2002 Volkswagen New Beetle Review


Pros & Cons

  • Cute yet classic styling, excellent crash-test scores, affordably priced, turbo models are fun to drive, available six-speed manual and stability control with Turbo S model.
  • Compromised rear seat/cargo capacity compared to Golf.
List Price Estimate
$495 - $1,115

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Edmunds' Expert Review

From the base GL to the sporty Turbo S, the New Beetle lineup offers a unique combination of safety, fun, practicality and value.

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 -- 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?

2002 Highlights

A Turbo S model debuts, motivated by a 180-horsepower version of VW's1.8-liter turbo engine teamed with a six-speed manual gearbox. Other exclusives for the Turbo S include Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP), a slightly stiffer suspension, 17-inch "Delta X" alloy wheels, revised turn signals and foglights, a front spoiler, a redesigned rear bumper with Turbo S badging and brushed alloy interior accents. Additionally, a rear spoiler will deploy from the hatch when these special Bugs reach 45 mph. Exterior paint for the S is limited to Reflex Silver, Black, Red and Platinum Gray. Later in the year, a Sport model debuts -- it's essentially a GLS 1.8T with a five-speed manual, 17-inch wheels, leather interior and a Sport badge on the deck lid. Changes for the rest of the lineup are minor: New colors such as limited-edition Snap Orange and Riviera Blue further enhance the Beetle's eye-candy appeal, and 16-inch wheels with 205/55 tires are now standard across the board. For 2002, all-new Volkswagen vehicles come standard with an improved four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, up from two years/24,000 miles. In addition, Volkswagen offers a fully transferable limited powertrain warranty that covers five years or 60,000 miles.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2002 Volkswagen New Beetle.

Trending topics in reviews

Most helpful consumer reviews

My little turd
GL 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 4A)
Let me start off by saying that I've owned 2 New beetles, one 1998 and my current is 2002. 4 years and a hundred thousand miles really make a difference. I've always been a huge fan of the shape, but driving one is a great experience. What it lacks in power, it makes up for in handling. The car handles like new, very sturdy, minimal vibrations, smooth over most terrains and has good traction in all weather types (granted, I did put new tires on the car recently). Though engine noise is audible, it is not very bothersome, especially at higher speeds where the car really shines. Going 70 mph and over is very smooth in the car. The interior is made of cheap plastic parts that break often, but replacements are easily found online or you can paint the chipping plastic yourself like I have. The seats are extremely comfortable in the front seats, the same cannot be said for the backseats, especially if you are over 5'9. Even though the car has limited room for backseat passengers, the rear seats fold down to create a large amount of cargo space which is very nice. I've also read a lot reliability issues and reviews about this car and similar years, but I have yet to experience any huge problems *knocks on wood.* I have kept up on oil changes and regular maintenance and have found this car to have a very reliable engine. Ive paid for new headlight bulb, new tires, transmission fluid change, brake pads and rotors all around and to have my heater core replace. Mind you this is over the span of about 2 years and about 20,000 miles. I've never had a problem with my car and I will continue to drive it, as it is very eye catching and gets great gas mileage. UPDATE 6/17 - I've now had the car for 3 years and 40,000+ miles. Recently everything started to break so I had to adjust my reliability score. New throttle body, 4 DIFFERENT mass air flow sensors, ignition coil, spark plugs and wires, control arms, ball joints, struts, shocks, alternator, all 3 engine mounts, serpentine belt and tensioner, catalytic converter and full cat-back exhaust system...and I'm sure I'm missing a few. Literally driving me nuts with the repairs, thinking of selling for something a bit newer.
More Reliable than my Bmw, Benz, Range Rover
GL 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 5M)
The Beetle is so cheap to operate it makes it worth keeping. I was a car dealer that mostly bought high end European vehicles and they all had issues. Ding, and another message would appear with an expensive issue. After leaving the business, I rented a friend's 2002 Beetle GL with 112,700 miles for $150 a month until I financed a Benz or Bimmer, that never happened. I bought it for $1,000, replaced the timing belt and waterpump. $10 gets 100+ miles, oil changes are $22, tires are $53, I now have 160,000 miles. It's so easy to clean, and the yellow paint is bright and holds up well. Interior plastics break, there's rattles, it's slow, but who cares it gets me everywhere and barely costs me a dime. I baby it to death, wax it, only run chevron but no premium gas and I don't use synthetic but will now cause I want to just keep it going. I recently sold the Beetle at 167,000 miles for $3,000 and got back every penny I spent on it, bought a Jetta. The beetle is still going strong in the West part of Phx. Buy a manual GL!
Old Faithful
Stephen H.,09/06/2015
GLS TDI 2dr Hatchback (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 5M)
At 243K, still going strong. Needed new transmission at 230K but likely because I overuse the 5th gear at low speed to improve mileage and wore it out. My only complaint is the interior parts. Rear seat fell apart in the first week. Center console fell apart shortly after. Surprisingly rotten and cheap parts on such a worthy vehicle. Diesel needs to be treated with anti-gel for 3 months of Northeast winter and I had a pre-heater installed after the glow-plugs cooked and were too rusted in to replace. This diesel car had real trouble starting below -10F with glow plugs working and below 20F after they died so a heater really protects battery, starter and engine. Check engine light has been on for last 100k miles but that’s just something you deal with in the age of science and technology. That crap never functions right for 1/2 the life of a vehicle. Still my primary commuter as it gets 45 mpg.
Up In Flames!
Bought our 2002 TDI in December for our daughter. Two weeks later we discovered it had a messed up transmission. Counting on fuel savings over the next 5 years, we spent $3500 to have the transmission rebuilt. There were alot of rattles in the interior but we planned to address those after recovering from the trani. expense. Last weekend the brakes failed while parking, proceeded to smoke from the rear then caught on fire! A total loss for us however the salvage yard is scoring a good engine. Apparently firewalls work from both directions. I would not recommend this car!!


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger3 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2002 Volkswagen New Beetle

Used 2002 Volkswagen New Beetle Overview

The Used 2002 Volkswagen New Beetle is offered in the following submodels: New Beetle Hatchback, New Beetle Diesel. Available styles include GLS 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 4A), GL 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 4A), GLX 1.8T 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 4A), GLS 1.8T 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 4A), Turbo S 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 6M), GLS 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 5M), GL 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl 5M), GLS TDI 2dr Hatchback (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 4A), GLS TDI 2dr Hatchback (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 5M), GLX 1.8T 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M), GLS 1.8T 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M), and Sport 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M).

What's a good price on a Used 2002 Volkswagen New Beetle?

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Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2002 Volkswagen New Beetle for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2002 Volkswagen New Beetle.

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Should I lease or buy a 2002 Volkswagen New Beetle?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Volkswagen lease specials
Check out Volkswagen New Beetle lease specials