for soundproofing and weather protection, and a heated glass rear window. By 2009, the company had mastered the art of making convertibles and this iteration of the Beetle Convertible had VW's rollover protection feature.

As far as performance is concerned, the '09 vintage accelerated from a dead stop to 100 km/h in about 10 seconds, with an electronically governed top speed of 209 km/h. Brakes, as usual for all Volkswagen products, were four-wheel discs, and ABS was standard equipment.

But alas, '09 was getting near to the end for the Beetle Convertible. It was discontinued a year later, and VW fans had to settle for the Eos.

One safety recall to report from both Transport Canada and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It concerns a possibly faulty clamp on one of the power steering hydraulic lines. This could chafe against a nearby fuel line and, if worse comes to worse, lead to an engine fire. Easily fixed by a dealer. This problem affects Beetle, Rabbit and Jetta models (non-diesel), going right back to 2006, incidentally.

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Twelve technical service bulletins have been issued by NHTSA for the 2009 Beetle Convertible. These range from hesitation and jerky shift points with the automatic transmission, to a rough-running engine, starting problems because of improper wiring and headlights that dim during idle.

Not a lot of info from Consumer Reports, but some comments from owners include: "The seats are very comfortable, (but) when a passenger is in the front seat, it can be a bit tight," and "plenty of power." Disappointing fuel economy seems to be a common thread. The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the 2009 Beetle a "Good" rating for a frontal offset collision and NHTSA rates it better than average in a front-ender.

Market research firm J.D. Power has high marks for the '09 Beetle's powertrain and feature accessories quality, but most other areas of the car get average marks. Predicted reliability is below average for the '09 Beetle, as far as this organization is concerned, and although its evaluation is for the hardtop version, it applies to the Convertible as well.

From a base price of just less than $27,000 in 2009, expect to pay anywhere from the high teens to the low-$20,000 mark for a two-year-old Beetle Convertible.

Tech Specs

2009 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

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Original Base Price: $26,975; Black Book: $18,900-$20,050; Red Book: $19,900-$21,475

Engine: 2.5-litre five-cylinder

Horsepower/Torque: 150 hp/170 lb-ft

Transmission: Five-speed manual/six-speed automatic with Tiptronic

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 10.5 city/7.0 highway; regular gas

Drive: Front-wheel

Alternatives: Mustang Convertible, Volkswagen Eos, Saab 9-3, Pontiac G6 Convertible, Mini Cooper Convertible, Chrysler Sebring Convertible

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