back to article Volkswagen Beetle car review

Retro car designs fall into one of two categories. The Good like the Fiat 500 and the Bad like the 1998 VW Beetle and BMW’s huge Mini. The 1998 Beetle was a particularly bad example with underpinnings that represented a nadir of VW engineering and a body that betrayed its lazy California-penned origins. It was an insult to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The wheels do look original, not a bad effort compared to that last one. Looks very porsche .

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I opened the boot

      A guess what some bugger had pinched the engine.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So a rebodied golf for people who want to look cool.

    The golf is already massively overrated for what it is. To then rebody it so that people who want form over function can then show it off to their "friends" means you actually have a rubbish car that is the exact opposite of what Ferdinand Porsche was going for (a practical car and affordable car to get the masses moving and make Germany glorious again). This is a car for people who want people on facebook to like them.

    85%? I don't think I will be rushing out to buy one.

    1. Toxteth O'Gravy

      Re: So a rebodied golf for people who want to look cool.

      Eh? What the heck is wrong with form over function? Who *doesn't* buy a car they think looks good*? That's half the point. You're right, the Golf is overrated, but that doesn't make it bad, or this one either just because of its looks. The Beetle is not for me but I can see why other folk might want one.

      *Fiat Multipla owners excepted, obviously

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So a rebodied golf for people who want to look cool.

        > Fiat Multipla owners excepted, obviously

        Wait. People buy these? I always assumed that they were a court mandated punishment for traffic offences.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So a rebodied golf for people who want to look cool.

          "Wait. People buy these? I always assumed that they were a court mandated punishment for traffic offences."

          Or when you let your wife make buying decisions.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "golf is already massively overrated"

      I've driven and test-driven many a car, and trust me, the Golf really can't be overrated.

      1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

        Re: "golf is already massively overrated"

        Yes it can be overrated, and it regularly is. Soft-touch interior plastics are no replacement for competent electrics, reliability or water sealing. But these aren't showroom impressions; they're the things that only show up after months of owning the car, and people are generally too proud to say "I was a fool to rave about this car - it's junk" after spending twenty grand on it.

        Anything you can't see is cut back to the minimum: The new Golf VII has a torsion-beam rear suspension to save money on the entry models (below 120 bhp). Of course, this is passed by without mention by the reviewers who praise the handling and ride quality of the independently-suspended high-spec models they're given for review...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "golf is already massively overrated"

          Nice touch pre-emptively disenfranchising anybody who disagrees with you with the "too proud" comment, you should be a politician :)

          VAG are usually considered amongst the best in class for reliability, and this certainly matches my experience. Can you back up your assertion of the lack of "competence" with sources?

          1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

            Re: "golf is already massively overrated"

            "Considered" is what I was saying. VW are at best a middle-ranking manufacturer in reliability, but they used to be much better, and the perception persists, helped along by a lot of ad spending. Perceptions work both ways: In the USA, VW is considered to be an unreliable brand, and this belief is much stronger than the facts would bear out.

            Have a look at Warranty Direct's Top 100: - highest placed VW is the Polo, at #23. VW Golf comes in at #97. This table is based on claim cost and frequency.

            This index is skewed towards older models, as doesn't include vehicles within the manufacturer warranty period. Also, it doesn't distinguish between generations of a vehicle. All that said, it's still one of the most reliable indicators of actual performance.

            the 2011 J.D. Power (self-selected, I know), rates VW slightly above average overall, but no better. If you want a perception challenged, Alfa Romeo are ranked joint 10th with VW in their latest survey.

            This is in line with what acquaintances in the motor trade tell me: VW have a developed a quality problem in recent years, they're trying to fix it, but they're also trying to increase marketshare and margins while reducing costs - these are incompatible goals.

            1. DRendar

              Re: "golf is already massively overrated"

              I own, and still absolutely love my nearly 10 yr old Golf mk4, PD TDi. Started life as a 110, but with an economy mapping thats up to 130ish with a slight increase in MPG. I've done nearly 160k in it and it's still going strong - built like a tank.

              It's as reliable as I could possibly hope it to be - the only thing that's ever gone wrongwith it (outside of the usual running costs / exhausts, brakes etc) was a short between the rear demister and the brakes, which amusingly caused the brake lights to come on when I put the demister on. This was fixed in 10 minutes by my local garage during a service I wasn't even charged for it as it was so minor.

              However for my next car, I'm seriously considering going elsewhere for my next cat, which I'll be purchasing in the next 12 months or so... The reason being that ever since this period, VW reliability has gone down the drain.

              My local VW specialists advise me that mk5/6 Golfs get brought in for faults 2-3 times as often for little problems as the mk4s did, apparently they started using "cheap Spanish components" that fail all the time.

              This is a real shame, but probably the reason for the low reliability ratings. VW trying to cut corners on the more recent models.

  3. Montreal Sean

    First time I saw one of these on the road...

    I thought, holy crap that's German!

    It looks like a modern version of the Super Beetle, and more than a little like it drove out of 1944 Germany...

    I think VW got it right with this one, unlike the travesty that was the last one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I thought, holy crap that's German!

      I think it looks more like a Morris Minor.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why the 500 works

    The 500 sells because although more expensive than the panda (on which it is based), it retains a lot of the charm of the original. It's also not too overpriced.

    The bini is a fake and many mini owners won't touch one. It's also too expensive, you can spec some to over £40k!

    The beetle is the same, an overpriced golf in drag, completely defying the precept of the original.

    This or a golf, neither.

    1. Richard 116

      Re: Why the 500 works

      I really have to disagree about the (BMW) Mini. I don't own one but I do drive them regularly and think they're a superb motor. Lively petrol engines, great handling. And I really don't think owners of the original Mini are BMW's target market.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why the 500 works

        The currently generation of Bini's are fat and heavy, while they handle ok, they don't have the feel of the Mini. It's closer to a Go kart than a car.

        You need to rev the tits off the engine to get it to do anything, one of the benefits of the A Series is the low down torque.

        The fundamental benefit the Mini had, was that it wasn't pretentious, the Bini is the complete opposite.

        Given that over 5 million Minis were sold over the years, you would think that would be the first market they would be aiming for!

    2. Bodhi

      Re: Why the 500 works

      I take it those are the people driving round in original Minis with "100% BMW Free" proudly written on the back? I always found those stickers to be fairly pointless - we can tell BMW had nothing to do with your car, by the fact half the trim has fallen off and all the steam coming out from the engine bay.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why the 500 works

        ... and the fact you don't drive like a twat

    3. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Why the 500 works - free marketing

      It also has the best marketing money cannot buy.

      Name 2 well known Fiat 500 owners.

      Name 1 well known Fiat 500 fan.

      If you are going to recommend a small car, why would you not choose the Top Gear endorsed one.

      Richard and Mindy Hammond have them.

      Jeremy Clarkson likes them.

      James May prefers the Panda.

      Now two of 500 fans work on a well known TV show and have driven a lot of cars, so I think their choice is very good for marketing.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An improvement

    At least with this remake you can tell the difference between the front & the arse.

    Pity they've still got the engine at the wrong end. As for parking sensors, if you can't figure out where the ends of your car are, buy a bike. Safer for everyone.

    1. Michael Strorm

      Re: An improvement

      "At least with this remake you can tell the difference between the front & the arse."

      You said pretty much what I was going to say.

      It always struck me that, viewed side-on, the old "new" Beetle was near-symmetric, whereas the original definitely wasn't- at a basic level, they were actually quite different shapes. The "new(er)" Beetle succeeded in that people would look at it and know it was meant to be a Beetle, but put next to its namesake it was quite clearly different.

      This new one at least more closely resembles the original in this respect, but it also has undeniable Porsche 911 vibes. Maybe not surprising as both were designed by the same guy and ultimately variations on the same basic theme, albeit taken from totally different directions.

      Of course, it's still an overpriced pastiche, a total lifestyle-accessory sellout of the original "people's car" concept. Then again, one probably doesn't want to be *too* purist about respecting its origins- which were, let's not forget- as a Nazi-commissioned car for the "peoples" of the Master Race by a guy who also designed military hardware for them. :-O

  6. Nev Silver badge

    Flower vase and eye-lashes option?

    What, no flower vase on the dash?

    And does it come with the headlight eye-lashes that many around here like to fit on the old version?

  7. Esskay

    Not a bad looking car, they've done a much better job of capturing the original than they did with the last one, particularly with that roofline... but unfortunately, it's going to be sold in the same showroom as the Golf and the Polo.

    Essentially being a (soon to be superceded) Golf with contrived interior space due to the styling, you'd have to be a really massive beetle fan (or a really massive wanker, depending on perspective) to try both and still choose the Beetle. Even if you convince yourself you can live without the space, you then have to justify to yourself that it's worth more than a Polo - despite the fact that the smaller, cheaper to buy, cheaper to run, (presumably) cheaper to insure, less wank-ish & better handling Polo also comes with an extra seat in the back.

    Also the imitation sidestep on the bottom of the doors look pants.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ah! I wondered what that was

      Thanks for pointing that out. It looks kind of useless, though. A friend had one in high school, and the running board was perfect as a shelf for beer and and ashtray.

  8. jai


    When i saw it on the teaser trailer on tv, i really liked the look of it

    But in these pictures, not so much, it's too big and fat in the rear. is the one on the advert a top-of-range model with something different about the bodykit?

    So I'll be sticking with BMW Minis then.

    1. Git

      Re: weird

      I have to agree about the rear end - it looks really cumbersome. It's a benefit to interior space and comfort but at the expense of looks. Just shows how difficult it is to produce a "lifetyle" product.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: weird

        It's a hell of a lot nicer looking than the last abomination attempt. But, as you say, the back looks wrong. It seems to be riding higher than the front, and seems a bit too long, and not quite curvy enough - I guess to get a bigger boot.

        I still think the Fiat 500 wins hands-down though. It's not horrifically expensive and looks great. The problem with doing a reboot of the Mini and the Beetle is that they were both supposed to be cheap cars for the masses, and now they're premium 'lifestyle' products.

        The other big problem is that modern safety systems, not to mention modern lard-arses, require cars to be so much bigger. I guess that's worst for the Mini, which simply isn't, because of the name. But the Fiat is also huge, compared to the old 500, and it doesn't look wrong, in the way the Mini does.

      2. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: weird

        I think the rear end looks crap because it doesn't really have a bumper. That integrated thing is an atrocity, and even a little fake plastic chrome thing would look a lot better.

  9. Robert Grant

    I like the retro phrases you've used in the review

    Nice touch :)

  10. MJI Silver badge

    Can't drop a 911 lump in

    Now this was a good thing about the original one, the engine choices.

    911 flat 6 anyone?

    1. VWDan

      Re: Can't drop a 911 lump in

      Don't feel bad, you couldn't drop a 911 lump into the original one, either.

      (Well, you could, in the same way that you could fit a Spitfire engine to one if you really wanted to and had the time, skills, resources etc.)

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Can't drop a 911 lump in

        They mid engined them

        Anyway you can fit a Subaru engine as well

        1. VWDan

          Re: Can't drop a 911 lump in

          Who is "they"? I'm sure there are Beetles around with 911 engines in*, but I doubt there is many and I doubt there ever was many. That's an absolutely huge undertaking.

          The Suburua engines you're thinking of are Flat 4, which is miles apart.

          *I say this because, like I said in my previous post, anything is possible. I've even seen a Dodge Viper powered split screen camper van.

  11. elaar

    The new mini (in any form) has had its image completely ruined, as it has been bought and driven mainly by annoying little (daddies) girls.

    I quite like the look of the new beetle (much more so than the previous new beetle), however, the performance sounds pretty shocking for a new car.

    My Golf TDI has better 0-60 performance and averages 60mpg per tank. Why such a lousy engine in a new car?

  12. RedRichie
    Thumb Down

    The previous Beetle was UGLY...

    ...and this one is even uglier.

  13. stu 4


    I don't think I have ever seen a bloke driving a new Beetle. ever.

    1. Armando 123

      Re: bloke

      Well, at least not one who uses power tools and likes sports, ifyaknowwhatimean

  14. Arrrggghh-otron

    Why the hate for the last version?

    My first car was the 1970 1200 Beetle. I still have it and thanks to lowered suspension and wider alloys, is as much fun to drive as a go-kart. (I would also add that it is about as much fun to drive in winter as a go-kart due to the feeble heating - I blame the after market heat exchangers - when it was all original VW parts the heating vent would be hot enough to burn my foot!).

    Mrs Arrrggghh-otron bought a 'new' beetle 12 years ago, we still have it, and I have to say that it has been great as a daily driver (it too has uprated suspension as the original was a bit sloppy). I still don't like the look of the arse end and the head room in the back is awful, but those are my only complaints, neither of which really affect me.

    I do like the look of the new new beetle in profile, looks much more like the trusty 1200 but the arse end is still a bit weird in these photos - anyone else see the resemblance to a Volvo?

    I reserve judgement until I see one in the flesh.

    1. Richard 116
      Thumb Up

      Re: Why the hate for the last version?

      Thumb up for keeping another 1200 on the road.

      And I saw one of these new ones in Tenerife last week. It does look a little awkward but maybe that's because we're so used to the old 'new' one.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And its still FUGLY!

  16. tomartinh

    Better than before, although like all VWs in order to have one you have to deal with a VW dealership it's at that point any desire for a VW completely evaporates. I rate VW sales in the UK as the most arrogant and lazy bunch in an industry which has more than it's fair share of this.

  17. Prof Denzil Dexter

    perfect for some Gay Abandon


  18. /dev/null


    So the A4 (or PQ34 as VW Group call it now) platform was "dull and wretched", but the A5 (or PQ35) platform is "a country mile better". In terms of dynamics, the main difference between the two was the rear suspension - torsion beam on the former, multi-link on the latter. Interestingly, the New New Beetle only gets the PQ35 rear suspension on the 2.0 TSI model. What do the lesser variants have? You guessed it, torsion beam!

    As for the "daft rear spoiler", I don't think that back end is going to generate much downforce by itself, so I think I'd rather have one, thanks. Anybody remember the hasty recall of the original, spoiler-less Audi TT?

  19. Richard Cartledge

    £18k for that!

    The interior looks very basic.

    I like the wheels though.

  20. James Hughes 1


    I get nearly that from my 10 year old, 190K miles Honda Civic 1.6!! That's similar horsepower (109 I think).

    What's going on?

  21. xyz

    It looks like a Crysler Crossfire that got squished

    and that was one ugly MF to start with. Oh and to the guy who dislikes the original Fiat Multipla, I still think it looks cool.

  22. Martin

    And next week on Top Gear...

    Jeremy Clarkson reviews the iPad 4.

    Come on Reg. Car reviews? Yes, OK, review electric cars and hybrids - they are interesting and possibly future technology. But ordinary, normal, nothing-all-that-exciting-about-them cars?

  23. Vortigern
    IT Angle

    ooh, I actually like the looks.

    But still... the engine is in the wrong place!

    I agree with the poster above though that this seems just like a plain car review and not done from the techie angle I'd expect from el'reg.

  24. RainForestGuppy

    Not a beetle

    If you open the boot (hatch) at the rear do you find an engine? No. Then it's not a beetle.

  25. The New Turtle

    These comments are funny, though a little sad. I wonder which of the Astra drivers reviewing cars from their desks have ever sat in the '98 version or will sit in (let alone drive) one of these.

    I like the look of this one, and it's a car that I feel I could drive without embarrassment, where as the last one was so obviously a womans car. As for heritage, this one definitely has an early Porsche look to it, where as the older 'new' beetle was much more faithful to the later versions of the original beetle.

    Thank goodness for cars that aren't all identical tin jelly moulds, painted silver and grey.

    GO! seems most appropriate for a car review.


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