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, in its second generation here, as a more sporty offering to a Golf.
Despite going off sale in 2018, Volkswagen has hinted that its most iconic model might come back one day 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. There's even a drop-top Cabriolet version, if you fancy a bit of wind-in-the-hair fun.
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 had a huge range of engines to choose from, starting with a smooth if rather slow turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol, a sprightlier 1.4 petrol, through 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 2.0-litre diesel engines, one with 108bhp and the other with 148bhp, have proved popular.
There are four trim levels to choose from for both the Beetle and the Cabriolet - Beetle/Cabriolet, Design, R-Line and a rugged Dune trim. Opt for the entry-level and the Beetle comes with 16in steel wheels, halogen headlights, electric front windows, hill-hold assist and a post-collision braking system. Inside there is semi-automatic climate control and a 6.5in touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, USB port and DAB radio. Upgrade to the Design trim and it comes with 17in alloys, front foglights and rear spoiler, while the R-Line trim adds more sporty details including 18in alloys, twin-pipe exhaust system, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and parking sensors.
The range-topping and rugged Dune Beetles get numerous exterior changes including a styling pack, rear diffuser, wheel arch protection and its own dedicated alloy wheels.
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.
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