Although it sports the same basic shape that's made it an instantly-recognizable icon for decades, the latest Volkswagen Beetle is more masculine, refined and feature-packed than before. Like the open top Beetle Convertible, it offers an appealing interior and a wide powertrain lineup.
For the latest model year, Volkswagen has added a new base trim level to the Beetle lineup. It has also expanded the lineup with a more rugged-looking model called Beetle Dune.
Designed to be both sportier and more fuel-efficient than before, the Beetle looks somewhat like a squashed version of the outgoing model but the two cars have very little in common. The "cathedral" domed roof of the preceding Beetle is gone, replaced by a more conventional but still characteristically Bug-like roof. Bug-eyed headlamps return, while the tail lamps have been stretched out. The Beetle retains its cargo-friendly hatchback shape and its cartoonish bulging fenders.
The interior has grown up, too. The cockpit is clean and well laid out, and available accessory gauges mounted at the top of the dashboard hint at the car's newfound sportiness. A vertical glovebox mounted flush with the dashboard harks back to the original Beetle but the coupe has an extra unit mounted below for additional storage.
The flower vase of the outgoing model, deemed inconsistent with the latest Beetle's masculine and sporty nature, has been dropped. Trunk space is actually up despite the decreased roof line; Volkswagen says about 10.9 cubic feet of luggage can be sequestered away behind the second row.
Most Beetle models can be ordered with Volkswagen's vastly-improved MIB II infotainment system, which integrates the car's entertainment, navigation and climate control systems while offering crash notification, roadside assistance and stolen vehicle location assistance. Car-Net also features remote vehicle access, speed and boundary alerts and it can provide a vehicle health report. The bulk of Car-Net's features can be accessed via a smartphone.
The Beetle is offered with two gasoline-burning engines. The 2.0-liter TDI mill isn't currently available due to the Dieselgate emissions scandal.
The volume engine is a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque.
Those looking for a Beetle with a bit of scoot can opt for the Volkswagen's ubiquitous 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which churns out 210 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed stick is standard while a six-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic is on the list of options; the former returns 21/30 mpg, while the latter is rated at 21/29 mpg.
Base Beetles feature an inexpensive torsion beam rear suspension, while the sportier R-Line model uses a more sophisticated multi-link setup. The two models also use different steering systems, with the standard Bug utilizing a hydraulically-assisted setup and the Turbo employing electric power steering.
Standard and Optional Equipment
Volkswagen offers the Beetle in five trim levels called 1.8T S, 1.8T SE, 1.8T SEL, R-Line SE, and R-Line SEL, respectively.
The 1.8T S model come standard with a five-speed manual transmission, 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, cloth upholstery, one-touch up/down windows, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, and a five-inch touch screen that runs Volkswagen's MIB II infotainment system.
The 1.8T SE model ups the ante with 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, heated washer nozzles, leatherette upholstery, a rear-view camera, three-color ambient lighting, a 6.3-inch screen for the infotainment system, and a three-month subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio.
The 1.8T SEL model adds 18-inch alloys, a panoramic sunroof with a tilt/slide function, keyless entry with a push-button ignition, a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, navigation, and a six-speed automatic transmission.
Aimed at buyers who want a sportier Beetle, the R-Line SE bundles 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport suspension, R-Line bumpers on both ends, gloss black trim all around, fog lights, red brake calipers, aluminum-look pedals, heated seats, a rear-view camera, and a six-speed manual transmission.
Finally, the range-topping R-Line SEL comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, keyless entry with a push-button ignition, a premium Fender audio system, and a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.
Optional features, which can be bundled together in various packages depending on the model, include a panoramic sunroof, a Fender premium audio system, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, a keyless entry system, a multi-function trip computer, a rear-view camera, a touchscreen navigation system, leather seating and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.
All Beetles come equipped with dual front airbags and combination side/curtain airbags. Other safety systems include traction and stability control systems as well as an Intelligent Crash Response System that automatically unlocks the doors, disconnects the battery terminal from the alternator cable, shuts off the fuel supply and turns on the warning hazards and interior lights in the event of a collision.
The burgeoning small coupe segment offers no shortage of fun and fuel-efficient alternatives to Beetle. These include the 40-mpg Hyundai Veloster, the Scion tC, the Fiat 500, the Honda CR-Z as well as the sports car of the group, the MINI Cooper.