Recalling the original Volkswagen Beetle that was sold around the world starting in the late 1930s, the current VW Beetle is a two-door, front-wheel drive subcompact car available as a hatchback or convertible. Reintroduced for the 1998 model year, the Beetle’s retro-styling and quirky personality spelled affordable and fuel-efficient fun. The revived model was well-received by consumers and automotive media outlets, immediately reestablishing the Beetle nameplate in the U.S. For car shoppers, the Beetle also provides a relatively inexpensive alternative for individuals who want to make a visual statement without breaking the bank.
2012 to Present: Volkswagen Beetle
Completely redesigned for 2012, the current generation Volkswagen Beetle reaches further back for visual inspiration than the model it replaced. The current Beetle conjures images of the original 1938 Beetle with its 4-inch lower and flatter roofline and raked windshield. The current Beetle is also 6 inches longer than the outgoing model, resulting in a larger interior. The Beetle convertible arrived in 2013.
At launch, the base 2012 Beetle came with a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is available with that engine. A more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine has been offered since its introduction, and a turbodiesel 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 140 horsepower joined the lineup for the 2013 model year. More recently, a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower became the base engine.
Volkswagen has consistently added to the Beetle’s list of standard features since it was redesigned for 2012. Earlier models come standard with basic amenities like alloy wheels, power windows and locks and an auxiliary input jack. Heated front seats, Bluetooth, an iPod interface and leatherette upholstery were added to the list of standard equipment beginning with the 2014 model year. For 2015, a touch-screen audio system was also added to the list of standard features.
While the Beetle’s unique styling limits its list of direct competitors, the Beetle is for all intents and purposes a fuel-efficient four-seat compact with a small hatchback. Shoppers interested in the trend-setting Volkswagen Beetle may want to take a peek at the equally unique Kia Soul, Fiat 500, Scion xB and Mini Cooper. Other compact vehicles worth investigating are Volkswagen’s highly-rated Golf, as well as the Scion iM, Ford Focus, Mazda3 and Honda Civic.
If the Beetle convertible is more your speed, the Fiat 500c is an equally quirky competitor and Volkswagen’s own Eos shares quite a bit of DNA. Other options include the Mini Convertible, Mazda MX-5 Miata and Buick Cascada.
Earlier Volkswagen Beetle Models
The first-generation Volkswagen New Beetle was offered from 1998 to 2011 model years. Starting with a two-door coupe, the convertible would arrive in 2003. Early models are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, a turbodiesel 1.9-liter four-cylinder or a turbocharged 1.8-liter gasoline power plant. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a four- or six-speed automatic was optional, depending on the model year.
The first-generation Beetle offered a nice amount of standard equipment, including keyless entry, power windows and locks, air conditioning, cruise control, anti-lock brakes and air bags.
The first-generation Beetle received a mid-cycle refresh for the 2006 model year. A new standard 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine replaced the 2.0-liter four. The five-speed manual transmission remained standard equipment and a six-speed automatic was optional. The refresh brought sharper, more defined lines to the exterior and electronic stability control became standard on all models for the first time. The TDI model would gain a little power. It also boasted excellent fuel economy with up to 31/40 mpg city/highway, but was dropped for the 2007 model year.