Used 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Review
Woodstock. Fahrvergnugen. That silly little bud vase. Ferdinand Porsche. Flower power. Austin Powers. Herbie. Your sister's car in college.
Now that we've got all the possible references to its illustrious two predecessors out of the way, the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle has a better chance to stand on its own. For, if you put aside its historic DNA, you're left with an intriguing compact car that strips away the function of a more conventional hatchback like the VW Golf in favor of distinctive styling inside and out. You also have one of the only affordable four-seat convertibles on the market.
Few cars have more of a familiar shape than the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle.
Beneath its styling is essentially a mix-and-match of mechanical components, features and interior switchgear coming from the previous-generation Golf and current-generation Jetta. That's a good thing. Importantly, it shares its available engines, including the powerfully responsive and surprisingly efficient turbocharged 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, with the Golf GTI and Jetta GLI. Unfortunately, the driving experience for Beetle is more in line with the disappointing Jetta -- even the R-Line model -- because of the car's lackluster handling and steering. Also, like the rest of the family, the Beetle's TDI diesel model is on hiatus as Volkswagen works to clean up its emissions system.
There are other issues to consider, including compromised rear visibility (especially in the convertible) and less rear passenger and cargo space than you'll find in a conventional hatchback like the Golf or even traditional coupes like the Kia Forte Koup and Scion tC. In its favor, though, the Beetle is indeed roomier and more useful than the other high-style compact coupes and convertibles it mainly competes with: the Mini Cooper and Fiat 500. The Mini is sportier to drive and the 500 easier to park. Really, you can't go wrong here. But for a car with significant history backing it, well, the choice should be obvious.
trim levels & features
The 2016 Volkswagen Beetle is a two-door hatchback or convertible. Both are available with two engine choices, which Volkswagen refers to as 1.8T and R-Line. 1.8T coupe models are available in Wolfsburg Edition, S SE, and SEL trim levels, while the R-Line coupe is available in SE and SEL trims. Regardless of engine, the convertible is available in S, SE and SEL trims. There are also two special-edition Beetles available: the Dune coupe (based on the 1.8T SE) and Denim convertible (based on the 1.8T S).
The base Wolfsburg Edition coupe comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat with manual lumbar support, heated front seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, "V-Tex" premium vinyl upholstery, a 50/50-split folding rear seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 5-inch touchscreen interface and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack, USB port and a media player interface.
The S coupe adds automatic headlights, a rear spoiler, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and cloth upholstery. Note that this is the only Beetle without lumbar support for the driver seat or heated front seats.
The 1.8T SE coupe adds 17-inch wheels, a rearview camera, heated front seats, "V-Tex" upholstery, three-color ambient lighting, a 6.3-inch touchscreen, VW "Car-Net" smartphone integration features, HD radio and satellite radio. The R-Line SE is equipped similarly, but has a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels, foglights, cornering lights, special exterior and interior styling elements, upgraded gauges, sport seats, "sport cloth" upholstery and a Fender premium audio system.
The 1.8T SEL coupe builds on the 1.8T SE with 18-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, a blind-spot warning system, a navigation system, extra Car-Net functions and on the coupe, keyless ignition and entry. The R-Line SEL differs with 19-inch wheels, automatic bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, leather upholstery and the R-Line SE's various performance and styling upgrades.
The Dune coupe is equipped similarly to the SE, and features 18-inch wheels, a comfort-oriented suspension, unique exterior styling, LED taillights, sport seats, "V-Tex" upholstery with cloth inserts, and front and rear parking sensors.
The Beetle Convertible 1.8T S differs from its coupe counterpart with 17-inch wheels, a power-retractable roof, heated front seats, "V-Tex" upholstery and three-color ambient lighting. The Denim version adds different wheels, sport seats, cloth seat inserts and unique styling upgrades. There is also an R-Line S convertible that adds the appropriate performance and styling upgrades. The 1.8T SE and R-Line SE convertibles differ only from their coupe counterparts with the addition of keyless ignition and entry. The 1.8T and R-Line SEL are identically equipped to their coupe counterparts.
The Lighting package adds bi-xenon headlights and LED running lights. The Dune can be ordered with a Technology package that adds a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry and ignition and a Fender premium audio system.
performance & mpg
The 2016 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T models are powered by the turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the SE coupe; a six-speed automatic is optional on that trim and standard on every other coupe and convertible trim. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 28 mpg combined (25 city/34 highway) with either transmission or body style. During Edmunds performance testing, a convertible Beetle 1.8T accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds, which is quicker than average for the segment.
It says "Turbo" on the back, but in fact all 2016 Beetles are turbocharged.
Beetle R-Line models have a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder good for 210 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automated manual (DSG) is standard; a traditional six-speed manual is optional on the coupe. Regardless of body style, EPA-estimated fuel economy is 27 mpg combined (24/31) with the manual and 26 (23/31) with DSG.
Every 2016 Beetle comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is standard on SE trims and a blind-spot warning system is standard on the SEL. The Car-Net Security and Service emergency communication functions come standard on SE and SEL trims, and include automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, stolen vehicle location, remote door unlocking and geo-fencing (which allows parents to set boundaries for teenage drivers).
In government crash tests, the Beetle coupe received five out of five stars for overall and side crash protection, and four stars for frontal protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the coupe its top "Good" rating in its moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. In IIHS's small-overlap frontal-offset test, the Beetle scored a rating of "Marginal," the second lowest rating. The seat and head restraints were rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear-end impacts.
During Edmunds testing, a convertible Beetle 1.8T came to a stop from 60 mph in 124 feet, which is about average for the segment.
We're fond of the Beetle's two available engines. The turbocharged 1.8-liter engine is smooth, powerful and provides respectable fuel economy. The more powerful engine in the Beetle R-Line has even more punch and sounds great. The manual transmissions are quite possibly the most easily shifted do-it-yourself transmissions around, while the R-Line's 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 or in slow-moving traffic.
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 Volkswagen Golf, let alone a Golf GTI or a Mini Cooper. 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.
From a basic design perspective, the 2016 VW Beetle bears a stronger resemblance to the original Love Bug than the more recent and rather oddball retro successor. From a functional perspective, however, it pleasingly has the features, controls and construction that are 100 percent contemporary. There are a few harder plastics here and there than you'll find in the Volkswagen Golf, but it is certainly more visually interesting than its conventional hatchback sibling.
For 2016, every Beetle gains a new touchscreen interface that represents a step up from VW's previous outdated systems. Even the base Wolfsburg Edition has a 5-inch touchscreen, while the SE trim and above have a 6.3-inch touchscreen. It's easier to use than the knob-based controller setup in the Mini Cooper and more comprehensive than anything you'll find in the Fiat 500.
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 rear seat also has decent headroom. Legroom in back is fairly tight, but it's still a little more than what you'll get from most rivals.
The Beetle coupe has 15.4 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk, which on paper is what you'd get in a midsize sedan, but is slightly misleading since much of that extra space is the result of the extra vertical space granted by the hatchback. At the same time, though, that hatchback cargo design allows for a useful 30 cubic feet of maximum cargo space (with the rear seats folded) that makes it a bit more versatile than a small sedan. The convertible cuts maximum cargo capacity to just 7.1 cubic feet. That is around 1-2 cubic feet more than rival convertibles, but loading luggage or other items can be difficult because of the Beetle convertible's awkward, upright trunk opening.
The convertible's power-retractable soft top folds down in about 10 seconds and it can be operated at speeds up to 31 mph. Problematically, though, the retracted soft top sits on top of the rear deck lid, limiting rear visibility.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.