The top of the range 2.0 TSI has plenty of urgency, and delivers hot-hatch performance. There’s also a 103bhp turbocharged 1.2, while the 1.4 TSI has both a turbocharger and supercharger to deliver 158bhp. It’s fast and flexible but you do notice some steps in the power delivery as it piles on the revs. Of the two diesels available - a 104bhp 1.6 and a muscular 138bhp 2.0 - the former is the better buy as the ride and handling don't merit the extra power on offer from the latter.
The Beetle features two different rear suspension setups. The range-topping 2.0 TSI model uses the multi-link arrangement from the Golf GTI. In this form, body sway is well controlled and there’s plenty of sideways grip. Lesser Beetles, which have a less sophisticated arrangement, aren’t as composed when encountering mid-corner bumps. The ride is firm on all models at low speeds and the steering is quite heavy and slow to react.
The Beetle is generally refined, although the frameless doors generate quite a bit of wind noise. Those turbo petrol engines also generate quite a bit of induction roar and noise from the diesels can be intrusive at low speeds. The manual gearbox is quite notchy and although the optional six-speed semi-automatic DSG gearbox is generally smooth, it can be quite jerky during low speed manoeuvres.
The Beetle is not cheap to buy and discounts from VW dealers certainly won’t be massive. The polarising effect of that outlandish styling also means a Beetle won’t retain all that much of its original value after three years of ownership. At least insurance rates are affordable and fuel consumption on most models is pretty impressive, too.
Some of the Beetle’s interior trim feels surprisingly cheap. There’s no soft-touch dashboard like you’ll find in a Golf, for example, and the plastics on the centre console and around the front centre armrest are disappointingly hard and scratchy. At least most of the switches and controls feel reassuringly weighty. Underneath, the Beetle shares most of its parts with the Golf, so reliability should be good.
The Beetle received a five-star rating from Euro NCAP, which is hardly surprising as there’s plenty of safety kit to keep you out of harm’s way and to protect you if you are unlucky enough to hit something. All models in the range have electronic stability control and six airbags as standard. On the security front, you get an alarm. deadlocks, a visible VIN and plenty of marked parts.
The Beetle’s dashboard has been inspired by the original’s, which means it’s taller than in most modern cars and has a squared-off front. You can go even further with the retro vibe and have the dash painted the same colour as the car, although that's only available as part of a £2070 trim upgrade. Thankfully, VW has stuck with modern controls and switches, which means everything is clearly laid out and easy to operate.
The Beetle has only four seats. There’s plenty of room in the front for people of all shapes and sizes, but the two back seats are cramped. However, the boot has a decent 310 litres of room – almost as much as you’ll find in a Golf. The sloped bootlid makes it difficult to carry tall items, though.
Above entry-level specification, the Beetle comes in either Design or Sport trim. Design models add a body-coloured dashboard and comfort seats, alloys, Bluetooth telephone preparation, a multifunction steering wheel and a touch-screen DAB radio system. Top-of the-range Sport versions get a carbonfibre-effect dash, sports seats a three-spoke leather steering wheel, bigger alloys plus front and rear parking sensors.
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This is our favourite version of the Beetle, primarily because it’s one of the cheapest. It has a small engine, but you won’t be left wanting for performance.