The Beetle is based on the Golf, a car that offers a superb balance of comfort and superior driving dynamics. However, the base Beetle has been stripped of its multilink rear suspension and excellent electric power steering. Instead, there's a less sophisticated torsion-beam setup in the rear and overboosted hydraulic power steering. Power for the base car comes from the 170-hp five-cylinder that is peppy but somewhat gravelly at high rpm. If you're really interested in the sportier character that Volkswagen is hyping, you want the Beetle Turbo, which is much more true to the GTI that inspired it. Steering weight is superb, the suspension is firmer without being jarring, and prodigious power comes from the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The base Beetle uses a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic, and the Turbo raises the engagement factor with a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic that delivers crisp, speedy shifts. The interior features slick body-color accents and the simple, intuitive controls that Volkswagen is known for. The bud vase of the first New Beetle is gone, but there's an optional second glove box high on the dashboard as a nod to the original Beetle. There's enough headroom for six-footers in the rear but only enough legroom for small children. The Golf and the GTI offer slightly better driving dynamics and more practicality, but if you're a sucker for style, the Beetle is a smart small car with substance beneath the surface.
Trim levels: Beetle, Turbo
Body style: Coupe, 4-passenger
Engines: 2.0L turbo I-4, 200 hp, 207 lb-ft
2.5L I-5, 170 hp, 177 lb-ft
Transmissions: 5- or 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
Passenger volume: 85.1 cu ft
Cargo volume: (rear seats up/down) 15.4/29.9 cu ft
The third-generation Beetle debuts for 2012 with a more muscular stance and a retro design. The new car distances itself from the previous model and its bubbly personality with a sportier feel as it draws an aesthetic connection to the original Bug. At its introduction in the fall of 2011, the Beetle came in base and Turbo trims, just like the last model. Volkswagen will introduce a fuel-efficient turbo-diesel model in mid-2012.
Standard safety features include ABS; front, side, and side curtain air bags; tire-pressure monitoring; and traction and stability control. The Intelligent Crash Response System turns off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors, and activates the hazard lights in the event of a severe collision.
EPA Fuel Economy
All: 20-22mpg city/ 28-30mpg highway
- Classic looks
- Great visibility
- Supple ride
You Won't Like
- Not as sophisticated as a Golf
- Loose steering
- Small rear seat
The Bug remembers its roots.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Hyundai Veloster
- Mini Cooper
- Scion tC