What's New for 2009
The Volkswagen Beetle enters 2009 relatively unchanged. Most significantly, both the coupe and convertible are now available only in a single well-equipped trim level, which includes some features that were previously optional.
After a dozen years in production, it seems strange to still refer to Volkswagen's 2009 Beetle as "new." The round-roofed retro coupe came out for the 1998 model year and it hasn't been redesigned since. VW has attempted to reignite interest in the New Beetle over the years with turbo and TDI variations that have come and gone. But the modern-day incarnation of the Love Bug is simply long in the tooth, and it faces increasingly stiff competition from the roomier, more powerful cars in its class.
Available as a coupe or convertible, the New Beetle (which is based on the old VW Golf platform) still has a few things going for it, such as a distinctive look, solid German engineering, comfortable road manners and plenty of features. For power, there's a torquey 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, the same one you'll find in VW's Jetta and Rabbit.
Compared to newer rivals, however, the 2009 Volkswagen Beetle claims no major advantage aside from its novel look. Other small two-door coupes or hatches like the Honda Civic, Saturn Astra or VW's own Rabbit deliver superior utility, amenities and drivability at a similar or lower cost. As a convertible, the New Beetle makes a little more sense, as the roofless version might appeal even more to those who value form over function. But overall, we suggest scoping out the competition or considering a certified used New Beetle as an alternative to the relatively pricey 2009 model.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Volkswagen Beetle is offered as a coupe-styled hatchback or a convertible with a power-folding soft top. Both models come standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, remote keyless entry, full power accessories, air-conditioning, heated front seats, cruise control, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a premium audio system with a CD/MP3 player, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The only factory option on the coupe is a power sunroof, although 17-inch wheels, a rear spoiler and a trunk-mounted six-CD changer are available from the dealer. On the convertible, unique 17-inch wheels are a factory option.
Powertrains and Performance
Both the coupe and the convertible versions of the 2009 Volkswagen New Beetle are powered by a 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine that produces 150 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. On the coupe, power is transmitted to the front wheels through either a standard five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. The convertible is available with the automatic only. New Beetles sold in California and California-emissions states meet the squeaky-clean PZEV (partial zero-emissions vehicle) emissions standard.
Fuel-economy ratings for the manual version of the 2009 VW Beetle are 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway. Coupes with the automatic transmission get 1 mpg better on the freeway. But that difference might be negligible, considering that the EPA combined fuel economy ratings for all 2009 New Beetle models is 23 mpg.
All 2009 New Beetles come standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side-impact airbags and active front head restraints. Convertibles also feature a rollover protection system.
In government crash testing, the 2009 Volkswagen New Beetle earned four out of five stars for front occupants in frontal impacts. In side-impact testing, the New Beetle received a perfect five-star rating for front passengers, but only three stars for those in the rear. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the New Beetle a top score of "Good" for frontal-offset crash protection, but a disappointing "Poor" rating for side impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
Although the New Beetle's nostalgic body shape might still be a hit with dedicated fans, it suffers from some shortcomings, the most noticeable of which is limited interior space. Even Volkswagen's own Rabbit, for example, offers more interior room. Although most passengers will feel relatively comfortable up front, the car's bubbly body pinches tightly inward against rear occupants. Limited hiproom and legroom in back keeps this car from being the best choice for long trips with all seats occupied. Cargo space is similarly small, and the New Beetle's outward visibility is surprisingly poor on both the coupe and convertible.
Raising the Beetle's top isn't exactly a one-touch operation, but it's simple enough to be called hassle-free. One button on the console takes it up or down, but there's a single manual latch you must pull and twist to secure it tightly to the windshield header.
In typical Volkswagen fashion, the 2009 VW Beetle is reasonably fun to drive around town and on curvy roads, thanks to direct and responsive steering. On the highway and around town, the ride is smooth and comfortable. The 2.5-liter engine delivers adequate power for most situations, though it doesn't offer the excitement of some more sprightly rivals, such as the Mini Cooper S.