Review

Volkswagen Beetle hatchback

Price  £16,510 - £26,205

Volkswagen Beetle hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Decent build quality
  • Economical engines
  • Stylish design
Cons
  • Tricky to park
  • Cramped rear seats
  • Not as comfortable as VW Golf

At a glance

"The Volkswagen Beetle offers strong dynamics, build quality and value for money in a fashionable package."

Along with the revived MINI, the rejuvenated Volkswagen Beetle is the definition of retro chic – riffing on the style of a classic car by injecting some modern sensibilities into the mix. Very few cars have nearly 70 years and 22 million sales worth of pedigree, but the modern Beetle is a very different beast from the basic, mass-market car of old.

The new Beetle is aimed squarely at premium supermini rivals like the MINI. It mixes modern mechanical parts with a look inspired by the big-selling original and only comes as a three-door in three specifications: the standard car, Design and top-of-the-range Sport. You can also get special-edition models, including the Fender, Turbo Silver (actually black), Turbo Black (actually yellow) and the yellow-and-black-striped GSR.

This is definitely the most desirable Beetle yet, with a classy interior and sporty handling adding to its distinctive style. You can get it with either a 104bhp 1.2-litre TSI or 158bhp 1.4-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine, a 1.6-litre or 2.0-litre TDI diesel, a 197bhp 2.0-litre petrol, or the more efficient road-tax exempt 1.6-litre TDI BlueMotion diesel engine. It shares its mechanical parts with the previous-generation Volkswagen Golf, but is bigger and better to drive than ever before.

In 2016, the Volkswagen Beetle Dune joined the range. It adds new paint colours (Sandstorm Yellow Metallic and Dark Bronze Metallic), a small Dune logo on the steering wheel and some different interior colours. It rides a little higher than the standard car, too, so visibility is better.

MPG, running costs & CO2

3 / 5

The frugal 1.6-litre BlueMotion diesel will do more than 65mpg

If you want to save as much money as possible after splashing out on the Beetle in the showroom, make sure it has the 1.6-litre TDI BlueMotion engine under its bonnet. Returning 65.7mpg and emitting 113g/km of CO2, it’s easily the most efficient in the range.

At the other end of the scale, the 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine that comes in the Sport, Turbo Silver, Turbo Black and GSR models emits 176g/km and returns 38.2mpg. Those numbers are with the manual gearbox, but the DSG automatic nearly matches them.

The fact that the Beetle shares components with other VW Group cars reduces servicing costs, which should be in line with those of the VW Golf. There's also a fixed-price servicing deal, which offers three years of servicing for £329.

Engines, drive & performance

2.5 / 5

Latest Beetle is far better to drive than previous one, with strong, economical engines

The Beetle is essentially a sixth-generation VW Golf in funky clothes, meaning each model drives well. Even the entry-level 104bhp 1.2-litre turbo petrol paired with the seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox gets punchy acceleration and a comfortable ride. The engine is responsive and efficient, while the automatic changes gears smoothly, even if it's a bit slow to respond at low speeds.

The steering is sharp and the suspension comfortable, with larger 18-inch alloy wheels on Sport models to improving grip and handling. The 158bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol available in the Design and Sport versions has better performance than the 1.2-litre, while the 197bhp 2.0-litre TSI in the Sport is the fastest.

However, the 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel offers a better combination of performance and economy. Best efficiency comes from the BlueMotion version of the 1.6-litre diesel, which returns 65.7mpg. The entry-level model only comes with a six-speed manual gearbox that's smooth and easy to use.

Interior & comfort

3.2 / 5

The front seats are very comfortable and the interior is logically laid-out

Beetle ride quality isn't quite up to Volkswagen's usual standards, being comfortable overall but not always coping well enough with potholes and uneven surfaces. It's certainly not as good as the Golf on which it's based, but it's more comfortable than an Audi A1, without sacrificing too much grip.

All Beetle models are well built and have logically laid-out, high-quality buttons and switches throughout. The seats are all supportive, with the Sport model adding two-zone climate control, heated leather seats, plus a gloss-black finish on the dashboard, steering wheel and top of the doors.

The pedals and steering wheel are evenly weighted on all models, while visibility is good all around the car. You can add a touchscreen sat nav and upgraded Fender stereo as options.

Practicality & boot space

2.6 / 5

The Beetle can be tricky to park in tight spaces due to its curved body

Other than the fact that only little kids are able to use the back seats and the curved roof reduces headroom a bit too much, the Beetle is surprisingly practical. It’ll never match a conventional family hatchback, but there’s plenty of room up front for the driver and passenger, while visibility is good all round.

The interior has centre console cup-holders, lots of little storage solutions, two gloveboxes and deep door bins (which aren’t quite as big as the Golf’s). The back seats split 50:50 and when folded down they boost the so-so 310-litre boot to a decent 905 litres. Sadly, the load area isn’t flat, which makes loading long objects a bit of a headache.

Elsewhere, the Beetle's curved shape can make it a bit tricky to judge its size and extremities, especially when parking.

Reliability & safety

3.8 / 5

The Beetle is based on the previous Golf, so should be reliable

As it's based on the same platform as the previous-generation VW Golf, the VW Beetle should prove as reliable as that car. All the engines should prove reliable too, having been proven elsewhere in the VW Group. You also get a three-year/60,000-mile warranty to cover any problems that crop up.

In terms of safety, this Beetle scored the maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash-safety tests – with all models having six airbags, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes as standard.

Price, value for money & options

3 / 5

There's a Beetle for every budget, while equipement is quite good

The Beetle isn’t cheap: the special-edition GSR tops out the range at nearly £25,000. That said, the Design spec does start at less than the price of a basic Golf – with all Beetles getting integrated driver and side airbags, ISOFIX child-seat points, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, air-conditioning, digital radio and a CD player as standard.

The top-spec Sport costs about the same as the less generously equipped (and less efficient) Golf GT, and makes for a interesting alternative to the Renanult Megane Coupe and Vauxhall Astra GTC.

Of the limited editions, the Beetle GSR is the flashiest, with an eye-catching yellow-and-black striped paint job. Luckily, the VW badge does still command a premium over competitors on the used-car market, so any Beetle you’ve splashed out on should have strong enough resale value to get you a pretty good deal when you move on to your next car.

What the others say

4 / 5
based on 2 reviews
4 / 5
Our Sport test model featured heated leather sports seats with manual adjustment and lumbar support. They’re well bolstered, but the leather can be slippery when cornering. You sit higher in the Beetle than in the MkVI Golf on which it's based, and when combined with the narrow screen, this makes the front a bit claustrophobic for six-footers. The rear is worse.
4 / 5
Now Volkswagen is back with its new Beetle and a look that's much more in line with the original Beetle of the 1930s. It's certainly more masculine than the previous Beetle and far less twee - there's no vase on the dashboard for starters - while the interior harks back to the old model too with a flat dashboard and the recognisable flip-up glovebox built into it. Practicality is much improved with a boot that's almost 50 per cent bigger and more interior room too.
Of most interest to us is a range-topping 197bhp 2.0-litre petrol version to rival hot versions of the Mini Cooper and Citroen DS3. It comes with VW's XDS electronic differential, as fitted to the Golf GTI, to mimic the actions of a full limited-slip diff. This will remain the hottest Beetle, and is neatly distanced from the similar engined Golf GTI and Scirocco TSI by 11bhp.
Last updated 
13 Jan 2014
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