Volkswagen Beetle review
The reborn VW Beetle has been given a tough new image in an effort to beat the class-leading MINI
Few cars come close to matching the Volkswagen Beetle for popularity. Since the rear-engined original made its debut 73 years ago, nearly 22 million cars have been sold. Unlike its spartan ancestors, the latest version is aimed at upmarket premium supermini rivals such as the MINI and Citroen DS3. With its distinctive, retro-inspired looks, classy interior and sporty handling, the new Beetle is the most desirable yet. There's now a decent choice of petrol and diesel engines, but high running costs stop it toppling the class leaders.
Our choice: Beetle 1.4 TSI Design
Longer, lower and wider than its predecessor, the Beetle is clearly more masculine than before. Yet despite these changes, the German machine can clearly trace its roots back to the air-cooled original. Entry-level models feature 16-inch steel wheels covered in plastic trims, while the range-topping Sport model benefits from two-tone 18-inch rims, a body coloured rear spoiler and privacy glass for the rear windows. High-grade materials and solid build quality give the cabin an upmarket feel, while the upward-opening glovebox lid is a nod to the original car. There’s also the option to have a bold body colour finish for the dashboard and door trims.
With VW Golf MkVI underpinnings, it’s no surprise to find the VW Beetle assured and capable from behind the wheel. Strong grip and excellent body control boost agility, while the major controls are well-weighted. While it lacks the feedback and eager nature of a MINI, it’s still an engaging choice. It’s also a refined and comfortable long distance companion. The engine line-up was limited to two petrols - a 104bhp 1.2-litre TSI mated to a slick seven-speed twin clutch DSG gearbox, and the punchy 158bhp twin-charged 1.4-litre petrol connected to a six-speed manual. More economical 1.6 and 2.0-litre TDI diesels are now available, plus a fiery 197bhp 2.0-litre turbo on Sport models.
Given it’s an all-new design, it’s no surprise to find the VW Beetle has earned a five star Euro NCAP rating. All versions get six airbags and ESP, while powerful xenon headlamps are available as an optional extra. The legendary original Beetle was famed for its reliability and longevity – and the new car promises to continue that tradition. Tried and tested mechanicals from the Golf, combined with first-rate build quality, mean the VW should prove to be a trouble-free choice.
While it’s no match for a traditional family hatch, the VW is a surprisingly practical choice. The driver and passenger get plenty of room, plus the cabin is littered with useful storage space, including a double glove box arrangement and deep door bins. And while the rear bench is only marginally bigger than that of the cramped MINI, the well-shaped boot will swallow 310 litres of luggage. Fold the two individual rear chairs flat and the volume increases to a useful 905 litres.
Buyers wanting to minimise running costs should stick with the 1.2-litre petrol, as it promises to return 47.9mpg at the pumps and emits 137g/km of CO2, though these figures aren’t as impressive as the 184bhp MINI Cooper S. If you want to save cash, then we’d recommend the 104bhp 1.6-litre diesel, which returns 65.7mpg and emits 113g/km of CO2. A great value pre-paid servicing pack takes care of routine maintenance, while all models should hold onto at least 40 per cent of their value after three years.