Volkswagen Beetle hatchback
Price £16,820 - £25,390
- Decent build quality
- Economical engines
- Stylish design
- 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."
Over the last ten years or so, there have been a handful of fashionable retro cars hit the market that have seen great success – namely the MINI and the Fiat 500. Then there's the Volkswagen Beetle. In around 70 years, VW has sold more than 22 million Beetles around the world, and the latest version is clearly related to the original, with round headlights and that iconic shape.
The Beetle occupies an interesting niche – it's retro image will appeal to those also looking at the MINI and 500, but it's closer in size to a Golf, and it costs around the same VW's popular family hatch, too.
The retro theme continues inside the Beetle, with a body-coloured piece of trim across the width of the dashboard and along the tops of the doors. There's also storage compartment ahead of the front passengers, reminiscent of the original.
The flower vase of the previous generation has gone, though, while everything else inside is taken from elsewhere in the VW range, so it's all solidly screwed together and it's familiar, too. There's a touchscreen infotainment system and intuitive air-con controls, plus there's plenty of space in the front. Rear space is a little tighter because of the steeply sloping roofline, but there's enough room for smaller passengers.
The engine range is taken from other Volkswagen cars, as well. There's a 104bhp 1.2-litre TSI, a 148bhp 1.4-litre TSI and a 2.0-litre TSI with 217bhp for petrol fans, while those who prefer diesel power can choose from two 2.0-litre TDI units with either 108bhp or 148bhp.
In terms of trims, there's the standard Beetle, moving up through Design and Sport to Turbo Black and Turbo Silver editions.
There's a Beetle Dune model now, too. It has some rugged plastic cladding on the outside, unique Sandstorm Yellow and Dark Bronze paint colours and a slightly higher ride height compared to the rest of the range.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The frugal 2.0-litre BlueMotion diesel will do more than 65mpg
If you want to save as much money as possible after splashing out on a Beetle in the showroom, make sure it has the 108bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine under the bonnet. The BlueMotion engine should return up to 66mpg and has CO2 emissions of 112g/km, meaning road tax of just £30 a year.
At the other end of the scale is the 2.0-litre TSI with 217bhp. Available in Sport, Turbo Black and Turbo Silver trims, it should return just shy of 40mpg and emits 176g/km of CO2. The higher-powered diesel is the best combination of power and economy, though.
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
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 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 217bhp 2.0-litre TSI in the Sport, Turbo Black and Turbo Silver is the fastest.
However, the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel offers a better combination of performance and economy. Best efficiency comes from the BlueMotion version of the 2.0-litre diesel, which returns 66mpg. The entry-level model only comes with a six-speed manual gearbox that's smooth and easy to use.
Interior & comfort
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. This can be changed for a variety of different colours - but in most models it'll be the same colour as the exterior of the car.
The pedals and steering wheel are evenly weighted on all models, while visibility is good all around the car. You can add sat nav and upgraded Fender stereo as options, as well as a large panoramic sunroof that fills the interior with plenty of light.
Practicality & boot space
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, although parking sensors will help in tight manoeuvres.
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
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
There's a Beetle for every budget, while equipement is quite good
The Beetle isn’t cheap. 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.
Mid-spec Sport costs about the same as the less generously equipped (and less efficient) Golf GT, and makes for an interesting alternative to the Renanult Megane Coupe and Vauxhall Astra GTC.
Of the limited editions, the Turbo Black and Turbo Silver are the flashiest, while the Dune adds some visual interest with a raised ride height, distinctive colours and plastic cladding for an off-road look.
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.