Full 2014 Volkswagen Beetle Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the Volkswagen Beetle sees a handful of small but notable changes. A limited-edition GSR coupe model debuts with a yellow-and-black paint scheme that recalls a '70s-era racing Beetle. The Beetle Turbo picks up 10 horsepower and a name change: It's now called the Beetle R-Line to avoid confusion later in the year when VW replaces the base Beetle's 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine with a new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Lastly, the Fender edition is no longer available; the base Beetle picks up a few more standard features; and Volkswagen's telematics system (dubbed "Car-Net") debuts, along with a rearview camera (late availability).
Producing a retro-themed version of an iconic car can present automakers with quite a challenge. On one hand, they'll want it to pay proper homage to the original, but on the other, they don't want exaggerated styling cues to overshadow sound design. The 2014 Volkswagen Beetle, unlike the previous "New Beetle" retro-bug, manages to cruise deftly between the two, appealing both to nostalgic hippies and modern hipsters, not to mention plenty of people in between.
The reasons for this V-dub's broad appeal are many. Within the classic yet tastefully updated shape, there is ample passenger space, sensible ergonomics, a decently sized cargo hold and a suspension that provides an agreeable balance between sporty handling and a comfortable ride. Variety helps, too, as you can choose a coupe or convertible, select from a number of color and trim options and pick a gas or diesel engine.
Speaking of power plants, the base and rather humdrum 2.5-liter five-cylinder gas engine will be replaced later in the model year by a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that boasts a slightly higher power output and notably better fuel economy. Furthermore, because there will be two turbocharged gas engines (the new 1.8 and the carryover 2.0), the Beetle Turbo is renamed the Beetle R-Line.
Also new this year is the limited-edition GSR, which is essentially an R-line with a unique yellow-and-black theme that pays tribute to a 1973 special-edition Beetle (called the Yellow-and-Black Racer) that featured a similar paint scheme. And as before, those looking for maximum mpg should be more than happy with a Beetle TDI. In our experience with various VW test cars, those that were TDI-powered typically did better than their EPA mpg estimates.
All told, the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle is surprisingly well-rounded. It may not be as affordable as some other small two-door cars, such as the Honda Civic coupe or the Hyundai Elantra coupe , but it's certainly more stylish. And compared to other retro-fashion small cars like the Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper, the Beetle boasts a roomier backseat and a larger cargo area. If you're looking for a small coupe that provides equal amounts of style and function, the Volkswagen Beetle should be on your test-drive list.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Volkswagen Beetle is a four-passenger, two-door hatchback available in four main trim levels. The first three denote the engine: Beetle 2.5L (2.5-liter gasoline), Beetle R-Line (turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline) and Beetle TDI (turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel). Note that later in the model year the 2.5L will be replaced by the 1.8T (turbocharged 1.8-liter four). The fourth trim is the new GSR, which is essentially a loaded R-Line with a unique color scheme. (The Beetle Convertible is reviewed separately.)
The Beetle 2.5L comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, heated windshield-washer nozzles, heated mirrors, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated and height-adjustable front seats (with lumbar adjustment), leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a trip computer and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack. Also standard is VW's new Car-Net telematics system.
The Sunroof package adds a panoramic sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, satellite radio and a touchscreen audio interface. The Sunroof, Sound & Navigation package includes the above plus 18-inch wheels, a navigation system, a rearview camera and a premium Fender audio system with a subwoofer.
The Beetle R-Line adds the following to the Beetle 2.5L's equipment: a more powerful engine, 18-inch wheels, foglights, a rear spoiler, a sport-tuned suspension, sport seats, unique cloth upholstery, a performance gauge package, faux carbon-fiber accents and alloy pedals.
The R-Line Sunroof and Sound package adds the same items as the 2.5L's Sunroof package along with the Fender audio system. The R-Line's Sunroof, Sound and Navigation System adds 19-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, leather upholstery, a rearview camera and a navigation system to the above package.
The GSR is essentially an R-Line with Sunroof, Sound and Navigation along with a unique yellow-and-black paint scheme, a larger rear spoiler and a black leather interior with yellow stitching accents and specific floor mats.
The Beetle TDI includes the 2.5L's standard equipment along with keyless ignition/entry, satellite radio, a touchscreen audio interface and a performance gauge package. It similarly offers the 2.5L's optional Sunroof, Sound & Navigation package.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2014 VW Beetle 2.5L is a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine with 170 hp and 177 pound-feet of torque. Later in the model year Volkswagen will replace this engine with a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 170 hp and 184 lb-ft. Every Beetle is front-wheel drive.
For the 2.5L, a five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a six-speed automatic is optional. In Edmunds testing, a Beetle 2.5L with the automatic went from zero to 60 mph in 9 seconds -- about average for an automatic compact. Estimated EPA fuel economy for the 2.5L is a disappointing 25 mpg combined (22 mpg city/29 mpg highway for the automatic, 22/31 with the manual).
The Beetle R-Line and GSR get a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 210 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard and a six-speed automated manual (known as DSG) is optional. In Edmunds performance testing, the previous 200-hp Beetle Turbo with DSG went from zero to 60 mph in a quick 6.6 seconds. Fuel economy with DSG is actually better than the base five-cylinder at 26 mpg combined (24 city/30 highway).
A turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel engine with 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque powers the Beetle TDI. As with the R-Line, buyers can choose between a six-speed manual and a six-speed DSG. Fuel economy estimates stand at 32 mpg combined (28 city/41 highway for the manual and 29/39 for the DSG).
Every 2014 Volkswagen Beetle comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and Volkswagen's Car-Net telematics system. This new service includes crash notification, roadside assistance, stolen vehicle location, remote door unlocking and geo-fencing (which allows parents to set boundaries for teenage drivers). A rearview camera (late availability) is optional.
In Edmunds brake testing, a previous Beetle Turbo with 18-inch wheels came to a stop in 129 feet: disappointing for a sporty small car. Surprisingly, a regular 2.5 model stopped in 122 feet -- a bit better than average.
In government crash tests, the Beetle coupe received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars awarded for total frontal protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave it its top "Good" rating in its moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. In IIHS's newest small-overlap frontal-offset test, the Beetle scored a rating of "Marginal," the third lowest of four, although not every car has been subjected to this test and few have earned a "Good" rating.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2014 VW Beetle's cabin draws design inspiration from the original flower-power model, yet includes the same features, controls and construction as modern Volkswagens. The trim that runs across the dash and doors can be color-keyed to the exterior just as in old Bugs, while the Turbo gets secondary dash-top gauges and available two-tone seats.
It's a pretty classy passenger environment, and unlike a Mini Cooper, it doesn't induce the sort of head-scratching that can come from odd control placement and frustrating ergonomics. The optional navigation system is easy to use, though its small screen limits usefulness. The premium Fender sound system, on the other hand, is well worth the extra cost and provides impressive sound quality.
Despite its seemingly low roof line, the Beetle still provides plenty of room for tall drivers, and most people will find the front seats pretty comfortable. The backseat is also fairly spacious, though not as roomy as the related Volkswagen Golf. The 15.4-cubic-foot cargo hold is actually bigger than the Golf's with the 50/50 split-folding seats raised. Lower those seats, however, and the Beetle only provides 29.9 cubes of maximum space versus the Golf's 46 cubes.
How the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle drives largely depends on the engine you choose. The base five-cylinder is respectably powerful, but it sounds unrefined and gets disappointing fuel economy. Having sampled the new turbocharged 1.8-liter engine, we suggest waiting to get a base Beetle with this engine. This powertrain is much smoother and provides superior fuel economy.
Compared to the 2.5 versions, the Beetle R-Line has plenty of punch and sounds great. Like other Volkswagen diesel models, the Beetle TDI provides plenty of low-end grunt and ample passing/merging power, along with very good fuel economy.
The six-speed manual is quite possibly the most easily shifted do-it-yourself transmission around, while the sophisticated DSG gearbox is a nice compromise for those who want the convenience of an automatic with much of the performance and control of a manual. That said, the DSG's responses can be frustratingly slow when accelerating from a stop while using the normal drive mode.
The Beetle's handling is respectably adept, though the car's overall abilities and steering response are well short of what you'll get from a Fiat 500 Abarth or Mini Cooper S. When just cruising on city streets or on the highway, however, the Beetle is pretty comfortable. Even the R-Line's sport suspension shrugs off bumps and ruts in the road. You'll notice the road's imperfections, but there's no harshness to speak of, while road noise is noticeable but not intrusive. All things considered, the Beetle is a pleasing long-distance road trip companion.