2013 VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Three door hatchback
Price: $29,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/transmission: 1.4 litre twin-charged TSI/six-speed DSG
Fuel Economy listed: 6.9l/100km | tested: 8.1l/100km
Volkswagen’s New Beetle has just entered its second iteration, dropping the "New" from the name while looking more like the old.
It’s less frivolous than the last one, going without the dash-mounted vase and pulling on some slightly more practical socks.
It is, however, still a style-led machine rather than a hatchback. Young adults and nostalgic empty-nesters are the obvious target markets for this new iteration - they won’t mind the small back seats and boot.
We spent a week with a bottom-of-the range six-speed to see what’s gone on under the new bodyshell.
Quality: The Mexican-built Beetle is as you’d expect for a VW - tight as personal trainer’s backside. It’s still resolutely retro, with an interior that harks back to the original's.
Not many companies could get away with painted metal-look plastic capping on the dash without being decried as penny-pinching, but the execution is just right.
Comfort: The front seats are a little flat, but are otherwise supportive. Entry to the rear seats is mildly difficult through the shortish doors and once in there, you are not spoiled for space - the styling and packaging of the long, sloping tail put paid to that.
The seats are comfortable, however, for those under five feet tall. The front seats are adjustable for height and the steering wheel for tilt and reach. The cabin is trimmed in cloth, leather is an option.
Equipment: The length of standard equipment list on the Beetle is modest but the items are generous.
There’s an eight-speaker six disc CD stereo with SD card slot and 7-inch screen, dual zone climate control and a thin-rimmed flat-bottomed steering-wheel (leather wrapped) with stereo and phone controls.
There's also remote central locking, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, bluetooth and USB smartphone connectivity using VW’s proprietary, extra cost cable (but not for iPhone 5).
Storage: The Beetle has a 310 litre boot, which isn’t a lot bigger than a light hatchback’s - a Polo has 280 litres. Dropping the seat backs yields another 600 litres, but the floor has a big step in it.
The load space is well-shaped, though, and accessed over a reasonably high lip.
The upper dash has space for a small glovebox that won’t quite take a one litre milk carton and a proper glovebox in the lower dash that will easily take two.
There’s also two small console trays, a compartment inside the armrest, a ceiling-mounted tray for cards, a coin box on the driver’s side as well as bins in both doors with stretchy straps and a shallow tray on the dashboard itself.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The 1.4 litre TSI - also known as the twin charger - is one of VW’s finest engines when it's on song. From its tiny 1.4 litres, a supercharger and a turbocharger work together to send 118kW and 240Nm of torque to the front tyres.
This gives the 1292kg Beetle a decent turn of speed and a claimed 0-100km/h of 8.3 seconds.
Where it really works is in the mid-range, with a hearty shove if you drop a couple of gears and floor it.
Working the six-speed gearbox is a nice experience, too. It has a precise, fluid throw, with an easy action through the gates. The clutch is almost perfectly weighted if slightly vague.
The Beetle’s steering is electric in name only, however. While it’s accurate, it doesn’t have much to say about the road surface or what the wheels are doing.
The flat-bottomed steering wheel is out of place in the Beetle, but the thin rim and slightly over-size diameter is a nice tribute to the old one.
VW’s claimed figures of 6.8l/100km are probably achievable, but our love of revving the engine delivered 8.1l/100km - an excellent result given the hefty bodyshell and our heavy right boots.
Refinement: The 1.4TSI is very quiet, with just a hint of its complexity coming through on quiet roads.
When you apply or release the throttle it will chuff or whistle via the turbo wastegate, but you need to be listening for it. Some might be disappointed by its muted sound, more so for those who like a supercharger whine.
Suspension: While the Beetle feels a little heavy through the corners, the safe and secure handling is balanced against a very smooth and comfortable ride.
Push hard and the Beetle will understeer and it does take a moment to change direction, with a predictable little shuffle before settling down and gripping through the corner.
It’s a very easy car to drive in all conditions and the ride is no doubt helped by rolling on higher profile tyres on the 17-inch wheels.
The plethora of electro-trickery on the front wheels is subtle and non-intrusive, helping the Beetle corner quickly and accelerate smoothly in tricky conditions.
Braking: Discs all round give the Beetle excellent stopping power and a progressive pedal.
Emergency stops are zero-fuss and normal beetling around (sorry) is easy, with well-judged assistance. Incidentally, the pedals are perfect for heel-and-toe action, if that’s your thing.
ANCAP rating: 5 stars
Safety features: The Beetle’s five star rating comes courtesy of four airbags (dual front, side/head), ABS, stability control, brake assist, brake force distribution, hill-start assist.
The front seats have pre-tensioners and both rear seats have three point belts, while there are parking sensors front and rear.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km. The transmission scores a 5 year/150,00km warranty and the body warranty is 12 years.
Service costs: The Beetle’s scheduled servicing is every 15,000km or 12 months. Services range from $375 to $638. Six years of servicing will cost $2623, with the 45,000km and 60,000km services costing $430 and $638 respectively.
Additionally, pollen filters are replaced every two years for $49 and brake fluid every two years for $127. DSG service pricing is identical.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo ($31,990) - The Veloster isn’t really in the Beetle’s league when it comes to quality and dynamics, but it’s got more standard equipment, a lot more power and that quirky third door on the passenger side.
Throw in lower servicing costs, striking looks and hatchback-like practicality, it’s got a lot going for it. (see Veloster reviews)
MINI Cooper ($31,650) - Like the Beetle, its styling looks back but its technology looks forward. The MINI is focused on handling and fun while also looking the part.
It’s down a bit on equipment and has a comparatively dowdy interior, but we like it. (see MINI reviews)
Honda CR-Z ($38,490) - Slower than the Beetle and a bit dull apart from the hybrid tech, the more expensive CR-Z might be a distinctive two-door machine, but its price and lack of flair let it down.
Needless to say, with such low sales figures, owning a CR-Z will put you in a very exclusive club. (see CR-Z reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Beetle is a little more serious this time around, with the styling to match.
Yes, it’s a Golf in drag and yes it’s about eight grand more than a Mk VII Golf, but it looks great and is a lot of fun. It turns heads, especially in Tornado Red.
What’s more, it’s cheap to run, has a cracker engine, better-than-average ride and handling and enough equipment to justify the price.
You can also make it more to your liking by throwing some extra money at it through a lengthy options list (we reckon the Technology Pack with Xenon lights is the go).
More to the point, it’s a much better car all round than the older 'New Beetle'. This one puts a lot more substance beneath the style.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- 2013 Volkswagen Beetle - 1.4 TSI Manual - $29,990
- 2013 Volkswagen Beetle - 1.4 TSI DSG - $32,490
- 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Fender - 1.4 TSI DSG - $34,490
Note: prices exclude on-road costs.