2003 Volkswagen New Beetle Review | Edmunds.com

2003 Volkswagen New Beetle

Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Volkswagen New Beetle Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 1.8 L Inline 4-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 5-speed Manual
  • Horse Power 150 hp @ 5800 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 21/28 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats Yes

Review of the 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle

  • The image car in VW's lineup, the New Beetle offers a unique combination of safety, fun and upscale features for its price range.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Cute yet classic styling, range of engine choices, long list of standard features, good crash test scores.

  • Cons

    Tight rear-seat accommodations, limited cargo room, high price of Turbo S model.

  • What's New for 2003

    Volkswagen makes the TDI and 150-horsepower 1.8T engines available on the base GL trim level. All GLs now come with power windows and cruise control, and the GL 1.8T and all GLS models get alloy wheels. Stability control (ESP), heated seats, and the Monsoon sound system will be available across the line. All models except the GL get a standard sunroof and a larger center console container, and the GL and GLS have new cloth upholstery. Note that last year's Sport model has been discontinued. All models have a more comfortable rear seat, a clock/temperature display on the rearview mirror and turn signals mounted on the outside mirrors. Finally, if you've been holding out for a Beetle convertible since 1998, your wait is almost over -- the first drop tops should arrive at the dealers just in time for, well, winter. The first ones will be 2.0 GL and GLS models in February 2003, 1.8T-equipped GLS and GLX models later in the spring.

Full 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle Review

What's New for 2003

Volkswagen makes the TDI and 150-horsepower 1.8T engines available on the base GL trim level. All GLs now come with power windows and cruise control, and the GL 1.8T and all GLS models get alloy wheels. Stability control (ESP), heated seats, and the Monsoon sound system will be available across the line. All models except the GL get a standard sunroof and a larger center console container, and the GL and GLS have new cloth upholstery. Note that last year's Sport model has been discontinued. All models have a more comfortable rear seat, a clock/temperature display on the rearview mirror and turn signals mounted on the outside mirrors. Finally, if you've been holding out for a Beetle convertible since 1998, your wait is almost over -- the first drop tops should arrive at the dealers just in time for, well, winter. The first ones will be 2.0 GL and GLS models in February 2003, 1.8T-equipped GLS and GLX models later in the spring.

Introduction

When the Golf-based Volkswagen New Beetle debuted, America went bonkers over it. It was cute. It was retro. It reminded people of their youth, free love and smoking lots of, well, you know. But that was five years ago. Just like Saint Bernard puppies, cars grow old. And unless something is done to keep the interest up, the buying public's fascination wears off. Indeed, New Beetle sales have cooled considerably since 1998. Last year, Volkswagen energized the lineup with the introduction of the Turbo S. Building off the GLX 1.8T model, the Turbo S has a more powerful engine, a more aggressive-looking body and unique interior treatments. Indeed, the Turbo S is the most powerful and sporting New Beetle ever offered in the United States. Accordingly, it's also the most expensive. The New Beetle is entering its sixth season for 2003. At this point, many small cars get a full makeover. Instead, VW will rely on the Beetle's large array of standard features, premium cabin furnishings and playful on-road demeanor to keep the nameplate competitive. The availability of the TDI and 1.8T engines at the base GL trim level should make the car more appealing to shoppers who prize value above image. More importantly, the long-awaited convertible version will finally make its appearance midway through the model year with such features as a power-folding cloth top, a rollover protection system and, a first in the price range, a six-speed automatic transmission.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

For 2003, the available trim levels include the GL, GLS, GLX and Turbo S. The GL comes with air conditioning; cassette stereo; four-wheel antilock disc brakes; side airbags; 16-inch wheels; power windows, locks and mirrors; cruise control; seat-height adjusters; a telescoping steering wheel and a bud vase on the dash. Options include stability control (ESP), a premium Monsoon sound system, heated front seats and a dealer-installed CD changer. The GLS adds a sunroof, a center armrest with storage, alloy wheels (also available on the GL 1.8T) and foglights. Besides all the GL options, you can get leather or a trim package with sport seats and interior accents that match the exterior paint (GLS 1.8T buyers can also get 17-inch wheels). Step up to the GLX and leather, Monsoon sound, rain-sensing wipers and a self-dimming rearview mirror are included; ESP and 17-inch wheels are optional. The Turbo S adds standard 17s, a sport-tuned suspension, metallic-colored trim, distinctive body add-ons and a rear spoiler that deploys at 45 mph. Convertibles will be offered in GL, GLS, and GLX trim; the first ones to arrive will be GLS models. A power-folding cloth top will be available.

Powertrains and Performance

GL and GLS buyers can choose one of three engines. First up is a 115-horsepower, ULEV-certified 2.0-liter inline four. More interesting is the 1.9-liter diesel four (called TDI) that gets up to 49 mpg on the highway (and makes an impressive 155 pound-feet of torque) or the powerful 150-hp 1.8-liter turbocharged four (called the 1.8T). All of these engines have adequate power for easy city driving, though the 1.8T is the most fun, and it provides fuel economy on par with the base 2.0-liter -- it's standard on the GLX. A five-speed manual and four-speed automatic are available at all trim levels. The performance-oriented Turbo S comes only with a 180-hp version of the 1.8T paired with a six-speed manual. New Beetle Convertibles will be available with the 2.0-liter and the 150-hp 1.8T and either a five-speed manual or a segment-first six-speed automatic.

Safety

Side airbags are standard, but unlike its Golf platform mate, the Beetle doesn't offer head curtain airbags -- which may account for its three-star rating in NHTSA's rear side-impact category. Otherwise, the Beetle is a model of safety, having earned five stars in both frontal impact categories and a "Good" rating (and "Best Pick" status) from the IIHS for the offset crash. Convertibles will have a rollover protection system.

Interior Design and Special Features

Though smaller inside than the Golf, the Beetle (seats four, 12 cubic feet of hatch space) compensates with style: its tablelike dashboard, huge circular speedometer and round vents distinguish it from everything else on the road. Cabin materials are high in quality.

Driving Impressions

Like other VWs, the Beetle is fun to drive but comfortable for long trips. The Turbo S has a slightly stiffer suspension -- it's still too soft for performance freaks, but just about right for most drivers.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews



The not too bad, the

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Vehicle: 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle GLS TDI 2dr Hatchback (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 5M)

This is/was our 2nd VW New Beetle TDI. Both 2003's. I can say that I've been very happy overall with both cars. The only downside is the maintenance expense compared to Toyota's (zero unscheduled maintenance expense with every Toyota I've owned). But kinda boring. BOTH Bugs: FUN to drive! More comfortable (I'm 6'3"). Great road trip car, for my wife and I with plenty of room for luggage with the back seat folded down. GREAT mileage (never less than 43 with everyday driving and up to 55mpg on road trips). We used it as a 2nd car and whoever had to drive the furthest that day.. WANTED the bug. Fun and cheap!



1 of 1 people found this review helpful

My horror story

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Vehicle: 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle GL 2dr Convertible (2.0L 4cyl 6A)

This was my first car at the age of 18. When I got my Beetle, it had about 72,000 miles on it, and not even 4 months after receiving it, the problems began. Immediately, my transmission died completely. My warranty company gave me a $4,000 check and voided my warranty after seeing the $12,000 repair bill. Then, the battery died. Twice. As did the alternator and air conditioning. My rear window also got stuck and that would have cost me 4 hours of labor fees just to get to the broken bits. It's not like I drove it a lot - over a course of 3 years I didn't even drive 10,000 miles. For the love of god, stay away from this car. It is one problem after another, literally every 3-5 months.



1 of 3 people found this review helpful

2003 new beetle turbo

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Vehicle: 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle GLX 2dr Convertible (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 6A)

I bought our 2003 New Beetle Convertible Turbo with auto 6 speed in June 2003 for my wife's birthday. We had to go to Arlington, TX, to order one of the first to come into the USA. My wife has loved this car! The handling and comfort are great, and she loves to leave the pickemup drivers standing at the lights. We don't drive it much, but one highlight was trip from Huntsville, AL, to Ashville, NC, in October. But I worry a bit. There have been several service issues, including one coil recoil. The latest service, with 57,600 miles, was the appearance of Service Engine light. Dealer wants only $2200 to fix everything!



1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Let me tell you what's

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Vehicle: 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo S 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 6M)

We bought our 03 Beetle with the 1.8L with about 50,000 miles on it. Within weeks it had an engine light on. I have battled the engine light, among other things, ever since. We changed an injector and a coil pack on the number 2 cylinder because of a persistent miss. This was after diagnosis of codes would not narrow the problem down. Immediately following it began cranking hard on start and not starting until the second attempt. First code said crankshaft sensor so we replaced that. Had to replace camshaft sensor thereafter to fix the problem. Next it threw a coolant system code so we replaced the ECT sensor. After that the thermostat. This car was a reliability nightmare. Never ever again.



1 of 1 people found this review helpful

German engineering?

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Vehicle: 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle GLX 1.8T 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 4A)

I bought this as my first car thinking I was being smart by buying something with good fuel econemy and reliability. I love to drive the car when it's working properly.For the first two months or so, she provided me with all of that until one day, during rush hour traffic, the car lost ALL power completely. After that, car SLAMS into gear. Now, the car likes to do that randomly in awful places. The turbo lag on a hot day is ridiculous. I feel like I'm going to be killed sometime soon. And also, all the plastic finishes in the interior break. Car is made extremely cheep. Oh yea, german engineering? It's made in MEXICO if that explains the awesome reliability haha




Spend your money elsewhere

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Vehicle: 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle Turbo S 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 6M)

From my experience with VW my car and others they are junk. They all break easily. I have had to repair so many things a 1K a pop 5 times at least. Not including maintenance things. The design so compact requires many hours of labor to remove and replace to get to certain things. Plus the headlight lens falls off and cost ALOT of money to replace which i have done twice now at $400 each lens assembly and its falling off again! Just a crappy car. My sister has a golf the transmission and engine are going. Other family members have toyota and honda and hey i have never seen a repair as stupid or as costly or as often as VW repairs are. Junkie cars and they say German engineering is the best HA



Talk About The 2003 New Beetle

2003 Volkswagen New Beetle Discussions See all Started By

ammy
ammy
09-25-2014
I have a Beetle, 2003 with turbo. There's a light on the dash that I can't figure out. I've tried googling it, but can't seem to find it. It's in the lower left corner of the dash. It's amber in colo?...


dmbrining
dmbrining
03-03-2004
June 2, 1998 Forest Imports Purchased my first car, a brand new ’98 VW New Beetle GL, VIN# 3VWBB61CXWM013081 with 85 miles. 85...


bluelemon
bluelemon
08-15-2004
In 2003, I proudly purchased a second-hand 1999 New Beetle GL, 2.0L, with a manual transmission and 50540 on the odometer. I had the car service checked by a AAA technician prior to purchase, to make...



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Gas Mileage

EPA-Rated MPG

  • 21
  • cty
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  • 28
  • highway
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