Volkswagen Beetle hatchback (2011-2019)
"If you want a retro-styled hatchback and don’t mind sacrificing a little practicality for looks, the Volkswagen Beetle should suit you perfectly"
- Decent build quality
- Economical engines
- Stylish design
- Tricky to park
- Cramped rear seats
- Not as comfortable as VW Golf
The past may be behind us, but it’s still big business: the Volkswagen Beetle – like the MINI and the Fiat 500 – revitalises a classic, decades-old design yet adds the kind of driving experience and reliability that older cars couldn’t offer.
Volkswagen recently refreshed its current Beetle somewhat. The changes are mainly stylistic, affecting trim levels and exterior design, and the Beetle retains its previous-generation VW Golf underpinnings.
That’s no bad thing, though, as the Beetle, like the previous Golf, has always been an enjoyable car to drive. It has accurate steering, comfortable suspension and a range of decent engines, so it’s as adept at motorway journeys as it is tackling country backroads with relative gusto.
The cheapest route into Beetle ownership is the 104bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine, which returns just over 50mpg and takes around 11 seconds to go from 0-62mph. If you want more power, the 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol is about as economical, but shaves a couple of seconds off the 0-62mph time. If you’re happy with a pre-facelift Beetle, you can also order a turbocharged 217bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine with the Beetle Sport and Turbo Black – and VW should offer you a healthy discount on the previous model to boot.
Diesel fans and high-mileage users are taken care of by a brace of 2.0-litre engines, one of which has 108bhp and the other 148bhp. These return between 59 and 65mpg and take 9-11 seconds to go from 0-62mph. While no Beetle is hugely quick, all have enough performance to keep pace with traffic easily enough, and the diesels in particular are proficient motorway cruisers.
Which trim level you choose affects which engine you can have, with the unnamed entry-level model coming with the 1.2-litre petrol engine only. This Beetle also does without alloy wheels as standard so it’s worth considering upgrading to Design trim, where you also get a choice of manual or automatic gearbox.
The Beetle Dune has slightly raised suspension and some exterior trim adornments to give it a rugged, go-anywhere appearance (although it doesn’t feature four-wheel drive) while R-Line trim adds sportier seats, bumpers and wheels. There’s also a Cabriolet version if you fancy catching some sun as you reminisce, and we’ve reviewed that separately.
Inside, the Beetle blends tradition and modernity pretty effectively. All facelifted models come with an infotainment screen, while the sheer vertical glovebox lid evokes the original car’s design and comes colour-matched to the exterior paint. Rear-seat occupants pay a price for the retro styling though, as reduced headroom means the Beetle’s back seats are best reserved for children. The hatchback boot is less compromised, even if it’s about 20% smaller than the Golf’s.
The Beetle didn’t feature in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, although being based on tried-and-tested VW mechanicals should add reassurance, as should the five-star safety rating it was awarded by Euro NCAP.