Volkswagen Beetle review

Our Rating: 
2012 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The latest Volkswagen Beetle has a chunky new image to compete with rivals from MINI and Citroen

Distinctive looks, upmarket interior, decent handling
Small boot, cramped rear seats, high running costs

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Over the years, the Volkswagen Beetle has evolved from a mass-market car into this stylish new version, which aims to take on premium rivals such as the MINI and Citroen DS3. There aren't many manufacturers that can boast a car that has 70 years and 22 million sales to its name - but if there's one, it's Volkswagen. The Volkswagen Beetle is characterised by a distinctive retro look, combined with modern mechanical parts, a classy interior and sporty handling. The Volkswagen Beetle is only available as a three-door, in various different specifications - the standard car, Design, Sport, Turbo Silver, Turbo Black and GSR. The standard car costs around £15,000 while the top-of-the-range GSR moves up to around £25,000. There's a wide choice of engines, including 1.2, 1.4 and 2.0-litre TSI petrol units, with 104bhp, 158bhp and 197bhp respectively. Meanwhile, diesel options include a 104bhp 1.6-litre and 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI. The 1.2-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesel models are also available with ultra-efficient BlueMotion Technology, but even then, the cost of running a Beetle will still be higher than for the class leaders. The latest Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet was launched at the 2012 LA Motor Show, while a Fender special-edition model was launched at the beginning of 2013. This is available with a 138bhp diesel engine, a Deep Pearl Black paint finish, retro 18-inch alloys, a 400-watt Fender stereo and Fender badges as well. 

Our choice: Beetle 1.4 TSI Design



It's easy to trace the Volkswagen Beetle’s looks back to the retro, rear-engined original. Despite this, it's undergone numerous styling changes to help it compete with modern, premium rivals such as the MINI. It's 84mm wider, 12mm lower and 152mm longer than its predecessor, which has given it more of an aggressive, muscular look. The curves of the old car have also been replaced by a flatter bonnet and sharper roofline. Inside, the cabin now has more of an upmarket feel, with high-grade materials and excellent build quality. The Volkswagen Beetle is available in three primary specifications - Beetle, Design and Sport. Entry-level versions do without alloy wheels, but the range-topping Sport model gets two-tone 18-inch rims, a body-coloured rear spoiler and tinted rear windows. There are also numerous special editions in the range, including Fender, Turbo Silver, Turbo Black and GSR versions, the latter of which, is yellow-and-black striped. 



The Volkswagen Beetle largely shares its underpinnings with the Mk6 (previous generation) Volkswagen Golf, so you can expect it to drive well. Plenty of grip, excellent body control and well-weighted steering all help to set the Beetle apart from its rivals. The engine line-up now includes a 1.2-litre TSI petrol and a 1.6-litre TDI with BlueMotion technology, too. The supercharged and turbocharged 158bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine is refined and responsive, while the 138bhp 2.0 TDI delivers a great mix of economy and punch. All are offered with either a five or six-speed manual gearbox, while the slick six and seven-speed twin clutch DSG transmissions are available as an option.



In the 2013 Driver Power manufacturer ratings survey, Volkswagen finished 16th, just about securing its reputation for reliability. Meanwhile, the Mk6 Volkswagen Golf - on which the Beetle is largely based - placed 16th in Auto Express' top 100 cars survey. It's no surprise to learn the Volkswagen Beetle has earned a five-star Euro NCAP rating - all Beetles come with six airbags, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes fitted as standard. You'll get a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, too. The engine range should be reliable too, having been proven elsewhere in Volkswagen Group cars from VW, SEAT and Skoda. 



The Volkswagen Beetle will never be as practical as traditional family hatchbacks, but it does a good job of out-performing rivals such as the MINI in this area, which is where it matters. The Beetle offers 310 litres of boot space, which is 40 litres more than the boot in the Audi A1, and considerably bigger than the MINI's measly 160 litres. The interior boasts plenty of stowage areas, including centre console cup holders, two glove compartments and deep door bins. The back seats are capable of splitting 50:50, and when they're folded, boot space is extended to 905 litres. There's also a space-saver spare wheel rather than just a repair kit. Those after a Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet should bear in mind that the back-seat passengers don't get much space.

Running Costs


The most efficient version of the Volkswagen Beetle is the 1.6-litre TDI BlueMotion engine. This returns 65.7mpg and emits 113g/km of CO2, which means it'll cost very little to tax. There's also a 1.2-litre TSI petrol, which is relatively cheap to buy and can return 47.9mpg and emits 137g/km of CO2 - not as impressive as the 184bhp MINI Cooper S, but still reasonable. At the other end of the scale, you'll find a 2.0-litre TSI petrol, available in Sport, Turbo Silver, Turbo Black and GSR models. Be aware, though, this emits 176g/km of CO2 and returns only 38.2mpg - very expensive indeed. There's a great value prepaid servicing pack, which takes care of all routine maintenance. Residual values are strong, too, and all versions are predicted to hold onto at least 40 per cent of their value after three years. 

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Residual values? When reviews mention these it must be a dreary vehicle.

'distinctive looks'!

As 'an ugly pastiche of the original, worse in every way'?

VW Product in "4 stars instead of 5" AE shocker...

Photos never do these cars justice, and they really need to be seen in the showroom. It looks great in the metal, and the convertible is absolutely superb. Quality is much better than Bmw/Merc, as VW (and also Audi) are making the finest quality German cars at the moment.

At least 1 star overrated, eg.
1. reliability - AE quotes Driver power, where Golf is the best placed VW car, at place 16/150, followed by Passat CC at 34/15, and other models out of upper 1/3 of the list. VW as a manufacturer is on 16th place, out of 32, average at best.
2. crash protection - EuroNCAP 5-star rating is a must for any contemporary car over 10k pounds.
3. warranty - 3 years is average for the industy, and on the low side for an "upmarket" product (the perceived Beetle positioning)

I don't think Beetle is a bad car, but considering the price it's pretty average value, or objectively a 3 star car.

Another example of badge snobbery?

Distinctive looks??? Looks like a frog! Terrible ugly!

Fair video review of a car to buy for looks, rather than practicality. Girlfriend had a previous-gen model which she loved. This one seems a bit more butch, even better with chromed moon hubcaps!

Why have A E put this review in again is because V W said they had to its 5 months old A E

The other half has a 2001 model and she can't stand the new one because of its butchness and squashed lines. Her next one will be another one of the same, but newer. I'd be interested how many of these VW are selling considering the Scirocco is for men and this Beetle has lost its femininity?

The Fiancée owns a cabriolet one of these and for the Beetle Haters out there I would have to ask what are they basing this on, look at the price and spec against even a VW Golf and it makes the Beetle look excellent Value, the Cab with the Multi Link rear combined with the extra strength make it a better drive than my so called sporty Fiesta and yet all of this with a removable roof, VW build quality and relatively good residuals makes it a damn good car and I have compared to the other premium German brands.

Don't knock it till you try it as the expression goes, I thought it was an overpriced piece of Tat until we brought one and it has not only sold me to the Beetle but the whole Brand, they are not just cars they are historic icons reborn but with a modern take on safety and features.

Last updated: 11 Nov, 2013
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