“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 an old brand 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 – yes, we mean you MINI. The Beetle 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 models. 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. It's 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 it's better to drive than ever before.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
If you want to save as much money as possible after splashing out on the Beetle in the showroom, you better make sure it's got 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. At the other end of the scale, the 2.0-litre TSI petrol that comes in the Sport, Turbo Silver, Turbo Black and GSR models, emitting 176g/km and returning 38.2mpg. Those numbers are with the manual gearbox, but the DSG automatic numbers nearly match them. The fact that the Beetle shares components with other VW products will reduce servicing costs, which should be in line with the Golf's. There is also a fixed-price servicing deal, which offers three years of servicing for £329, too.
Interior & comfort
The ride 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 it's based on, but it is more comfortable than an Audi A1 without sacrificing too much grip. All Beetle models are well built and decked out with 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 the 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 guitar stereo as optional extras.
Practicality & boot space
Other than the fact that only little kids will be 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. The interior has centre console cup holders, lots of little storage solutions, two glove compartments and deep door bins (which aren’t quite as big as the Golf's). The back seats split 50:50, and when folded they boost the so-so 310-litre boot to a decent 905 litres of loading space. Sadly, the load area isn’t flat, which makes loading long objects a bit of a headache. Unfortunately, though, the curved dimensions can make it a bit tricky to judge the size of the Beetle, especially when parking.
Reliability & safety
Because it's based on the same platform as the previous generation VW Golf, the Beetle should prove as reliable as that car – which placed 16th in the top 100 cars in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. Volkswagen itself just about lived up to its formidable reputation for reliability by coming in overall 16th among the manufacturers, which is an improvement on 2012 but still lower down the table than you’d expect to see it – especially considering that it owns 10th place Audi and 2nd place Skoda. All the engines should prove reliable too, having been proven elsewhere in the VW Group. In terms of safety, it scored a maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests – with all Beetles comes with six airbags, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes fitted as standard. You’ll also get a three-year/60,000-mile warranty to mop up any unlikely problems you may experience.
Engines, drive & performance
The Beetle is essentially a Mk6 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 gear smoothly, even if it is a bit slow to respond at low speeds. The steering is sharp and the suspension comfortable, with larger 18-inch alloy wheels added to Sport models to improve grip and handling. The 158bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol available in Design and Sport versions has better performance, 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 economy comes from the BlueMotion version of the 1.6-litre TDI diesel, returning 65.7mpg. The entry model only comes with six-speed manual gearbox that is smooth and easy to use.
Price, value for money & options
The Beetle isn’t cheap, and with the special edition GSR topping out the range at nearly £25,000, they can get pretty pricey. 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 anchor points, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, air-conditioning and DAB radio 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 the Vauxhall Astra GTC. Of the limited editions, the Beetle GSR is the flashiest for sale, coming with an eye-catching yellow-and-black striped paint job. Like all the specials, numbers are limited (to just 100 in the UK) with all of them commanding a price hike of around £500 more than the standard Beetle Sport. Luckily the VW badge does still attract a premium over its competitors in 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.