2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI

The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible includes a TDI model that squeezes 41 miles out of a single gallon of diesel fuel, which should make drivers happier than a June bug on a tomato plant. Volkswagen says the TDI Beetle Convertible is the “most economical convertible on the highway today.”

Volkswagen unveiled its 2013 Beetle Convertible in December, including three special nostalgic editions harkening back to the 50s, 60s and 70s. Customers have lots of choices when it comes to the new convertible. Eight models are available: the base Convertible at $24,995 (automatic), the Convertible with Technology at $26,695 (automatic), the Convertible with Sound and Navigation at $28,495 (automatic), the TDI Convertible at $27,895 (manual), the TDI Convertible with Sound and Navigation at $29,195 (manual), the Turbo Convertible at $27,795 (manual), the Turbo Convertible with Sound at $29,195 (manual) and the Turbo Convertible with Sound and Navigation at $31,195 (manual).

Our test bug was the TDI, a fun-as-all-get-out little convertible that, like my 1971 Super Beetle in college, sipped fuel and just never seemed to run out of gas.

Of course, back in the 1970s, diesel was for 18-wheelers and farm tractors. Volkswagen has been among the leaders in the U.S. in bringing clean burning diesel engines to the automobile market, and other manufacturers are following suit, releasing more than a dozen new diesel engines this year, including in the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee and the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze.

In the 60s and 70s, Beetles were common sights on the streets. More than 21 million were sold worldwide before the Beetle all but disappeared. Today, the Beetle comeback continues.

The 2012 Beetle coupe has been on sale for about a year now, and 67,000 have been sold globally, VW officials say. The Jetta and Passat lead the way in the VW stable for 2012, but the Beetle has accounted for about 7 percent of total sales.

While nostalgia is nice, the new Beetle ragtop is light years ahead of the old air-cooled models decades ago.

There are three engine options: a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder that makes 170 horsepower, a 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged 4-cylinder with 200 horsepower and the 2.0-liter TDI turbodiesel with 140 horses and the best torque of the bunch at 236 lb.-ft. The 2.5-liter will get 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, the 2.0-liter turbo will get 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, and the turbodiesel will deliver 28 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the road.

Transmissions offered include a 6-speed automatic, a 6-speed manual and a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic. The dual-clutch gearbox, available on the turbo models, allows for much faster and smoother gear shifts, and has a Tiptronic function to allow manual gear selections.

The TDI Beetle handles well on city streets and has the power to scoot along nicely in traffic, although it gets buffeted a little by the big rigs at highway speed.

It’s roomy, with comfortable seating and actually has usable room for four. Substantially wider and with a longer hood, the Beetle convertible also looks sleeker, moving away from “cute” and heading towards “sporty.”

Back in the 70s, you wouldn’t find the features available on the Beetle convertible today, things like Fender premium audio, keyless access with pushbutton start, leather seating surfaces and navigation.

Not yet rated for safety, the Beetle Convertible has a sophisticated rollover protection system that uses the same technology as airbags to deploy in a rollover situation.

The vehicle is also equipped with Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System that shuts off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors and switches on the hazard lights if the car is in an accident.

With the top up, the convertible provides a surprisingly quiet ride thanks to a 3-layer soft top. With the push of a button, the top lowers in just 9.5 seconds, at speeds up to 31 mph. It rises in 11 seconds, and there’s no need to latch the top at the windshield either; it’s automatic.

There is no fountain of youth, so the best some of us can hope for is to rely on nostalgic things to remind us how much fun we had “back in the day.” For “Baby Boomers,” nostalgia is hot. And with the new Beetle Convertible, “back in the day” can once again become “today.”

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel

Horsepower: 140

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Test model base price: $29,195

EPA mileage rating: 28 mpg city / 41 mpg highway