The New Beetle

Our impressions after owning one

Background

The New Beetle dates back to 1995, when Volkswagen announced that the concept Beetle it displayed at the 1994 Detroit Motor Show would go into production. It initially went on sale in the United States in early 1998, finally arriving here in Australia in January 2000. There were around 2,000 cars brought into Australia in 2000. The Beetle Exchange owned a New Beetle for a while: here are our impressions, together with some links to web resources.

The car

The New Beetle is made in Mexico and we can report that the fit and finish is excellent. Interestingly, despite lower Mexican manufacturing costs the car is more expensive than the German made Golf, on which it is substantially based. It has the Golf’s 2 litre, water cooled four cylinder engine in the front – the complete opposite of the original Beetle. The motor delivers 85kw of power and 170nm of torque. We’ve found that it delivers its power smoothly across the range with pretty good pulling power down low. Ours was the 5 speed manual and there is an optional 4 speed ‘smart automatic’. Steering is power assisted and has a feel similar to other new Volkswagens. Brakes are anti-lock discs, again, with a typical Volkswagen feel.

Images of the New Beetle.

Inside the car is very comfortable indeed. Customers and passers by often commented on how appealing the interior of our car was. Storage areas in the New Beetle are plentiful, with cup holders, mesh pockets and a centre console. The interior is a nice mixture of modern retro features and familiar Beetle items such as the grab handles on the door pillars, oval rear view mirror and the single instrument panel which incorporates the speedometer, tachometer and petrol gauge. The height adjustable front bucket seats are excellent while the rear seating is really only suitable for kids, a fact that has attracted criticism from some journalists. We find this a little strange: the car is a two door Beetle after all.

How much?

When we bought ours, the base price was $36,990. Standard equipment included air conditioning, power steering, 6 speaker stereo system with CD player, electric windows and mirrors, lit vanity mirrors, floor mats, cup holders and a vase on the dashboard! Safety features include dual front air bags, side impact bags, pre-tensioning seat belts, electronic traction control and anti-lock brakes, as noted above. The car has recorded good crash test results in Europe. An engine immobiliser with remote central locking is fitted and the warranty is three years/60,000km. When first released here if you ticked all the boxes on the option sheet the price reached nearly $45,000, with 4 speed auto ($2,100), leather package ($2,340), electric sunroof ($1,890), pearl or metallic paint ($650) and 17 inch alloys (around $3,000). Now the price has dropped somewhat, with various deals offered on 16" alloys, reducing the price to just over the $40,000 mark.

What did the press say?

Much has been written in the Australian press about the New Beetle since its launch here in January 2000. Many of these articles are available on the web - a good source is the Fairfax motoring site drive.com.au. Here you will find detailed specifications and road tests as well as articles archived from the motoring sections of the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Sun Herald. Just type ‘beetle’ into the news search facility. Autoweb also has an archive of Volkswagen articles, including one on the sports version of the New Beetle, featuring Volkswagen’s 1.8 turbo engine. The engine in the New Beetle turbo produces 110kw of power and achieves its maximum torque of 220nm at 2200 - 4200 rpm.

For the official view, the Volkswagen Australia site is very good. It has detailed specifications, an image gallery and colour matching section showing exterior/interior options. You can also download New Beetle wallpaper, a screensaver and videos here. Overseas, the Volkswagen America site, as you’d expect, has a great deal of material on the New Beetle (and all other Volkswagen models). New Beetle.org is the ‘ultimate resource for the New Beetle enthusiast’. Interested in what buyers think of the New Beetle? You can read the opinions of American owners at the US site Epinions.com. They make an interesting contrast to some of the motoring press - these people love their New Beetle (mind you, it’s a $16,000 car in the US).