Two turbos, both alike in dignity from Europe, where we lay our scene, one born of racing and Italy, Other For The People and is quite keen. From forth the nostalgia of these places, A pair of fun 4 seaters for your eyes, which adventure will put smiles on faces? Read on, my friend, and ye too shall be wise (with apologies to William Shakespeare and poets everywhere).
First I’d like to put it out there that I am a convertible gal. Aside from my first car, every vehicle I’ve owned has been a drop top. So I was more than happy to take on the challenge of deciding between two affordable, fun to drive convertibles: the 2013 Volkswagen Turbo Beetle Convertible and the 2013 Fiat 500c Abarth.
The 2.0L 4 cylinder turbo in the Beetle Convertible produces 200 horsepower and 207 lb/ft of torque. It is mated to a 6 speed manual or DSG gearbox. I fortunately had the manual for my test drive, but as far as dual clutch transmissions go, the DSG is one of the best on the market. You’ll scoot from 0-60 in about 6.7 seconds and enjoy 21mpg in the city and 30 out on the highway.
The Fiat 500c Abarth offers a 1.4L 4 cylinder multi-air turbo delivers 160 horsepower and 170 lb/ft of torque. A 5 speed manual transmission is the only offering, getting you from 0-60 in a scant less than 7.5 seconds. EPA fuel ratings are a fantastic 28 in the city and 34 highway.
The turbo Beetle comes with a sport tuned suspension that gives you plenty of rigidity without compromising daily driving comfort. The A pillar has been reinforced and there is cross bracing to reduce the dreaded cowl shake that often happens with a convertible. The hydraulic power steering offers decent feedback and is never too light, weighting up nicely when you dig into the corners. However, at a ratio of 16.3:1 it could be quicker. There is a bit of turbo lag, but nothing that any reasonable driver will notice.
The electric soft top, operable at speeds up to 30mph, takes 9.5 seconds to lower and 11 seconds to rise. The top is well insulated, resulting in a surprisingly quiet cabin for those few times you actually drive with the top up.
The 500c comes with a racing pedigree, and as such is a bit more suited for aggressive driving than the Beetle. The stiff suspension allows you to really attack corners with reckless abandon, utilizing the mega quick steering. A little throttle feathering will get you the rest of the way around the corner, but a mechanical limited slip differential would be useful. Fiat instead uses a brake based differential, whereby the computer applies the brakes to any wheel it senses is slipping. It gets the job done but an LSD would be a great option.
The electric soft top is a bit like a glorified sunroof as it truly is only the top that that slides back, leaving the B pillars and the door frames intact. However, keeping those components in place means the cabrio loses little in rigidity and gains no weight as many convertibles do. It can be operated at speeds up to 60mph and trust me, it’s best to keep it open as much as possible to enjoy the exhaust note in all its growly glory.
Both cars pay homage to their predecessors. The Volkswagen Beetle redesign harkens back to the 1949 air cooled model and comes in 3 different heritage models: 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Each has their own little details that the VW enthusiast can appreciate. The Fiat keeps the look of the original 500 while making it compatible with today’s safety standards. It also takes Carol Abarth’s passion for racing and makes it accessible to the everyday driver by offering a free track day with an instructor included in your purchase price.
The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible starts at $24,995 and tops out at $31,870. You’ll find yourself in a 2013 Fiat 500c Abarth for $26,000, fully loaded at $31,180.
I am an Abarth gal all the way. It looks like a roller skate and it drives like a stiletto boot. I’d like to see an AWD option to really get things cooking, but for now, I’ll take the loud little car with a huge sting.