Used 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle Diesel

2003 Volkswagen New Beetle
List price range

Pros

  • Cute yet classic styling, range of engine choices, long list of standard features, good crash test scores.

Cons

  • Tight rear-seat accommodations, limited cargo room, high price of Turbo S model.

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Edmunds' Expert Review

The image car in VW's lineup, the New Beetle offers a unique combination of safety, fun and upscale features for its price range.

vehicle overview

When the Golf-based Volkswagen New Beetle debuted, America went bonkers over it. It was cute. It was retro. It reminded people of their youth, free love and smoking lots of, well, you know. But that was five years ago. Just like Saint Bernard puppies, cars grow old. And unless something is done to keep the interest up, the buying public's fascination wears off. Indeed, New Beetle sales have cooled considerably since 1998. Last year, Volkswagen energized the lineup with the introduction of the Turbo S. Building off the GLX 1.8T model, the Turbo S has a more powerful engine, a more aggressive-looking body and unique interior treatments. Indeed, the Turbo S is the most powerful and sporting New Beetle ever offered in the United States. Accordingly, it's also the most expensive. The New Beetle is entering its sixth season for 2003. At this point, many small cars get a full makeover. Instead, VW will rely on the Beetle's large array of standard features, premium cabin furnishings and playful on-road demeanor to keep the nameplate competitive. The availability of the TDI and 1.8T engines at the base GL trim level should make the car more appealing to shoppers who prize value above image. More importantly, the long-awaited convertible version will finally make its appearance midway through the model year with such features as a power-folding cloth top, a rollover protection system and, a first in the price range, a six-speed automatic transmission.

trim levels & features

For 2003, the available trim levels include the GL, GLS, GLX and Turbo S. The GL comes with air conditioning; cassette stereo; four-wheel antilock disc brakes; side airbags; 16-inch wheels; power windows, locks and mirrors; cruise control; seat-height adjusters; a telescoping steering wheel and a bud vase on the dash. Options include stability control (ESP), a premium Monsoon sound system, heated front seats and a dealer-installed CD changer. The GLS adds a sunroof, a center armrest with storage, alloy wheels (also available on the GL 1.8T) and foglights. Besides all the GL options, you can get leather or a trim package with sport seats and interior accents that match the exterior paint (GLS 1.8T buyers can also get 17-inch wheels). Step up to the GLX and leather, Monsoon sound, rain-sensing wipers and a self-dimming rearview mirror are included; ESP and 17-inch wheels are optional. The Turbo S adds standard 17s, a sport-tuned suspension, metallic-colored trim, distinctive body add-ons and a rear spoiler that deploys at 45 mph. Convertibles will be offered in GL, GLS, and GLX trim; the first ones to arrive will be GLS models. A power-folding cloth top will be available.

2003 Highlights

Volkswagen makes the TDI and 150-horsepower 1.8T engines available on the base GL trim level. All GLs now come with power windows and cruise control, and the GL 1.8T and all GLS models get alloy wheels. Stability control (ESP), heated seats, and the Monsoon sound system will be available across the line. All models except the GL get a standard sunroof and a larger center console container, and the GL and GLS have new cloth upholstery. Note that last year's Sport model has been discontinued. All models have a more comfortable rear seat, a clock/temperature display on the rearview mirror and turn signals mounted on the outside mirrors. Finally, if you've been holding out for a Beetle convertible since 1998, your wait is almost over -- the first drop tops should arrive at the dealers just in time for, well, winter. The first ones will be 2.0 GL and GLS models in February 2003, 1.8T-equipped GLS and GLX models later in the spring.

performance & mpg

GL and GLS buyers can choose one of three engines. First up is a 115-horsepower, ULEV-certified 2.0-liter inline four. More interesting is the 1.9-liter diesel four (called TDI) that gets up to 49 mpg on the highway (and makes an impressive 155 pound-feet of torque) or the powerful 150-hp 1.8-liter turbocharged four (called the 1.8T). All of these engines have adequate power for easy city driving, though the 1.8T is the most fun, and it provides fuel economy on par with the base 2.0-liter -- it's standard on the GLX. A five-speed manual and four-speed automatic are available at all trim levels. The performance-oriented Turbo S comes only with a 180-hp version of the 1.8T paired with a six-speed manual. New Beetle Convertibles will be available with the 2.0-liter and the 150-hp 1.8T and either a five-speed manual or a segment-first six-speed automatic.

safety

Side airbags are standard, but unlike its Golf platform mate, the Beetle doesn't offer head curtain airbags -- which may account for its three-star rating in NHTSA's rear side-impact category. Otherwise, the Beetle is a model of safety, having earned five stars in both frontal impact categories and a "Good" rating (and "Best Pick" status) from the IIHS for the offset crash. Convertibles will have a rollover protection system.

driving

Like other VWs, the Beetle is fun to drive but comfortable for long trips. The Turbo S has a slightly stiffer suspension -- it's still too soft for performance freaks, but just about right for most drivers.

interior

Though smaller inside than the Golf, the Beetle (seats four, 12 cubic feet of hatch space) compensates with style: its tablelike dashboard, huge circular speedometer and round vents distinguish it from everything else on the road. Cabin materials are high in quality.


Top consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle.

The not too bad, the good and the great!
ruzzeld, 9/23/2014
This is/was our 2nd VW New Beetle TDI. Both 2003's. I can say that I've been very happy overall with both cars. The only downside is the maintenance expense compared to Toyota's. There has been zero unscheduled maintenance expense with every Toyota I've owned. BOTH Bugs: FUN to drive! More comfortable (I'm 6'3"). Great road trip car, for my wife and I with plenty of room for luggage with the back seat folded down. GREAT mileage (never less than 43 with everyday driving and up to 55mpg on road trips). We used it as a 2nd car and whoever had to drive the furthest that day.. WANTED the bug. Fun and cheap! Update: the beetle had great crash safety & performance. We were in an accident where a drunk driver pulled out in front of us & we hit him at nearly 70mph. We both survived.
very happy beetle owners
cybergreen, 9/17/2003
If you are going to buy a beetle, we recommend the diesel. Its worth the extra money! The reliability is worth it! The fuel is cheaper and we get 800 miles to a tank on a road trip. They are a bit more expensive to maintain, but in the long run you will get many, many more miles on your engine! The TDI resale value is fabulous. We are very happy with ours. Buy it to keep it for a long, happy driving experience.
Save your money!!
Heather Boyd, 11/22/2003
This is the worst car that I have ever owned. Repairs are as follows: Headlights 2 times,Disc brakes and rotors (at 30000 miles), Check engine light on constanly(costing $90.00 every time) EGR valve,Air dam,Brake switch,Fuel line freeze up at 25 degrees. Not to mention the 24/24 warranty.Dealer is tired of me coming back all the time. Save your money!!! Also... At 50000 miles it will cost you $500.00 to replace the timing belt.
Still Paying for Itself
driven, 12/25/2006
This TDI was purchased with the intent of commuting. It returned 47 mpg the first two years of ownership but just 43 mpg since a new set of tires was put on at 60,000 miles. It starts right up in cold weather (as low as -8 F), handles well, and has more than enough power. The car is comfortable and has been dependable to date other than the repeated replacement of headlights (three in 65,000 miles). The interior has held up well despite the miles and three kids. I bought it as a leftover for $16,600 and it has proven to be very reliable. My uncle owns an auto 2002 TDI and gets 42 mpg. Mine is the 5-speed stick. I am looking for a second one for my teenage daughter.
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Features & Specs

MPG
29 city / 39 hwy
Seats 4
4-speed automatic
Diesel
90 hp @ 3750 rpm
MPG
35 city / 44 hwy
Seats 4
5-speed manual
Diesel
90 hp @ 3750 rpm
MPG
29 city / 39 hwy
Seats 4
4-speed automatic
Diesel
90 hp @ 3750 rpm
MPG
35 city / 44 hwy
Seats 4
5-speed manual
Diesel
90 hp @ 3750 rpm
See all Used 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle Diesel features & specs

Safety

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
    Rollover4 / 5
    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
    Good

More about the 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle
Used 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle Diesel Overview

The Used 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle Diesel is offered in the following styles: GLS TDI 2dr Hatchback (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 4A), GLS TDI 2dr Hatchback (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 5M), GL TDI 2dr Hatchback (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 4A), and GL TDI 2dr Hatchback (1.9L 4cyl Turbodiesel 5M).

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