Retro cheek

Looks like a Bee­tle, drives like an old Golf

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Used Car - GRA­HAM SMITH


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.

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