1999 Volkswagen New Beetle Review
Pros & Cons
- It's cute. It's quirky. It's retro. It's an image car we can all afford.
- It's a fancy-schmancy Golf, which means it's not the same as the original. Good or bad? You decide.
Edmunds' Expert Review
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 1998 North American International Auto Show in Detroit 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 baaaad 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 new turbocharged 150-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, a 115-horsepower 2.0-liter four-banger or a high-tech Turbo Direct Injection diesel engine that gets 48 mpg on the highway and has a driving range of 700 miles. With 16-inch wheels and wide tires, 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, and young people or people who are simply young at heart. "The company that loves people" wants drivers. 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 optional 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 a shade less than $16,000. For turbodiesel power or the powerful turbo gas engine, your price will be higher.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 metallic hues. It's Beetle-mania all over again.