What's the used Volkswagen Beetle hatchback like?
It’s amazing how the purpose of a car changes over time. Take the Beetle; originally conceived to get Germans motoring, it was then relaunched in the late 1990s as a stylish retro throwback before finally coming together as a more sporty offering to a Golf. Despite going off sale, Volkswagen has hinted that its most iconic model might come back as an electric-only offering. However, this is now, and for those who like the abilities of a Golf but just want something a bit more stylish, a used Beetle could serve their needs perfectly.
Unlike the Golf, the Beetle is more of a retro homage to the classic Volkswagen. This puts it up against a more exclusive set of rivals such as the Mini hatchback, but it can also be compared with the likes of the Citroën DS3.
Having access to the vast Volkswagen parts bin means the Beetle has a huge range of engines from a smooth if rather slow turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol to a 1.6 or 2.0-litre diesel, or a top-of-the-range 2.0-litre turbo petrol that has a Golf GTI-rivalling 197bhp. The two diesel engines can be a little gruff when accelerating but they're no worse than those of its rivals.
Unfortunately, the Beetle doesn’t quite have the dynamic sparkle that turns it into a sports model. The beefier steering can be a little wearisome on a long drive and doesn’t have the feedback of the best systems. The ride is also a bit on the firm side, but that doesn’t translate into minimal body roll or agile handling because the height of the car means there are plenty of body movements in the bends.
At least the interior is funkier than most Volkswagens thanks to the use of body-coloured plastic trim on the dashboard and door cards. Thankfully, all of the controls are just like they are in other Volkswagens, which means that it’s all logical to use and they have a solid feel to them. Trouble is, the sloping roof of the Beetle means rear head room is compromised and the boot is small – particularly when the Fender sound system is equipped with a big sub-woofer in the luggage area. The frameless windows let plenty of wind noise through and road noise is greater than it should be.