Over the years, the design of the Volkswagen Beetle has evolved from its functionality-driven origins to the irrepressibly cheerful face of the previous-generation New Beetle. Now the folks at VW have dropped the "New" in the car's name and given this latest-generation Beetle a more aggressive look. But it's still unmistakably a Beetle.
Contributing to its more masculine stance is a body that's longer, lower and wider. Inside, the friendly flower vase is gone and the distant windshield and resulting massive dash top have been replaced by a more vertical windshield and a color-keyed dash that's more handsome than cute. The increased dimensions also give this Beetle a roomier interior, especially in the backseat. Its underpinnings, which are shared with the latest Golf, make it more fun to drive than you might expect, especially in the Turbo and TDI models. Put it all together and you have a very enjoyable and distinctive small car.
Current Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen offers its Beetle hatchback in three main trim levels: 2.5L, Turbo and diesel-powered TDI. The convertible version of the Beetle is reviewed separately.
The 2.5L models come with a 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder that puts out 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a six-speed automatic transmission is optional. Quicker acceleration comes from the sporty Turbo model, which has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. The high fuel economy TDI version is powered by a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine rated at 140 hp and 236 lb-ft. Transmission choices for the Turbo and TDI include a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual (DSG).
Even the 2.5L Beetle comes well-equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, air-conditioning, leatherette (vinyl) upholstery, heated front seats, 50/50-split-folding rear seats, cruise control, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker sound system. Turbo models feature 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a rear spoiler, foglights and front sport seats. Major options include a sunroof, xenon headlights, a touchscreen navigation system and a Fender premium sound system. Volkswagen also offers a special Beetle Fender Edition that features unique paint and a "sunburst" dashboard scheme that echoes the finish seen on many of Fender's famous guitars.
Even if you don't go for the Fender edition, you'll likely be impressed with how attractive the Beetle's passenger cabin is, with its clean lines and the color-matched dash panels on select models. Despite its seemingly low roof line, the Beetle still provides plenty of room for tall drivers. The backseat is also fairly spacious, though not as roomy as that of the related Volkswagen Golf. One item we're not fond of is the optional navigation system; while it's pretty easy to use, its small screen limits the amount of information that can be displayed.
How the Volkswagen Beetle drives largely depends on the engine you choose. The base five-cylinder is respectably powerful, but it sounds unrefined and gets unremarkable fuel economy. The TDI isn't really any quicker, but will likely be a more satisfying choice for many people thanks to its real-world 40 mpg fuel economy. The Beetle Turbo has plenty of punch and sounds great. In terms of handling, the VW Beetle provides crisp turn-in and minimal body roll in quick transitions. The Turbo handles better, but not dramatically so.
Read the most recent 2014 Volkswagen Beetle review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Volkswagen Beetle page.