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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For Cool, reliable and fun to drive

Against Not really big enough for more than two; small boot

Verdict Lots of style and good residual values

Go for… 1.6

Avoid… V5

Volkswagen Beetle Hatchback
  • 1. Clutches can wear out after only 40,000 miles
  • 2. Check that recall work on the passenger side airbag has been carried out
  • 3. Cabin is retro-styled, but the boot is small
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Volkswagen Beetle Hatchback full review with expert trade views

The original VW Beetle may have been designed in the 1930s for the Third Reich, but this latest version is really a VW Golf in a bug’s clothing. Ironic really – the Golf was originally designed to replace the Beetle.

What you get in this modern classic is a well-built, solid car with a nicely controlled ride and responsive steering, allowing you to tackle corners with confidence. The problem is that those classic lines cause a classic problem: visibility isn’t particularly good, and it’s hard to see the car’s corners when parking. At least wind and road noise are kept to a minimum.

In theory, the Beetle can seat four, but the reality is that’s it’s only for two. The slope of the roofline makes sitting in the back difficult if you’re an adult, although it should be fine for children. The boot is small, too, but if you don’t need the rear seats they can be folded down to increase your luggage space.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Not the icon VW hoped for. Some reasonably priced used examples. 1.9 diesel is best

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

Originally, the Beetle came with two petrol engines – a 2.0-litre unit with 115bhp and a 1.6 with 102bhp – and a diesel with 90bhp. A 1.8 turbo with 150bhp, a 2.3 V5 with 170bhp and a 1.4 developing just 75bhp joined later. There’s also a rapid 3.2-litre V6 RS.

In the real world, the 1.6 is the best all-round choice – running costs won’t cripple you, but although it drives well enough, it’s not very quick, and better for posing in than thrill-seeking. With that in mind, if you want an automatic gearbox, you have to opt for the 2.0-litre engine.

When you're shopping around, you may come across some left-hand-drive examples, which made it into the UK before 1999, but there’s no reason to buy one unless it’s dirt-cheap.

Right-hand drive models were officially launched in 2000, and they came with a good level of safety equipment, although the entry model didn’t have alloy wheels or air-con. However, if your budget will stretch to it, look for a car from after 2006, when the model was face-lifted and fitted with more goodies.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

More of a cruiser. Smaller engines underpowered. Good interior space

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

With all those Golf components lurking under its shell, the Beetle is as reliable as the hatchback. Niggles are generally minor. And, although the Beetle is slightly more expensive to service than the Golf, you can save a little bit of cash by going to an independent specialist.

Where the Beetle suffers over the Golf is that it’s quite a heavy car, so its fuel economy suffers. MPG figures for the petrols range from the mid- to high-30s, but the diesel gives a great 53mpg.

Insurance is acceptable if you stick to the 1.6, which is in group 9, but climbs as high as group 15 for the more rapid models.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Not the icon VW hoped for. Some reasonably priced used examples. 1.9 diesel is best

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

The Beetle suffers the same problems as the contemporary Golf. The clutch can be a particular weakness and can wear out within 40,000 miles; during the test drive make sure you can operate it smoothly and it doesn’t feel too stiff. The ignition coils can also go on the 1.8 turbo engine - a mechanic should be able to check them for you.

There have been two recalls on the Beetle, the most alarming concerning water entering the anti-lock unit, potentially causing a short circuit and a fire. The other covered a loose passenger side airbag. A VW dealer will able to tell you if they have been carried out.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

More of a cruiser. Smaller engines underpowered. Good interior space

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing
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