Volkswagen Beetle lovers — Mr. Driver's Seat among them — groaned collectively when Volkswagen announced last month that 2019 would be the last year of the Bug's run. A Final Edition will be offered to "celebrate its rich heritage," according to Volkswagen press materials. Yippee.
Fans were excited when the company brought back the model for the 1998 model year, almost 20 years after the last air-cooled convertible came to the States.
The company had announced the 2012 Beetle's redesign from the curvy '98 model at a worldwide extravaganza in 2011 in New York (among other cities). But the thumping bass and model hotties serving model-size portions of food seemed out of place for this little car, so I left feeling underwhelmed — as if the era of the underpowered air-cooled Punch Buggy were sealed off for good.
A fitting tribute: So, how to celebrate the end of this predestined era? The Beetle has never been that beloved by Volkswagen or its main sales base of Europe, and not all that much by buyers in the States now, apparently.
Readers don't need another round of blah blah blah blah Hitler creation blah blah blah blah hippie love machine blah blah blah my uncle had one and we always went for ice cream in it.
It's time to move on; Volkswagen did, so we fans can be cold and calculating, too. Solutions journalism, my click-counting colleagues might say.
So where can buyers turn for their retro/oddity car fix now — without buying something previously enjoyed?
I'm glad you asked. Here are some options:
Not the four-door hulking beast. Jeep parent FiatChrysler still produces the two-door version with a removable top and doors and fold-down windshield — and they've made all the adjustments easier than ever for 2018.
So easy that even Mr. Driver's Seat, Sturgis Kid 4.0, and two of the Sturgis boyfriends could get it disassembled in about 15 minutes before heading off to a game of tennis.
Not as economical as the Volkswagen, the Jeep comes with a 3.6-liter V-6 or a 2.0-liter turbocharged four. Jeep is making money off this bad boy, with a starting price of $29,240 and a fully loaded model like I tested running $48,060.
You can't feel any cooler — there's something about dropping out the doors that's oddly entertaining. Check out the full Mr. Driver's Seat review next week.
Mazda MX-5/Fiat 124 Spider
The two-seater convertible or hardtop MX-5 RF version sits low enough to the ground to take you back 40 years and turn even the worst commute into a romping good time.
Much to my surprise, I found the Fiat the more fun of the two, but either one's a winner. They both make 155 horsepower, though the Fiat engine is torquier.
My 2017 MX-5 RF review goes into detail.
This covers a wide range of Minis, from the little Hardtop or Convertible to the bigger Clubman or Countryman models. They're all riotous fun and handle superbly. And though the Hardtop has grown over the years, it still looks the same as ever.
Hardtop, Countryman, or Clubman all start at 134 horsepower, moving on up to 228 horsepower in the John Cooper Works version, with most stopping at 189 as well. Prices start at $21,700 for the Hardtop.
Inside, toggles across the dashboard delight, and the gigundo speedometer is smile-worthy. It's been a while since Mr. Driver's Seat has been in a hatchback or convertible, but check out the Countryman Hybrid review from March.
Buick Regal TourX
It's one of the last full-on station wagons sold in the States. Maybe it's not the brand of retro you'd been dreaming of, but with this one, you can have your retro and load some cakes into the back, too.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine creates 250 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The TourX starts at $29,070, and ran $37,485 as reviewed in July.
Tesla Model 3
What's this doing here? you ask. Nothing could be more modern than this electric car from the newest car builder in the States.
True, this fits more with the oddity portion of our thesis statement. Look at the front of one closely, and you'll see bug eyes. And this little car is a whole lot of fun on the road as well. It starts at $36,500, but our tester with a 310-mile battery, Autopilot and luxury upgrade lowers the old bank balance by $57,500.
Look for the review — a comparison with the Chevrolet Bolt EV — in columns in November.