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#32

in Affordable Small Cars

MSRP: $20,295 - $34,895
Invoice: $19,483 - $33,499
MPG: 24 City / 33 Hwy
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Volkswagen Beetle Performance

Test drivers say the VW Beetle’s base engine offers adequate power for daily use, though they prefer the turbocharged engine found in R-Line and GSR models for its peppy acceleration. On all models, the handling is steady, bumps are readily absorbed and steering is accurate. Critics say the manual transmission offers precise shifts but the automated manual can be slow to respond.

  • "Driving the 2013 Beetle, we are both entertained and disappointed. Entertained, because it does everything well: All controls feel direct and responsive, and the behavior is stable and refined. Disappointed, because we wish this latest iteration of the Beetle had the more spirited dynamics of VW's GTI, one of our all-time favorites." -- Kelley Blue Book (2013)
  • "The base 2.5L handles and rides well, but its five-cylinder engine is rather blah for such a stylish car. The Turbo is naturally a kick to drive, if not quite as capable and as much fun as a GTI (with which it shares some hardware). Still, the Turbo should please most folks looking for spirited performance along with a comfortable ride." -- Edmunds (2013)
  • "Ride, acceleration and handling: It gets very good marks in all three. Normal drivers, those of us who don’t imagine public roads as race tracks, will have no problems with this one." -- The Washington Post (2012)
  • "Still, the Beetle is more about style and history than topping the performance or fuel-economy spec sheets." -- Cars.com (2012)

Acceleration and Power

The base 2014 VW Beetle has a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic transmission is optional. A turbocharged, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine with the same horsepower rating will become standard during the 2014 model year and replace the five-cylinder engine. Beetle R-Line and GSR models get a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that generates 210 horsepower, while the Beetle TDI comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel engine that produces 140 horsepower. R-Line, GSR and TDI models come standard with a six-speed manual transmission or an available six-speed automated manual transmission (DSG). The base Beetle gets an EPA-rated 22/29 mpg city/highway when equipped with an automatic transmission, which is on the low end of the small car segment. Equipped with an automatic transmission, the Beetle TDI gets 29/39 mpg city/highway, which is good for the class.

Reviewers say the Beetle’s base engine provides adequate power in the city and on the highway, but those seeking driving thrills should look elsewhere. They prefer the peppy acceleration of the turbocharged R-Line and GSR models, as well as the Beetle TDI. Additionally, test drivers say the manual transmission offers a precise shifter that feels like it should be in a more expensive car. A few say that there can be a lag between shifts with the automated manual transmission.

  • "The gearbox felt like a precision unit found in some of its larger, more expensive German brothers, offering correct shifting without the hunting that seems characteristic of some gearboxes from the Pacific Rim. Very precise. We wish all shifters were this good." -- Left Lane News (Beetle GSR)
  • “That said, the DSG's responses can be frustratingly slow when accelerating from a stop while using the normal drive mode." -- Edmunds
  • "So the TDI isn't a sprinter, but it does get across intersections with vigor, thanks to its ample torque." -- Car and Driver (2013)
  • "Our Beetle TDI test car was equipped with the manual gearbox, and frankly, this is the only option for enthusiasts. Throw the shifter into 1st gear and step on the throttle. The front-drive car launches like a rocket from a standstill, with the torque coming on almost instantly, and the acceleration continues even into high revs." -- Road and Track (2013)

Handling and Braking

Test drivers say that the Beetle holds its own with admirable handling. The ride is comfortable and driving is fun, despite less agility than rivals like the Fiat 500 Abarth or Mini Cooper S. They also praise the Beetle’s competent brakes and responsive steering.

  • "Bumps are soaked up with unusual grace by economy-car standards, while the handling is respectable, if not exactly athletic." -- AutoTrader
  • "The Beetle's handling is respectably adept, though the car's overall abilities and steering response are well short of what you'll get from a Fiat 500 Abarth or Mini Cooper S. When just cruising on city streets or on the highway, however, the Beetle is pretty comfortable." -- Edmunds
  • "The 2.5 models are dynamically competent, cornering with moderate body lean and good grip. Tactile, properly weighted power steering adds to driving enjoyment, while strong, easily modulated brakes add to driver confidence." -- Consumer Guide (2013)
  • "The suspension is a good blend. Not stiff, but sporting enough to let you motor briskly through corners. Not soggy, but compliant enough to handle drainage channels and potholes with only modest disruption. Steering and brakes are quick to answer the driver's call and feel as if engineers had more influence than marketing mavens." -- USA Today (2012)
Review Last Updated: 5/12/14

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