Used 2002 Volkswagen New Beetle Hatchback Review
From the base GL to the sporty Turbo S, the New Beetle lineup offers a unique combination of safety, fun, practicality and value.
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 -- especially in Turbo S guise.
Volkswagen's New Beetle debuted at Detroit's 1998 North American International Auto Show 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 trademark Beetle body shape is immediately recognizable, though it shares no parts with the original Beetle. It's both larger, with 96.3 cubic feet inside, and more powerful than its predecessor, and the motor is no longer in the back powering the rear wheels. Four engines are available: a 115-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder powerplant, a high-tech turbocharged direct-injection (TDI) diesel engine that gets 48 mpg on the highway and has a driving range of 700 miles, a turbocharged 150-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine (1.8T) and the same 1.8-liter turbo on speed spewing 180 horses. You can pair a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic with any of these engines, except the 180-hp 1.8T, which is exclusive to the Turbo S and its six-speed manual gearbox.
Performance is surprisingly good with all New Beetles, but the 1.8T, in either form, really shines when pushed to the limit. Steering is responsive, and the little car takes corners without too much fuss, making it easy to rack up speeding tickets, if you're not careful. Like most VWs, the New Beetle is fun to drive but comfortable for long trips. The Turbo S model has a slightly stiffer suspension for improved handling -- it's still too soft for all-out performance freaks, but just about right for most drivers.
Side airbags for front passengers are standard in every Beetle, and the car scored well in crash testing. If you opt for the Turbo S, you also get Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP), which uses steering and yaw sensors to determine when your Beetle has deviated from your intended path -- and then incorporates engine power, individual wheel braking and transmission tweaks to get the car back into line.
The base Beetle model, the GL, has the 2.0-liter engine and is equipped with air conditioning with micron air filtration, a six-speaker stereo, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, 16-inch wheels and tires, a remote locking system, antitheft alarm, driver and passenger height adjusters, tilt and telescoping adjustments for the steering wheel, mesh pockets on the doors and a bud vase on the dash. Nice touch.
Stepping up to the GLS allows a choice of the 2.0-liter, the TDI or the 150-hp 1.8T engine. You'll also get one-touch power windows, cruise control, fog lamps and a folding center armrest. Options on the New Beetle in GLS trim include leather upholstery (with heated front seats), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power glass sunroof, heated windshield washer nozzles, alloy wheels and a premium Monsoon sound system.
GLX models come standard with leather, the Monsoon, rain-sensing wipers and a self-dimming rearview mirror. You can order 17-inch alloy wheels for GLX and GLS 1.8T models. The new Sport model comes standard with the 150-hp 1.8T, a five-speed manual, 17-inch wheels, leather interior and Sport badging. Lastly, the Turbo S model has the aforementioned higher output 1.8T engine and a six-speed manual, along with standard 17s; brushed alloy pedals, steering wheel spokes and interior handles; distinctive turn signals and foglights; a front spoiler; a redesigned rear bumper with Turbo S badging and a rear spoiler that deploys at 45 mph.
All VeeDubs now come with an improved 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, up from 2 years/24,000 miles. In addition, Volkswagen offers a fully transferable limited powertrain warranty that covers 5 years or 60,000 miles.
Pretty groovy, huh?
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.