Looks like a Beetle, drives like an old Golf
The new Beetle might look like the original people’s car but in reality there’s very little about it that can be traced back to the old model.
The engine is in the front of the new car; it was in the rear of the old one. The engine is water-cooled; the old one was air-cooled. The new one is front-wheel-drive; the old one was rear-drive. It goes on. The point is you shouldn’t be swayed by the spin that suggested the new Beetle was the old one reborn. It wasn’t. Buy it if you like the cute looks but be aware what you are buying is a rather impractical Golf. It was launched here in 2000 as a single model with a 2.0-litre 85kW engine with a heap of standard features that moved it up the model chain. Since then there has been a lower-spec 1.6-litre, turbo, diesel and cabriolet variants.
The 2.0-litre had decent torque giving it good response and driveability, the 1.6-litre likewise, the turbo had the zing and the diesel was the fuel miser.
With its Golf underpinnings, the Beetle was sure-footed and responsive, its ride was firm but comfortable, it steered nicely and braked with assurance. It was a thoroughly modern car with a retro look. Two doors necessarily limit a car’s practicality when it comes to families and getting in and out of the rear seats isn’t something you want to do every day.
For those in the rear, the seats are a little cramped and their heads are under glass. The boot isn’t very big either, which just adds to its day-to-day limitations. Buying a Bug of the new sort really comes down to image. If you want to feel funky, buy it. If you have to drive the kids to school, go for something more practical.
Being based on the Golf, the Beetle has similar issues as its corporate cousin. The engines it used are sound and give little trouble, but look for oil leaks that might need addressing in the near term.
Plastic engine fittings tend to get brittle and crumble over time. When it comes to transmissions, the Beetle didn’t use the troublesome DSG
gearbox, which means there aren’t the same concerns with it as there are with other models in the VW range. Nevertheless, thoroughly test-drive the automatic transmission and ensure it shifts smoothly and without hesitation.
Early Beetles are around the 150,000km mark on average and that’s getting into auto trouble territory. As in all European cars, the brakes tend to wear quite quickly so be prepared to replace pads and discs regularly. Faulty electronics are a regular complaint on all cars today, which makes it worth checking every system in the car to ensure they’re operating as they should.
Retro looks make the Beetle stand out from the crowd but under the skin it’s all modern, if a little impractical for some.