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2013 Volkswagen Beetle Road Test & Review

Lyndon Bell
by Lyndon Bell
March 7, 2013
7 min. Reading Time

The new Beetle is no longer a New Beetle.

In fact, the New Beetle is now the old Beetle. When VW reworked the New Beetle for the 2012 model year, the marketing team dropped the word ”New” from the model’s name. Thus, the current Beetle is not a New Beetle, but the old Beetle is still a New Beetle.

With the emergence of a newly revised Beetle came the inevitable criticism of the 1998 – 2011 Volkswagen New Beetle. It’s a remarkable phenomenon. When a car as iconic as the New Beetle was upon its introduction in 1998 is new, the praise heaped upon it is near infinite.

Then, when its succeeding model sees the light of day, in this case, the third generation Beetle broke cover, many reviewers, rushing to heap praise upon the GEN3 car, decried the GEN2 car as not true enough conceptually to the GEN1 (Type 1) car, too effeminate, and too “round” (whatever that means — it’s a BEETLE for Chrissakes).

It’s human nature I guess, but frankly, people should go back and read their original fawning reviews before trashing the predecessor to deify the successor.

After all, eight or so years from now when VW replaces this one, well…

But hey, that’s just my opinion—here are the facts.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Road Test & Review: Models & Prices

Basically, there are three models of the 2013 Beetle Coupe, each delineated by their engine (2.5L Beetle, diesel powered Beetle TDI, & Beetle Turbo). However, within each model there are also trim designations, determined by the major equipment group the model carries.

With that said…

Pricing for the 2013 Beetle starts at $19,995 for the base 2.5L Beetle with a manual transmission ($21,095 with an automatic). The next rung up the pricing ladder is the $22,595 2.5L manual Beetle w/Sunroof ($23,695 with an automatic). The 2.5L Beetle Fender Edition with a manual transmission starts at $24,120 ($25,220 with an automatic). A manual transmission 2.5L Beetle w/Sunroof, Sound and Navigation starts at $24,395 ($25,495 with an automatic transmission)

Beetle TDI starts at $23,495 with a manual transmission ($24,595 with an automatic). A manual Beetle TDI with Sunroof starts at $25,195 ($26,295 with an automatic). A manual Beetle TDI with Sunroof, Sound and navigation comes in at $26,545 ($27,645 with an automatic).

The base 2.0T Beetle Turbo with a manual transmission starts at $23,695 ($24,795 with an automatic). The 2.0T Beetle Turbo with a manual transmission, as well as Sunroof and Sound starts at $26,595 ($27,695 with and automatic). Beetle Turbo Fender Edition starts at $27,810 with a manual ($28,910 with an automatic). And finally, Beetle Turbo with Sunroof, Sound and Navigation starts at $29,200 when equipped with a manual transmission ($30,300 with an automatic).

VW’s $795 destination and handling charge should be added to those prices.

Volkswagen’s product planners made a concerted effort to make ordering a Beetle as simple as possible. Thus, the cars come pretty much preconfigured. Basically, all you have to decide is which engine you want, your transmission preference, what color, and whether you want a sunroof, an upgraded sound system, and/or a navigation system.

Of course, this means in order to get the upgraded sound system, you also have to get the sunroof, and to get the navigation system, you also have to get the sunroof and the upgraded audio system.

But hey, when all’s said and done, you’ll have a really nicely configured Beetle if you go for it all.


2013 Volkswagen Beetle Road Test & Review: Design

Proportionally, the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle is, in fact, closer to the lines of the original car than the 1998 New Beetle was. Where three semi-circles characterized that design, this new design relies more upon semi-ovals. The roof is flatter, the nose is longer, the windshield is more upright and the overall proportions of the car are larger and more muscular than the New Beetle it replaces.

About the design, Volkswagen brand design chief Klaus Bischoff says;

“The Beetle is now characterized by a clean, self-confident and dominant sportiness. The car not only has a lower profile; it is also substantially wider, the front hood is longer, the front windshield is shifted farther back and has a much steeper incline. All of this creates a new dynamism.”

If, by a “new dynamism” he means the car looks more “butch” than “girly” he’s absolutely correct. The fact the car looks more aggressive than its forebear is not up for debate. It absolutely does, particularly when configured in Turbo livery with the optional 19-inch wheel and the integrated tail spoiler. The standard wheel for the Turbo is 18-inches, the base 2.5L car gets a 17-inch tire mount.

For those of you enamored with numbers: The 2013 Beetle is 71.2 inches wide (3.3 inches wider than the New Beetle), 58.5 inches tall (0.5 inch lower) and 168.4 inches long (6.0 inches longer).


2013 Volkswagen Beetle Road Test & Review: Comfort & Cargo

If you get a Beetle Turbo w/ Sunroof, Sound & Navigation, your seats will be upholstered in leather; any other Turbo leaves you perched on cloth. If you go 2.5L you’ll sit either on cloth, or Volkswagen’s “Leatherette” vinyl—if you get Sunroof & Sound, or Sunroof Sound & Navigation. It’s a high-grade material though, so most occupants will assume it is leather, unless they’re told otherwise.

Over the road, in your day-to-day back and forth, the Beetle is remarkably comfortable. Everything is where you expect it to be control-wise and you pretty much feel at home driving it right away.

The Beetle’s trunk is quite large, offering 15.4 cubic feet of space. With the seats folded, that capacity increases to 29.9 cubic feet. By the way, the Beetle now features a split-folding rear seat, which when combined with the wide opening trunk lid eases loading and unloading considerably.


2013 Volkswagen Beetle Road Test & Review: Features & Controls

Behind the steering wheel, the Beetle pilot faces three round gauges containing the tachometer, speedometer, and fuel gauge. Housed within the centrally mounted speedometer is a multifunction display offering (depending upon how your Beetle is equipped), trip, entertainment system, and/or navigation system readouts.

The dash, upper door panels and even the steering wheel bring the exterior color of the Beetle inside the car and the Turbo adds a pod of three gauges to the top of the dash for monitoring oil, water and the electrical system. Another Turbo touch is brushed aluminum pedals with rubber inserts.

Regardless of the Beetle model you choose, you’ll get power windows, Bluetooth hands-free calling for your phone and an iPod interface. As you move up in the trim levels, you’ll add things like a leather wrapped multifunction steering wheel, keyless access with push-button start, and the aforementioned multifunction trip computer.

The “sound” portion of the Sunroof, Sound & Navigation package comes courtesy of Fender audio. While Fender is probably best known for its line of electric guitars and amplifiers, it turns out the company makes a darn good car audio system too. The Fender Edition Beetle models are essentially Beetles with Sunroof and Sound, but no navigation as Fender supplies the audio systems for those models too.


2013 Volkswagen Beetle Road Test & Review: : Engine/Fuel Economy

Any Beetle dubbed 2.5L houses Volkswagen’s 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine producing 177 ft-lbs of torque. Volkswagen pairs its six-speed automatic transmission with this engine as an option. A five-speed manual transmission is the standard offering. Fuel economy is quoted at 22-city/29-hwy with the automatic and 22/31with the manual.

A Beetle with Turbo written across its butt (assuming it came that way from the factory) is rocking a 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine, generating 207 ft-lbs of torque. Transmission choices here are six-speed manual and six-speed direct shift gearbox (DSG) semi-automatic. With the six-speed manual VW says you can expect 21-city/30-hwy. Fuel economy figures are 22-city/30-hwy with the DSG.

The TDI uses a 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder diesel, generating 236 ft-lbs of torque, which makes it the quickest Beetle of all—off the line. Transmission choices are the six-speed manual or the six-speed DSG. Fuel economy is 28-city/41-hwy with the manual and 28/38 with the automatic

All Beetles are front-wheel drive.


2013 Volkswagen Beetle Road Test & Review: Driving Impressions

We tested both the Beetle 2.5L and the Beetle Turbo. The steering wheel feels good in your hands, the automatic transmissions (both conventional and DSG) shift crisply, are pretty much always in the right gear and left to their own devices, will satisfy nearly every driver.

When sharp changes of direction are called for, the Beetle responds obediently with just a trace of understeer to reassure you it will catch you if things go awry. The way Volkswagen cars steer always pleases us. The accuracy is quite remarkable and the transitions from to left to right and back again when faced with a brace of repetitive switchbacks are tremendously satisfying. Engendering this even more is the fact the car is quite agile, particularly when equipped with the Turbo’s go faster gear. While that is to be expected, even the standard Beetle provides an entertaining drive on meandering country roads.

The manual transmissions continue Volkswagen’s tradition of feeling as though their components are made of rubber rather than steel. Crispness is not a word we’d use to describe the tactile response these gearboxes return in use. Clutch action is superb though, and even with the 177 ft-lb inline five, setting the car into motion is relatively easy.

Ride quality is good in all city situations, the Turbo, of course, rides a bit more firmly—but not so much so as to introduce discomfort or fatigue over long drives. What you pick up in agility makes the additional harshness it introduces (and we mean harshness comparatively, not critically) a justifiable price.

Braking with both engines is good, though the pedal could be a bit firmer for our tastes. While we didn’t really stress the braking system, it felt as if it’d be under strain if used vigorously for an extended period. Road noise is pleasantly subdued in the 2.5 models and as you’d expect, a bit more pronounced in the Turbo cars with their larger wheels and lower profile tires.


2013 Volkswagen Beetle Road Test & Review: Safety Equipment

Ultra-high-strength, hot-formed steels are employed in the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle’s crash-load paths, along with seamless laser welds. Traction Control and Electronic Stability Control are standard, as are driver and front passenger airbags, along with Side Curtain Protection airbags in the front and rear.

The Beetle’s Intelligent Crash Response System will shut off the fuel pump, unlock the doors, and switch on the hazard lights if you hit something really hard (or if something hits you really hard). The IIHS rated the Beetle “Good” in frontal offset, rear and roof strength crash tests. NHTSA gave the Beetle five stars in side impact tests and four stars in rollover tests.


2013 Volkswagen Beetle Road Test & Review: Final Thoughts

Very few cars command their place in the consciousness of the motoring public the way the Volkswagen Beetle does. With over 21 million copies of the original Beetle built, nearly everyone on earth living in a nation with roads has seen, ridden in, or driven a Beetle.

When the “New” Beetle came along in 1998, it created an instant sensation. As is often the case with sensations though, people become numb to them after a while. With this replacement for the New Beetle, Volkswagen is trying to get back closer to the root of the original car—in terms of its looks and hopefully reawaken that enthusiasm once again.

The new car is handsome, nicely equipped and drives well. But wait, there’s more!  Volkswagen’s no-charge Carefree Maintenance Program includes all scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles, whichever occurs first.


2013 Volkswagen Beetle Road Test & Review: Pros & Cons

• Spacious interior

• Lots of standard features

• Available diesel power

• Nicely combines style and functionality

• Upper level models a bit pricey

• Performance with base engine adequate, if not exactly thrilling



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