It's quite the balancing act to create a new car that pays homage to an iconic model while still staying modern enough to be relevant in today's market. Yet the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle manages to confidently walk that tightrope without so much as a wobble, appealing to old hippies and young hipsters alike, not to mention plenty of folks in between.
Completely redesigned last year (after the "New Beetle" had long since wore out its name), the latest version of the Beetle is based as before on the Golf, only it resembles a New Beetle that's been squashed from above, like a hot-rod VW of the 1960s. Indeed, the latest car has a more classic look to it, but also provides more legroom, a bigger trunk and a more natural driving position. The upright dashboard has an available, secondary drop-down glovebox (just like the original Beetle) and it is color-keyed to the exterior for a welcome splash of personality.
For 2013, a convertible body style and a fuel-sipping turbocharged diesel ("TDI") engine join the model line. The convertible will no doubt appeal to sun lovers, since the fabric roof can be lowered in just 10 seconds. The TDI, meanwhile, has the same turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel engine found in the Golf and Jetta and earns an impressive EPA estimate of 41 mpg highway.
With the addition of the TDI, there are now three flavors of Beetle to choose from. The base 2.5L handles and rides well, but its five-cylinder engine is rather blasé 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. And, of course, for those seeking max fuel efficiency the TDI delivers with its respectable performance and meager thirst.
All told, the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle is a surprisingly well-rounded small car. It may not be as functional as some other small (and less expensive) cars such as the Ford Focus or the Volkswagen Golf, but compared to other high-fashion compacts like the Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper, it's no contest, as the Beetle boasts a backseat and trunk that are actually usable. If you're looking for a small coupe or convertible that provides equal amounts of style and function, the Volkswagen Beetle should be a great pick.
The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle is a four-passenger, two-door hatchback available in three main trim levels that denote the engine: Beetle 2.5L (2.5-liter gasoline), Beetle Turbo (turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline) and Beetle TDI (turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel). For now, only the two-door hatchback is offered, but a convertible version will debut later in the model year.
The Beetle 2.5L comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, heated windshield-washer nozzles, heated mirrors, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated and height-adjustable front seats (with lumbar adjustment), leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a trip computer and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Sunroof package adds a panoramic sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, a multifunction steering wheel, a front center armrest, an upgraded trip computer, satellite radio, a touchscreen audio interface and a six-CD changer. The Sunroof, Sound & Navigation package includes the above plus 18-inch wheels, a navigation system and a premium Fender audio system with a subwoofer.
The Beetle Turbo additions to the Beetle 2.5L's equipment include 18-inch wheels, foglights, a rear spoiler, a sport-tuned suspension, sport seats, Turbo-specific cloth upholstery and alloy pedals. The Sunroof and Sound package adds the same items as the 2.5L's Sunroof package along with the Fender audio system and shift paddles (when equipped with the DSG transmission). The Turbo's Sunroof, Sound and Navigation System adds a navigation system to the above package along with leather upholstery. Bi-xenon headlamps and 19-inch wheels can be added to this package.
The Beetle TDI includes the 2.5L's standard equipment along with satellite radio. It similarly offers the 2.5L's optional Sunroof and Sunroof, Sound & Navigation packages.
Later in the model year, the Beetle Fender edition will debut as an option for the 2.5L and Turbo. This package includes unique styling tweaks that include Deep Black metallic paint, brushed-chrome outside mirrors, 18-inch "Disc" wheels, bi-xenon headlights and a "sunburst" dashboard scheme that echoes the finish seen on many of Fender's famous guitars.
The 2013 VW Beetle has a cabin that draws design inspiration from the original flower-power model, yet includes the same features, controls and construction as modern Volkswagens. The trim that runs across the dash and doors can be painted the same color as the exterior just as in old Bugs, while the Turbo gets secondary dash-top gauges and available two-tone seats.
It's a pretty cool passenger environment, and unlike a Mini Cooper, it doesn't suffer for its coolness with head-scratching and/or frustrating ergonomics. The optional navigation system is easy to use, though its small screen limits usefulness. The premium Fender sound system, on the other hand, is well worth the extra cost and provides impressive sound quality.
Despite its seemingly low roof line, the Beetle still provides plenty of room for tall drivers. The backseat is also fairly spacious, though not as roomy as the related Volkswagen Golf. The 15.4-cubic-foot trunk is actually bigger than the Golf's with the 50/50 split-folding seats raised, though if you lower them, the Beetle only provides 29.9 cubes of maximum space versus the Golf's 46 cubes.
Powering the Beetle 2.5L is a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Every Beetle is front-wheel drive. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a six-speed automatic transmission is optional. In Edmunds testing, a Beetle 2.5L with the automatic went from zero to 60 mph in 9 seconds -- about average for an automatic compact. Estimated EPA fuel economy is 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined with the automatic and 22/31/25 with the manual, which represent mediocre performance for a car this size.
The Beetle Turbo gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard and a six-speed automated manual (known as DSG) is optional. In Edmunds performance testing, the Beetle Turbo with DSG went from zero to 60 mph in a quick 6.6 seconds. Fuel economy is actually better than the base five-cylinder at 22/30/25 with the automatic and 21/30/24 with the manual. Both the 2.5L and the Turbo can be had as partial-zero-emissions vehicles (PZEV) certified in states with California emissions standards.
A 2.0-liter turbodiesel with 140 hp and 236 lb-ft powers the Beetle TDI and as with the Turbo, buyers can choose between a six-speed manual and the six-speed DSG. Fuel economy estimates stand at 28/41/32 for the manual and 29/39/32 for the DSG.
How the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle drives largely depends on the engine you choose. The base five-cylinder is respectably powerful, but it sounds unrefined and gets disappointing fuel economy. The Beetle Turbo, on the other hand, has plenty of punch, sounds great and gets better mileage than the disappointing base engine. As with other Volkswagen diesel models, the Beetle TDI provides plenty of low-end grunt and ample passing/merging power along with stellar fuel economy.
The six-speed manual is quite possibly the most easily shifted do-it-yourself transmission around, while the sophisticated DSG gearbox is a nice compromise for those who want the simplicity of an automatic with the performance and control of a manual. However, throttle response with the DSG can be frustratingly slow when left in the normal drive mode.
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. Even the Turbo's optional sport suspension shrugs off bumps and ruts in the road. You can still feel every imperfection, but there's no harshness to speak of. Road noise is reduced to a hollow rumbling, yet isn't intrusive. All things considered, the Beetle makes for a decent choice for a long-distance road trip.
Every 2013 Volkswagen Beetle comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, a Beetle Turbo with 18-inch wheels came to a stop in 129 feet -- disappointing for a sporty small car. Surprisingly, a regular 2.5 model stopped in 122 feet -- a bit better than average.
In government crash tests, the Beetle received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars awarded for overall frontal protection and five stars for overall side-impact protection.
For 2013, the Volkswagen Beetle lineup receives some new additions. A turbocharged diesel engine debuts, and it carries an EPA highway rating of an impressive 41 mpg. A soft-top convertible version of the Beetle is also new this year. Finally, there's a new Fender-signature version that sports a dash treatment inspired by the finish seen on the company's popular guitars.