Used 2006 Volkswagen New Beetle Review
Though still undeniably cute and fun, the Beetle is getting past its prime. Other competing two-door hatchbacks and convertibles offer more features and power.
When the Golf-based Volkswagen New Beetle debuted, America went bonkers over it. It was cute and retro cool at the same time. But that was 1998. Just like cute puppies, cars grow old. And unless something is done to keep the interest up, the public's fascination wears off. The New Beetle is entering its ninth season for 2006. At this point, many cars are into their second full makeover. Instead, VW has stuck to the New Beetle's tried-and-true design -- with limited success. Indeed, New Beetle sales have cooled considerably over the last five years. Though its competitors can never hope to match the Bug's pedigree, they have surpassed the aging design in practical terms.
Hoping to eke out a little more life from the New Beetle hatch and convertible, VW has freshened the exterior styling and upgraded the standard engine for 2006. Instead of last year's anemic 2.0-liter four, the Bug now comes with a standard five-cylinder. At 150 horsepower, it matches last year's optional 1.8T in power (but not overall refinement), which is no longer available. The freshened styling is merely different, not necessarily better, but the new five-cylinder engine is a substantial improvement. The TDI diesel versions of the New Beetle come with VW's innovative Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) transmission. This is the same highly acclaimed unit featured in Audi's TT 3.2. Essentially a six-speed manual transmission, the DSG removes the clutch pedal and associated operation, and places it under the control of computer chips and hydraulic servos. When left in full auto mode, it's as smooth as or smoother than any conventional automatic. When shifted manually via the floor-mounted shifter, the DSG offers quick, precise gear changes that make a traditional manual seem unnecessary. Along with this interesting pair of drivetrain options, VW is relying on the Beetle's large array of standard features, premium cabin furnishings and ever present cute factor to keep the nameplate on buyers' minds amidst a field of strong competitors.
trim levels & features
The two-door New Beetle is available as a two-door hatchback or convertible body style. Hatchbacks come in 2.5 and TDI trim; convertibles are 2.5 only. All models come with 16-inch wheels; air conditioning; power windows, locks and mirrors; cruise control; seat-height adjusters; a tilt and telescoping steering wheel; and a manually folding top on convertibles. Options include 17-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a trunk-mounted CD changer, satellite radio, a sunroof on hatchbacks and a power top on convertibles.
performance & mpg
The New Beetle 2.5 hatch and convertible come with a 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine that produces 150 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. Power is put to the front wheels through a standard five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. Those interested in improved fuel economy can opt for the TDI hatchback, which comes with a 1.9-liter turbocharged diesel-fueled four-cylinder. It makes 100 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque and can get about 40 mpg. TDI buyers can get either a five-speed manual or VW's Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) transmission. Essentially a six-speed manual tranny with an electronically controlled clutch, the DSG can be operated in a full auto mode like a traditional automatic or manually shifted.
Standard on all New Beetles are four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, side airbags for front occupants, full-length head curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Convertibles have a rollover protection system. In government crash testing, the Beetle earned four out of five stars in both frontal-impact categories. It received a "Good" rating (and "Best Pick" status) from the IIHS for its performance in frontal offset crash testing but a "Poor" rating for side-impact crashworthiness.
Like other VWs, the Beetle is both fun to drive and comfortable for long trips. The suspension tuning is soft, but it's just about right for most drivers who want a little sport from their Bug. True enthusiasts, however, would be wise to check out the Mini Cooper and Acura RSX.
Though smaller inside than the Golf, the Beetle (seats four, 12 cubic feet of hatch space) compensates with style: It has a tablelike dashboard, huge circular speedometer and round air vents. The convertible's top is easy to fold and well insulated from wind and road noise. With its top down, the Bug has a classic but polished appearance, thanks to a top that mimics the original Beetle drop top's in appearance and handsome aluminum trim along the car's beltline.
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.