The Volkswagen New Beetle was the cute car that started the retro-futurist design craze. It was a modernized version of the legendary VW Beetle and struck a chord with consumers who had grown tired of standard conservative car designs and had fond memories of the "Bugs" from their youth.
But that was 1998. As more than a decade passed without a major redesign, the New Beetle started to seem like a retro version of itself. With sales dropping steadily, VW decided to discontinue the New Beetle after the 2010 model year. A redesigned model, just called the Beetle, debuted a year later.
Shopping for a used New Beetle is pretty straightforward. It didn't change much, so you can shop mostly on price and mileage, though paying attention to engine availability through the years will likely be useful.
Most Recent Volkswagen New Beetle
The first-generation Volkswagen New Beetle was produced from 1998-2010. It was initially only offered as a two-door hatchback, and the convertible showed up for 2003.
Although the New Beetle was based on the Golf platform from the late 1990s, it had less interior space than today's Golf (and the '90s Golf for that matter) as well as most other compact hatchbacks. The front seats were roomy, but the same couldn't be said of the back. Trunk space was tight in the hatchback and even tighter in the convertible. The convertible came with a power-folding top as standard.
Models up to 2005 used the GL, GLS and GLX designations to reflect the various trim levels, as well as a standard 115-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. A five-speed manual was standard on the Volkswagen New Beetle, with a four-speed automatic usually optional. A 100-hp 1.9-liter turbodiesel was also offered (the TDI trim) until the end of 2006, when it failed to meet new emissions regulations.
Until the last few years of its lengthy life, turbocharged gasoline engines were a big part of the New Beetle's trim lineup. Sold from 1999-2005, the New Beetle 1.8T was powered by a 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder, which put out 150 hp. From 2002-'04, VW included the Turbo S trim in the coupe lineup. It was equipped with a retuned 180-hp version of the 1.8T turbo engine and a six-speed manual transmission. For 2006 and thereafter, the only gasoline-powered engine available was a 2.5-liter five-cylinder that produced 150 hp and was coupled to either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.
As the years wore on, Volkswagen added a few features like satellite radio, but changes to the equipment level were light, as the car was pretty well-equipped with items such as air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and in later years, heated seats.
Volkswagen released several special-edition models, though, including limited-edition colors and trim packages. For 2002, VW added a Sport edition, which essentially was a 1.8T with a five-speed manual, 17-inch wheels and a leather interior.
In reviews, we found that the Volkswagen New Beetle excelled at what it was built for -- cruising and being seen in. It was a good choice for young singles or retired folks who only rarely needed a backseat, but other hatchbacks were far more practical. The original base engine was pokey and unrefined, so finding one of the turbocharged units would be a wise idea. The subsequent five-cylinder offered just as much power as the previous turbocharged engines and was more efficient, but wasn't as energetic and sapped some fun out of the Beetle. Those interested in the convertible should be aware that rearview visibility is poor with the top up or down.