We drive the latest version of Volkswagen's legendary Beetle
Pros: Retro styling, authentic interior finish, frugal diesel engines
Cons: Not practical, MINI more fun to drive
The Volkswagen Beetle is a motoring icon that doesn’t need an introduction. Famed for the classic models of the 1960s and 70s, the Beetle has gained a huge following with car enthusiasts and continues to be a sight on our roads almost eight decades after it was first released. The latest facelifted version of the Beetle was launched in 2016, and while it’s a modernised take on the Beetle of decades gone by, it retains the retro vibe of the original car and shares the same platform with the Volkswagen Golf. We spent a week driving the Beetle in R-Line trim recently to see if the latest version lives up to its legendary name.
What is it like?
One thing is certain, you can expect to stand out from the crowd in the Beetle as it has lots of retro styling cues from the original car. The rounded headlights, bulging wheel arches and curved roofline make it a pretty car to look at and particularly so in the highest specification R-Line trim. In 2016 the Beetle received some mild styling updates including sportier bumpers which lend the car a more masculine look, and that’s likely to help it appeal to a wider audience than before. This R-Line model has upgraded 18-inch five spoke alloy wheels which really suit the shape of the Beetle, along with a striking Sandstorm Yellow metallic paint scheme that turns heads out on the road.
The interior mixes original Beetle features with new tech and infotainment borrowed from some of Volkswagen’s latest models. There is two separate gloveboxes, harking back to the original car, while a large speedometer display stands out in front of the driver. It’s easy to get comfortable up front with ample head room and a good range of adjustment available in the seats, and there’s enough room in the rear for two adults, but that said, it’s a little tight for taller passengers. The body-coloured trim on both the steering wheel and dashboard is a feature on higher specification models and it gives the cabin a well-finished look as you step inside, while the 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system on our test car works well for streaming music and taking smartphone calls. Boot space (in the rear, unlike the original rear-engined Beetle) is on the small side at 310 litres, a point worth noting for family buyers.
The Beetle is available with a modern range of Volkswagen petrol and diesel engines. There are two petrol choices; a 1.2 TSI that produces 105hp and a larger 1.4 TSI that produces 150hp. Our test car is fitted with the most powerful diesel option, the 2.0 TDI which produces 150bhp and offers the best mix of performance and fuel economy. It’s a lively out on the road, covering 0-100km/h in under nine seconds and cruising comfortably at higher speeds. Pairing a diesel engine with the Beetle may seem like an odd combination, but it makes sense for those who will be covering high mileage regularly. Those who spend most of their time driving in urban settings would be better served by either of the petrol units. There is a choice of manual and automatic gearboxes too, and we drove the latter which shifts smoothly.
The Beetle is built on the same platform as the latest Volkswagen Golf so it drives well, with plenty of grip and feel on wet roads. It isn’t as agile as the latest MINI models, but it is nonetheless a confident-handler. Out on the road there is little road noise and the ride quality is smooth for the most part, though larger alloy wheels like the ones fitted to our test car make it hard on bumpy road surfaces. Our diesel-powered Beetle proved quite frugal with a mixture of motorway and urban based driving in Galway. We managed around 5.9 litres per 100 kilometres of driving (47MPG) while annual road tax for this model is slightly high at €270.
Prices for the new Volkswagen Beetle start from €22,735 so it is quite an affordable package. There aren’t many cars that you can compare the Beetle with, but the retro Fiat 500 is considerably cheaper to buy, while the new MINI three and five door models are similarly priced. As standard, the Beetle gets a leather steering wheel, hill start assist, daytime running lights and Volkswagen’s connectivity package, but you’ll have to stretch to higher specification Design models to get alloy wheels and an upgraded radio. The R-Line model that we have here is the highest specification model in the range, starting at just over €30,000, but if you can afford to stretch to this specification you won’t be disappointed thanks to the addition of sports seats, park distance control and more.
Carzone verdict: 3.5/5
The Volkswagen Beetle remains one of the most distinctive cars on the road, and everything from the way it looks to its retro-style interior and colour combinations will appeal to buyers who want something different. The new range of petrol engines strengthen the Beetle’s offering, however it isn’t as fun to drive as the latest MINIs and higher specification models can work out to be quite expensive. For thosw who have their heart set on owning a Beetle however, it won’t disappoint. Mid-range Comfort models offer the best mix of style and affordability, while the entry level 1.2 TSI should suffice for most buyers. Why not take a look at the Volkswagen Beetles that we have for sale on Carzone now?
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Volkswagen Beetle R-Line
Prices from: €22,735
Price as tested: €36,567
Annual Road Tax: €270
Engine: 1968cc four-cylinder diesel
Top Speed: 200km/h
0-100km/h: 8.9 seconds
Body style: Hatchback
Boot Space: 310 litres