The 2017 Volkswagen Beetle stakes out a pleasant middle ground between style and functionality. Easy to drive, well built and visually distinctive, the Beetle allows drivers to enjoy its charms without sacrificing day-to-day livability.
Most Beetles get Volkswagen's turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, which delivers 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque and drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. It's hard to find fault with this powertrain, which delivers stronger passing power than you might expect given its modest output numbers. If you want more, though, there's an available turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that serves up 210 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque and comes with a quicker-shifting six-speed, dual-clutch automatic. EPA fuel economy estimates are 28 mpg combined for the base engine and 26 mpg for the more powerful 2.0-liter.
Volkswagen offers the Beetle in seven trim levels, starting with the 1.8T S and then climbing to the 1.8T Classic, 1.8 SE, a new #PinkBeetle limited edition, 1.8T Dune, 1.8 SEL and 2.0T R-Line SEL.
Standard feature highlights for the base 1.8T S trim include 16-inch alloy wheels, a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker sound system. The 1.8T Classic adds a few extra features including a bigger touchscreen and a navigation system. You get a few more features with the 1.8 SE, while the limited-edition #PinkBeetle is appointed similarly to the 1.8 SE but is only available in a metallic fuchsia exterior color.
The 1.8T Dune model is also similar to the 1.8 SE trim but adds unique exterior styling elements. At the top of the Beetle line is the loaded 1.8 SEL. With the Beetle 2.0T R-Line SEL, you get 20-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, xenon headlights, and unique exterior and interior styling treatments.
No matter the version, the Beetle is decent to drive, with steering that feels light around town and firm on the open road. Visibility is limited to the rear, but the standard-fit rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors make it easy to maneuver in tight spaces. The Dune model rides higher than other Beetles, while the R-Line feels more tidy around turns. Overall, none of the Beetles are all that engaging to drive.
That said, we like the practical aspects: The seats are supportive, the ride is comfortable (even on the more firmly sprung R-Line), and the big windows make the cabin feel bright and airy. Headroom is fantastic for front seat passengers; backseaters don't make out so well in either the head- or legroom department, but the seat itself is reasonably comfortable. Storage space for odds and ends is limited, but the trunk is decent and the opening is large.
For a small car with a combination of fun-loving flair and daily-driver utility, you can't do much better than the 2017 Volkswagen Beetle. Use Edmunds to help find the perfect one for you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.