Monday25 July 2016
The Dune is VW’s latest attempt to broaden the Beetle’s appeal. As soon as the beach buggy-inspired drop-top hit the roads of Britain, we took it for a spin.
The new Beetle Dune is designed to bring some beach buggy-style toughness to the Beetle range with an increased ride height, rugged-looking body cladding and big wheels.
Inside, you get some sporty seats and a range of equipment inherited from the standard Beetle’s ‘Design’ trim level.
Standard kit includes a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system, automatic lights and wipers, and air conditioning, while customers can add various goodies such as satellite navigation and heated front seats.
There’s a choice of two bodystyles – the Cabriolet seen here or the hard-top Coupe – while two engines are available: the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel and the 103bhp 1.2-litre petrol we tested.
The Beetle has always been about style, and there is undoubtedly a section of its target market that will be drawn to the Dune variant’s more rugged look.
Even though the Dune has only been lifted by 10mm, the extra height does seem to give it a little more presence, and the chunky wheel arches play their part too.
Inside, it has that same aesthetic – sporty in an off-road sort of way – with supportive seats trimmed in black, grey and yellow and yellow trimmings on the dials.
Practicality is unlikely to be a key consideration for buyers of any Beetle, so few will be too bothered about the Dune’s lack of space.
Those in the front will be perfectly happy with how much head- and elbow-room they are afforded, while the rear seats are fine for children. For adults, though, spending any length of time in the back would be unpleasant – especially with tall people occupying the front seats.
It’s also worth noting that this convertible version sacrifices boot space to accommodate the folding canvas roof. The hard-top Dune Coupe manages to provide 310 litres of luggage space, but the Cabriolet’s load bay is a mere 225 litres in volume. It’s less easily accessible than the Coupe’s, too, thanks to the smaller tailgate.
If you’re sold on the Dune’s looks, then you can rest assured that nothing about the way it drives will put you off.
The extra ride height doesn’t seem to have any especially adverse effects on the comfort or the handling, and apart from the steering, which some might find a touch heavy, the Dune is very easy to drive.
Performance from the 1.2-litre petrol is adequate, rather than abundant, but it isn’t too noisy and it’s surprisingly well matched to the seven-speed automatic transmission.
It’s fairly economical, too, with official figures claiming more than 50mpg and 126g/km CO2 emissions. The diesel is even more frugal, returning more than 60mpg and 122g/km in its most efficient manual guise.
The only real issues, then, are a slight lack of visibility when the roof is raised and a lot of road noise at motorway cruising speeds.
Dune Cabriolets start from £24,255 for the basic 1.2-litre petrol-powered manual and rise to £28,235 for the diesel automatic, which isn’t so bad when you consider that the standard Beetle drop-top starts from around £19,500.
It’s still a lot of money, though – enough to buy you a Mercedes-Benz A-Class, in fact – and you don’t get all that much thrown in, but to get too hung up on the numbers is to miss the point.
Value for money will not be high on any prospective Dune driver’s list of priorities. If you’re in the Dune’s target market, the chances are you’ll already know whether you want one, and you probably aren’t overly fussed whether VW is charging £20,000 or £25,000.
It’s aimed at a younger generation of car buyer anyway – one that’s usually more interested in monthly payments than outright purchase prices.
The Dune will appeal to anyone who likes the Beetle but wants something a little more rugged and SUV-like than the standard car.
It’s never going to be the main family bus, but a few young families might take one on as a chunky, funky second set of wheels.
Model: Volkswagen Beetle Dune Cabriolet 1.2 TSI DSG
Engine: 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol producing 103bhp and 129lb/ft
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic driving the front wheels
Performance: Top speed 109mph, 0-62mph in 12.1 seconds
Economy: 52.3mpg combined
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