Used 1998 Volkswagen New Beetle Review

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Volkswagen revives a legend using retro styling touches wrapped around Golf underpinnings.

vehicle overview

The New Beetle is a bundle of contradictions. It's a blast from the past and a gateway to the 21st century. It's small but it's safe. It's pretty but it can also be pretty powerful.

Volkswagen's New Beetle debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this past January to classic 60s tunes and daisies dotting the dashboards. As a Volkswagen executive said, "It's the birth of a legend, a love affair continued, a dream come true."

The VW folks dubbed it a car that makes people smile. We certainly did. Mixing design elements from the old Beetle of the flower power era with modern technology and luxuries, the Concept 1 design study that was presented at the same show in 1994 has become a reality. A groovy, cool, or phat one, depending on your age.

The trademark Beetle body shape is immediately recognizable, though it shares no parts with the old Beetle. It's both larger (161.1 inches in length and 96.3 cubic feet inside) and more powerful than its predecessor, and the engine is no longer in the back. The car is available with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder 115-horsepower engine or a high-tech Turbo Direct Injection diesel engine that gets 48 mpg on the highway and has a driving range of 700 miles. Later in the production cycle, a 1.8-liter 150 horsepower turbocharged engine will also be available. With 16-inch wheels, modified front and rear axles and front-wheel drive, cruising in the New Beetle "may remind you of the first time you drove the go-cart around the track," said a company official.

This car is not just for nostalgic Baby Boomers, according to Volkswagen. Its appeal crosses all lines of age, race and class. Its target audience is men, women, young people or people who are simply young at heart. Drivers are wanted by "the company that loves people." And essentially, they want you, whoever you are.

The safety system features energy-absorbing crush zones, pretensioning safety belts, daytime running lights, dual airbags and side airbags for front-seat passengers. Other cool standard features include four beverage holders, a remote locking system, anti-theft alarm, a passenger assist handle above the glove compartment, driver and passenger height adjusters, mesh pockets on the doors, and a bud vase on the dash. Nice touch.

Volkswagen says you'll want to hug this car when you see it; we say you'll have to have it. Especially after we tell you how much (or how little) it will cost you. The base price for the New Beetle with a 2.0-liter engine is only $15,200. For turbodiesel power, your price will bump up to $16,475.

The icing on the cake for this ultra-happy automobile is the array of fun, cheerful colors that are available: red, yellow, white and black in non-metallic finish, and silver, bright blue, (lime) green and dark blue in the metallic options. You'll be able to purchase the car in March if you live in the United States Exports to Europe will begin in the fall. Volkswagen executives predict that 50,000 Beetles will be sold this year in North America. It will be Beetle-mania all over again.

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.