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2013 VW Beetle TDI Convertible: Peace and love the mileage

by: VOLKSWAGEN OF AMERICA - The 2013 VW Beetle TDI Convertible has fun saving the world.The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI is one of the most entertaining greenmobiles on the road today.

For starters, there's the looks -- the most recent, more aggressive version of the retro Beetle. And, of course, it's a convertible, with a top that goes up or down electronically in a mere 10 seconds. On top of that, TDI means it's powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine that gets great mileage but still has plenty of spunk, thanks to its whopping 236 foot-pounds of torque. Transmission choices include a sweet-shifting six-speed manual or a sophisticated six-speed automated manual with Sport and manual shift modes.

Now that's a car that hippies, hipsters and gear heads can all enjoy.

Both the convertible and TDI versions of the Beetle were added to the lineup this year. They compliment the sporty-looking hardtop version, and both can be also be ordered with a 2.5-liter inline five cylinder engine or turbocharged gas-powered 2.0-liter inline four. The five is a little rough and doesn't offer the best mileage in the world, but it's very drivable nevertheless. The gas turbo is faster than the diesel turbo, but the mileage isn't as good. But those are a lot of choices, offering potential buyers a Beetle at anywhere from around $20,000 to just over $32,000, depending on options.

Regardless of how its outfitted, the revised retro Beetle that debuted last year handles well on the road. The suspension is firm without being harsh, the steering is responsive, and the brakes are surprisingly good. Although the Beetle is not a sports car, it's not a mere novelty, either.

The interior is also a good compromise between nostalgia and functionality. It has the simplicity of the original Beetle but the functionality of a modern car, much like the retro Ford Mustang. It is also roomier than expected, considering the roofline in the current Beetle is lower than the previous generation. The front bucket seats were much more supportive than the thin-backed one that came in the original Beetles, too.

Volkswagen offers the turbo diesel and transmission choices in the Jetta and Passat, too. It is one of the new breed of clean-diesel engines beginning to cross over from Europe, where they have been popular for many years. Unlike older diesels, they start easily, do not smoke, and make hardly any more noise than a gas engine. The one in our test car burbled slightly when it was first fired up, then settled right down. It was mated to the six-speed manual transmission.

Perhaps the biggest difference compared to a gas engine was its ability to be lugged down and keep pulling strongly, thanks to the additional torque diesels are famous for. And the mileage -- we constantly got over 30 miles per gallon , sometimes much more.

Out biggest complaint was the lack of a back up camera, which would have been especially helpful when the convertible top was up because the view out the rear was so restricted.

Who knew being sustainable could be so much fun. We can't wait for the Karmann Ghia version.

Facts and figures (all models)

• Model tested: 2013 Beetle Convertible TDI.

• Manufacturer: Volkswagen.

• Class: Compact.

• Layout: Front engine, front-wheel-drive.

• Styles: Two-door car.

• Engines: 2.5-liter inline 5 (170 hp, 177 ft-lbs); turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4 (200 hp, 207 ft-lbs); turbo diesel 2.0 (140 hp, 236 ft-lbs)

• Transmissions: 5-speed manual; 6-speed manual; 6-speed automated with Sport and manual shift modes.

• EPA estimated city/highway/mileage: 22/29/25 (2.5/auto); 22/31/25 (2.5/5-speed); 22/30/25 (2.0T/auto); 21/30/24 (2.0T/6-speed); 28/41/32 (2.0TDI/6-speed); 29/39/32 (2.0TDI/auto).

• Price: Beginning at approximately $20,000 ($28,995 as tested).