Volkswagen Beetle

The Essentials

  • Price from £19,605
  • What Car? says: 3 star rating
  • Fuel economy: up to 42.8mpg
  • What is it? You buy the Beetle for its retro styling; without it, the cramped rear seats and irritating low-speed ride would probably make you look elsewhere.

Great

  • The styling has plenty of retro appeal
  • There's are some good engines to choose from
  • There's plenty of space for front occupants

Gripes

  • The rear seats are cramped - and seat only two
  • The low-speed ride is unsettled
  • The interior feels disappointingly cheap
  • Drive

    Vague steering but at least there's plenty of grip and some decent engines to choose from

  • Inside

    Easy-to-use dashboard controls let down by some disappointing cabin plastics

  • Safety

    Plenty of kit to keep you safe

  • Reliability

    The oily bits are proven, but VW's record has been on the slide slightly

  • Space

    Not much space in the two back seats, but at least the boot is a reasonable size

  • Standard and extras

    You'll have few complaints here

  • What's it like to drive?

    The cheapest engine is a 1.2 TSI which has decent power across the gears; next in the petrol line-up is a turbo- and supercharged 1.4 TSI. This has plenty of pace but there are some awkward surges in the power delivery. There's also a 2.0 TSI that's as quick as a hot-hatch when revved. This version also benefits from the same suspension parts used in the Golf GTI, and they help the car stay reasonably sharp in bends. The other models, including a 1.6 diesel and a muscular 2.0 diesel, aren't as composed. The low-speed ride is firm in all models, and the steering is quite heavy and slow to react. The Beetle is generally refined, even though the doors generate quite a bit of wind noise. The manual gearbox is quite notchy, too, and although the DSG is generally smooth, it can be a bit jerky at low speeds.

  • What's it like inside?

    The Beetle's dashboard has been inspired by the original's, which means it's taller and more upright than in most modern cars. You can go even further with the retro vibe and have the dash painted the same colour as the car.
    VW has stuck with modern controls and switches, however, so they feel reassuringly weighty, while the dash layout is clear and easy to use. It's a shame that the interior feels a bit cheap, with lots of hard plastics that feel easy to scratch.
    There's plenty of room for passengers of all sizes up front, but the two back seats are cramped. At 310 litres the boot is almost as big as a Golf's, but the sloped bootlid makes it difficult to carry tall items.

  • How reliable is it?

    The Beetle shares most of its mechanical parts with the Golf, so its reliability should be pretty good although VW came joint 20th out of 36 manufacturers in What Car?'s latest reliability survey. The Beetle received a five-star rating from Euro NCAP, and comes with safety features including electronic stability control and six airbags. An alarm, deadlocks and marked parts help protect it against theft.

  • Should I buy one?

    The Beetle isn't cheap to buy and dealers won't be giving very big discounts. What's more, such distinctive styling will limit the car's appeal, so it's unlikely to retain much of its original value after three years. On the plus side, insurance rates are affordable and fuel consumption on most models is pretty reasonable.