2017 Volkswagen Beetle Review

Introduction

The current Beetle is the spiritual successor to the best-selling single car model of all time. The Type 1 Beetle’s 22 million sales may have been eclipsed by the Golf and Toyota Corolla since, but those are sales of multiple types and variants – the original rear-engined, air-cooled Beetle was only ever one model line. Volkswagen resurrected the idea in 1999, using modern front-drive mechanicals, and the current model is the second generation of the ‘modern’ Beetle launched in 2011. Self-consciously cool and retro, it’s an affordably stylish way to get about.

 

Body Style: coupe             Seats: 4                   MRP from £17,210 - £25,780

 

Did you know? As with the last of the original Beetles, the current model is built at Volkswagen’s factory in Puebla, Mexico.

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Verdict: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7.2/10)

The latest Beetle is a much more satisfying product than its 1999 forebear (and obviously far more modern and useable than a Type 1 original). It’s cool, stylish and just a little bit funky (even if the word ‘hipster’ will never be too far from some people’s lips…) and it’s better to drive by far than that 1999 version.

It’s limited by a lack of five doors (which, in fairness would spoil the styling) and a relatively staid line-up of engines. Dress the cabin up with options and it looks cool, but the basic versions are a bit too plain and functional for their own good.

Design & Exterior

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Interior & Comfort

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Technology & Connectivity

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Performance & Handling

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Safety Features

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Specs & Trims

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Running Costs & Fuel Economy

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Pricing

★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ (5/10)

 

2017 Volkswagen Beetle

We Like

Cool styling

Optional Fender stereo

Good fun to drive

We Don't Like

Small boot and back seats

Not as agile as some rivals

A Golf makes more rational sense

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Design & Exterior: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

2017 Volkswagen Beetle

In spite of its relatively affordable price tag, the Beetle is one of those cars that’s liable to encourage people to approach you for a chat about it as much as any Ferrari or Lamborghini. More so, in fact, thanks to its non-threatening styling. The 1999 Beetle took the circular cartoon-look theme a little too far (although everyone loved it at the time), but this model has some flattened-out surfaces and more than a hint of Porsche in its looks that really lifts the style. There is an almost endless line-up of stickers, decals, body kit and colour options, but we have a fondness for plain blue with steel hubcaps, just like the original. It’s a truly lovable car, which is not something you can say too often these days.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Interior & Comfort: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

2017 Volkswagen Beetle

The nice thing about the Beetle’s cabin (aside from the general sense of quality and the extra space compared to the previous model) is that it really does look quite cool. The full-width dashboard trim can be specified with a colour either to match or contrast with the exterior, and there are lots of delightful 1950s throwbacks to the design and layout. The simple instrument stack works well and thanks to its MkVI Golf genes, there’s plenty of room up front and it’s comfortable on a long journey.

Practicality

The boot has just 310 litres of load space (that’s around 70 litres worse-off than a Golf) and even though the rear seats split-fold 50:50, the sharply sloped rear styling and relatively small rear hatch mean that you’d going to find yourself stranded at IKEA unless you’re very precise with your tape measure. Seats down, the boot volume measures just 905 litres. Boot space shrinks further to 225 litres for the Cabriolet variant.

The rear seats are arranged in a strict two-seat layout, and while space isn’t as limited as you’d find in a three-door Mini, for instance, it’s very much more coupé than hatchback back there. Small kids will be OK (although their bulky car seats will eat up a lot of space), but taller passengers, in some cases, simply won’t fit. Perhaps some sort of chrome luggage rack attached to the boot would help…

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Technology & Connectivity: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Volkswagen Beetle

It may look fifties-retro, but the Beetle is pretty up-to-date when it comes to tech. It’s actually based on the mechanical package and chassis of the old MkVI Golf, so you won’t get the very latest items, but you do get a 6.5-inch touchscreen as standard on all models, which includes Bluetooth connection for phone and audio, DAB radio, an SD card reader and a USB connection.

Available optionally is App-Connect, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the upgraded Composition infotainment system includes eight speakers and an SMS text message voice control function.

Also available as an option is the upgraded stereo with 400 watts of power, eight speakers and a sub-woofer designed jointly by electronics expert Panasonic and electric guitar legend Fender.

Keyless entry is also available as an option.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Performance & Handling: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

2017 Volkswagen Beetle

Thanks to riding on the sixth-generation Golf platform, the Beetle is far better to drive than its rather flaccid predecessor, but that’s not saying a lot. The steering is well-weighted and balanced, but it doesn’t have the fluid, fulsome feedback of the rival Mini and, mostly thanks simply to extra mass, doesn’t have the bouncy agility of a Fiat 500. Basically, it’s like a slightly lower-slung Golf to drive – solid and secure, but not what you’d call a ball of fun.

It does suffer slightly from refinement issues too, with quite a lot of wind and tyre noise at motorway cruising speeds.

The engine line-up is pretty limited. You can choose from 1.2 105hp or 1.4 TSI 150hp turbocharged petrol models, or a 2.0-litre TDI diesel with either 110hp or 150hp. Of those, we reckon that the 1.2 TSI is the pick of the pack – powerful and torquey enough not to feel lifeless, but frugal enough to make spending extra on a diesel rather pointless.

Recommended engine: 1.2 TSI 105hp

0-62 MPH

11.7 seconds

Fuel economy

51.4mpg

Emissions

127g/km

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Safety Features: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

2017 Volkswagen Beetle

The Beetle was tested in 2011 by Euro NCAP and received a full five-star safety score, with a 92 per cent score for adult occupant protection, 90 per cent for child protection, 53 per cent for pedestrian protection, and 86 per cent for safety assist.

All models come with multiple airbags (plus a passenger airbag cut-off switch), post-collision braking (which stops your car rolling away after an accident), stability control, two ISOFIX child seat points in the back and a tyre pressure warning system.

Optional safety equipment includes cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, bi-Xenon headlights and a blind spot monitor.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Specs and Trim Levels: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Volkswagen Beetle

Colours

Volkswagen has learned from its rivals at Mini that the best way to make money is to offer an affordable car with lots of colour and trim options. Buyers can choose from Pure White, Black and Tornado Red non-metallic colours; Blue Silk, Dark Bronze, Platinum Grey, Ameleva Blue, Bottle Green, Sandstorm Yellow and White Silver metallic shades, or a Deep Black pearl effect and Habanero Orange ‘Premium Signature’ colours.

Trim Levels

The Beetle’s trim levels are really just a starting point for customisation. A basic ‘Beetle’ spec comes with 16-inch steel wheels, frameless rear view mirror, front centre armrest, reading lights, semi-automatic air conditioning, electric door mirrors, stop-start, 6.5-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, DAB and USB, trip computer and a hill-hold function.

Design models get 17-inch chrome-effect wheels, body colour door handles, front fog lights, tailgate spoiler (for the 1.4 TSI), extra chrome trim, body-colour dashboard, leather-trim multi-function steering wheel, upgraded cloth upholstery and the Composition media and infotainment system.

R-Line models come with 18-inch alloy wheels, gloss black exterior trim, a rear spoiler, rear tinted glass, cruise control, R-Line body kit, twin exhausts, aluminium interior trim, sports seats, ambient cabin lighting, climate control and front and rear parking sensors.

The Dune version comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, 10mm extra ground clearance, lower body protection, special decals, LED rear lights, contrast stitching on the interior, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlights,and front and rear parking sensors.

So you'll probably have as much choice as you can handle when it comes to specifying the Beetle, and it’s doubtful that any two cars will be identical. Personally, we love the Design version with its body-coloured dashboard and those retro-look chrome-effect wheels, and we’d definitely get the Fender stereo upgrade. Go easy on the decals and stickers if you want to hang on to your resale value, though.

Size and Dimensions

Although not as dinky as a Fiat 500, nor as tightly-dimensioned as a Mini, the Beetle is pretty compact.

Length

4288mm (4286mm for Dune)

Width

1825mm (1822mm for Dune)

Height

1488mm (1473mm for Cabriolet; 1498mm for Dune)

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Running Costs & Fuel Economy: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Volkswagen Beetle

By using the previous Golf chassis the Beetle once again holds itself back a little here, as it lacks the latest in aerodynamic tech and lightweight materials. Both emissions and fuel consumption are, overall, competitive but not exceptional.

The 1.2 TSI scores an average of 51.4mpg (you should get at least 45mpg in daily driving) and 127g/km of CO2.
 The 1.4 TSI records 136g/km and 47.9mpg.

The diesels, of course, fare better, but perhaps are not as good as they ought to be. The 110hp 2.0-litre has fuel economy of 64mpg and emissions of 116g/km (the DSG automatic is slightly worse off at 121g/km and 61mpg) while the 150hp version records 61mpg and 120g/km (or 57mpg and 129g/km for the auto). Higher-riding Dune models are slightly worse off again, with 60mpg and 120g/km (56mpg and 130g/km for the auto).

Reliability and servicing

The current Beetle has been recalled twice, for possible fuel leaks and for steering problems. That aside, the combination of Volkswagen’s traditionally good quality levels and the proven MkVI Golf mechanical package should ensure good longevity for the Beetle.

For servicing, Volkswagen offers a choice of two packages. For low-mileage drivers, or those doing mostly urban driving, it’s every 10,000 miles or once a year. For those doing higher mileages, it’s every 20,000 miles, with a two-year interval for the first major service and then annually thereafter. All Beetles come with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Pricing: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ (5/10)

2017 Volkswagen Beetle

The Beetle’s pricing is a touch mixed – it’s a little more expensive than the most basic Mini, and significantly more so than a Fiat 500, but is roomier and better equipped as standard than either. There’s nothing in the range that gets much higher than about £25,000, but you can expand that price pretty easily by dipping into the options list. It’s also considerably less good value than a Golf, which is more sophisticated, roomier and better to drive.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Recommendations

First Time Driver

1.2 TSI – easy to drive, low insurance, still stylish.

Trend Setter

All basic models – it’s the fifties-esque styling that proves a winner.

Car Enthusiast

All R-Line models – those retro looks are just so appealing.

Rivals

Audi A1

Small and expensive, but very cool and high-tech.  

DS 3

Small posh Citroen is reasonably stylish and decent to drive, but lacks the Beetle’s cabin quality.

Fiat 500

Much smaller and less practical, but equally much more fun to drive and just as cool to look at.

Mini

A Mini One is cheaper than a Beetle; a Cooper is more fun to drive.

Suzuki Swift

Smaller inside (slightly), but looks sharp and is good fun to drive.

What others say

What Car?

“The Volkswagen Beetle is a three-door hatchback with retro-inspired bodywork. Underneath sits the platform of the old Volkswagen Golf, which means a good range of engines although not the same level of driver enjoyment.”

Car Buyer

“If you want a retro-styled hatchback and don’t mind sacrificing a little practicality for looks, the Volkswagen Beetle should suit you perfectly.”

 

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