2014 Volkswagen Beetle Review

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Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
August 15, 2014

The 2014 Volkswagen Beetle ranges from green to sporty, all the while wearing a dapper take on its classic lines.

The 2014 Volkswagen Beetle still seems fresh, though it's now in the third year of a redesign from the ground up that gave it far more universal appeal and took it out of the "cute" ghetto into a more stylish--if hardly mainstream--place. While there's a clear stylistic nod to the past, it's not a corny tribute but a thoroughly modern car that incorporates key elements of the old car's esthetic into a design that marries old with new. The Beetle is now a style statement, no longer the practical, simple car for workers that it started as. But it's still instantly recognizable as a Beetle.

Sold as both a coupe and a convertible, the Beetle is changing up its powertrain lineup in 2014. The Beetle started the 2014 model year with a 2.5-liter five-cylinder in the base model, but Volkswagen has replaced this engine with a new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.

Wanting to lure in more male buyers, the latest Beetle's look has grown more masculine, especially with the lower, flatter roofline and more upright windshield.  At the same time, it's modern, but not in a trendy way. This shape, with its simple but shapely details, should hold up over the years.

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Inside, the design clean and flowing, with rounded rectangles and circles the major themes. Controls are simple, both on the wheel and in the center stack. For both the inside and the outside, throwback looks from the '50s, '60s, and '70s are available, as is a special-edition Fender model.

The 2.5-liter five-cylinder rated 170 horsepower and up to 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway; VW rates the new 1.8-liter turbo at 170 horsepower as well. The new turbo four-cylinder boosts gas mileage by 16 percent, however, according to VW. For the best mileage, there's the Beetle TDI Clean Diesel (yes, that's its full name), scoring 28 and 41 mpg city/highway. 

For those who like a little more punch, the 2014 Beetle R-Line offers 210 horsepower from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The R-Line replaces the Beetle Turbo for the 2014 model year. Most Beetles are available with a choice of five- or six-speed manual or six-speed automatic or dual-clutch automatic transmissions.

Another addition for 2014 is the Beetle GSR. VW is limiting sales to 3,500 GSRs in total, each wearing a unique interior and exterior color theme and receiving special equipment. The Beetle GSR uses the same powertrain as the Beetle R-Line.

Comfortable and spacious (up front), though not all that quiet, the 2014 VW Beetle's cabin is well-laid out and handsome. Passengers up front have plenty of leg, head, and hip room in both the coupe and convertible. In hardtops, trunk space is pretty good; even in convertibles, not much space is lost to the collapsible wind deflector stowed against the top of the trunk.

USB, Bluetooth, and upgradeable audio systems are available in all Beetle models, while special themed trim lines offers the styles of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, both inside and out. Available tech and equipment upgrades include: navigation, sunroof (coupe models), and VW's new Car-Net connectivity system.

In 2015, Volkswagen admitted diesel engines in this model illegally cheated federal tests and polluted beyond allowable limits. As part of unprecedented settlements with federal and state governments, Volkswagen agreed to buyback from owners diesel-equipped models of this vehicle. To determine eligibility for all affected Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi models, Volkswagen set up VWDieselInfo.com for owners. (Owners of affected vehicles can enter their VIN numbers to see if their cars are eligible for buyback.)

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2014 Volkswagen Beetle

Styling

With a manlier look and a convertible variant, the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle is the right blend of modern and classic.

Much has been made of the more masculine look of the newest car to wear the Beetle name, but in truth, it's just a bit more gender-neutral than the very cute, but also predominantly woman-owned New Beetle.

However you care to draw the lines, however, the lines of the Beetle itself are clearly attractive. Simple, straightforward, with a classic quality that hints at future timelessness, the Beetle's flattened arches and subtle flares could only fit one car. The interior of the Beetle is simple and useful, a nod to its classic predecessor, while incorporating all of the modern digital tech you'd want.

For those with a taste for the look of the Beetle in the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s, Volkswagen has some ready-made trim lines to evoke the spirit of each decade. The '50s model in particular is compellingly simple and clean in its aesthetic.

The new Beetle GSR model adds its own visual punch, with a black-and-yellow theme inside and out making for a sporty, eye-catching look.

7

2014 Volkswagen Beetle

Performance

The 2014 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line retains its turbo thrust, while the new GSR adds some visual flair.

Never quite slow, but not really quick either, even in R-Line trim, the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle seeks a performance balance and nearly finds it.

The 2014 model year will be an odd one for Beetle buyers: the first portion of the model year saw the 170-horsepower 2.5-liter five-cylinder as the base engine, only to be replaced by a new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, also rated at 170 horsepower, but with 16 percent greater efficiency. Slightly greater torque, available at lower rpm, could improve the driving experience over the somewhat pokey 2.5-liter.

Step up to the Beetle R-Line, which replaces the Beetle Turbo for 2014, and you'll get a 210-horsepower, 207-pound-foot 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.

The extra power gives the R-Line noticeable pep and passing ability, but it still isn't quite what you'd call quick, despite the relatively light 3,042-pound curb weight of the manual-equipped car.

In either form, the Beetle is comfortable and soft-seeming under normal conditions, but manages to corner well, with no undue body roll in more spirited outings. None of the controls--steering and brakes especially--offer much in the way of communication with the driver, however.

Convertible models are a bit less rigid and a touch heavier, but the experience isn't significantly changed--unless you put the top down. Then the Beetle's easy-going attitude makes even more sense.

The most Beetle-feeling Beetle might be the TDI Clean Diesel, however. With only 140 horsepower, you might think it's the slowest of the bunch, but its 236 pound-feet of torque boost the fun factor. A shorter rev range and slight lag from the 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder are overcome by the torque of the diesel, making third gear a highly tractable back-road companion.

Whichever Beetle you're after, they share a common sense of fun and simplicity behind the wheel that's refreshing--even when packing a turbocharger and a dual-clutch transmission.

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2014 Volkswagen Beetle

Comfort & Quality

There's plenty of head and leg room in the 2014 Beetle's front row, but the back seat and trunk come up a bit short.

The 2014 Beetle and Beetle Convertible offer two very different driving experiences, but are surprisingly similar in other respects.

Up front, the Beetle is roomy and comfortable. Head, leg, and hip room are good in both hardtop and convertible models. Flat-bottomed, not-too-soft seats are easy to sit in for long drives, even in the slightly more bolstered R-Line and GSR. Controls for the seats, as well as the climate control and infotainment, are within easy reach for both driver and passenger.

The back row isn't as spacious. That is to say, it's not spacious at all, both narrower and far shorter than the front row. Leg room is largely non-existent with the front seats in normal positions, making the Beetle a part-time four-seater at best. The rear seats do make for a handy place to put things, however.

A power-folding soft top keeps the Beetle Convertible quiet as well as dry when up, retracting smoothly to the open position in 9.5 seconds and closing in 11 seconds. The top will operate at speeds up to 31 mph.

The Convertible also gets a detachable wind guard that stows in the trunk and installs over the rear seats--no plus-two action allowed with the guard in place. The guard is effective, reducing wind buffeting and noise, but it tends to wobble and vibrate in the wind.

Elsewhere in the cabin, there are many small nooks available to stow smaller items: the glove box, a dish on the dash, a bin ahead of the shifter, an armrest bin, and a kaeferfach box. Despite the multitude of boxes and bins, each is relatively compact, limiting the length or thickness of items which can be stowed.

The trunk is 15.4 cubic feet, a fair figure for a fairly compact car. With the Beetle Convertible you'll give up a bit of that space to stow the detachable wind guard, which stows against the upper side of the trunk. The rear seats in hardtop Beetles lay  flat, expanding the cargo capacity to nearly 30 cubic feet; Convertibles get a pass-through between the rear seats.

American Beetles get slightly thinner glass than their European counterparts, and are therefore noisier--enough to be on the noisy side of comfortable at times. Wind, tire, and engine noise (especially in R-Line models) all contribute to the roar.

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2014 Volkswagen Beetle

Safety

The 2014 Beetle performs well in NHTSA testing, and comes with a good set of standard safety equipment.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rates the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle (hardtop) at five stars overall, with four-star front and rollover ratings. Those are high marks, and indicative of the Beetle's structural soundness.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has also given the 2014 Beetle mostly top-tier scores; although it does achieve just 'marginal' in the tougher new small overlap frontal test. 

Standard safety equipment in the Beetle includes the usual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes and stability control; and active headrests. Good visibility through the windows and large rearview mirrors make for easy sight lines in traffic.

Bluetooth is either standard or available on any 2014 Beetle, and offers the added safety of hands-free phone calls.

New for 2014 is an available rearview camera for "top-of-the-line" models, but it won't become available until late in the model year.

9

2014 Volkswagen Beetle

Features

The 2014 VW Beetle is fairly well-equipped in base form, but offers a range of tech and equipment upgrades.

The Volkswagen Beetle sees some of the trim lines shuffled for the 2014 model year, but largely remains the same on the features and equipment front, except for the removal of last year's Sunroof package (but not the sunroof itself) from the Beetle range. A new rearview camera will be available later in the model year, but only on top-line trim package Beetles.

The base Beetle includes a CD player with auxiliary input jack; leather steering wheel; 17-inch wheels; a split-folding rear seat; Bluetooth; iPod connectivity; heated front seats; and the "kaeferfach" box on the dash, modeled after the classic Beetle's box. Optional upgrades include navigation, sunroof, and premium audio.

The Beetle R-Line replaces last year's Beetle Turbo, bringing with it the R-Line exterior styling and badges. Standard equipment includes most of the optional gear from the base model, plus 18-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, sport seats, and more. Upgrade packages offer navigation, sunroof, and other equipment upgrades.

The Beetle TDI Clean Diesel gets all of the base Beetle's equipment plus 17-inch alloy wheels and a chrome trim package inside and out.

The Beetle Convertible follows a similar model, with features closely matching those of the hardtop, though obviously no sunroof is available. The standard spec of the base Convertible is a bit better, however, with power-adjustable heated side mirrors, cruise control, and ambient lighting also included. Available upgrades include 18-inch alloy wheels, navigation, premium audio, keyless access with push-button start, and a touch-screen radio with Sirius XM capability.

New for 2014 is the Beetle GSR, which mixes the features and equipment of the R-Line with its own unique look. Black and yellow colors and GSR badges inside and out identify the car. Limited to just 3,500 units, the GSR gets black-trimmed leather seats, a high-grip leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-wrapped handbrake and shift lever, and yellow contrast stitching.

Notable features in the standard or available Beetle equipment list include a Bluetooth audio streaming system, with steering-wheel-mounted controls that actually work over Bluetooth. A range of '50s, '60s, and '70s appearance packages are also available to give your Beetle a more vintage look and feel.

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2014 Volkswagen Beetle

Fuel Economy

The Beetle TDI is by far the greenest of the new Bugs, but the rest of the range underwhelms with its gas mileage.

The Beetle TDI Clean Diesel is a great example of how solid fuel mileage and fun-to-drive qualities aren't mutually exclusive. With a manual transmission, both the convertible and the hardtop Beetle TDI score 28 mpg city and 41 mpg highway for 32 mpg combined. Swapping in the automatic, the hardtop rates 29/39 mpg city/highway for 32 mpg combined, and the Convertible scores 28/37 for 31 mpg combined.

In 2015, Volkswagen admitted diesel engines in this model illegally cheated federal tests and polluted beyond allowable limits. As part of unprecedented settlements with federal and state governments, Volkswagen agreed to buyback from owners diesel-equipped models of this vehicle. To determine eligibility for all affected Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi models, Volkswagen set up VWDieselInfo.com for owners. (Owners of affected vehicles can enter their VIN numbers to see if their cars are eligible for buyback.)

Those aren't quite hybrid-like figures, but they're still considerably greener than average.

Other Beetle models don't do quite as well. The Beetle R-Line's 210-horsepower output brings its EPA rating down to 23 mpg city and 29 mpg highway for 25 mpg combined. That's still respectable given the pep in the R-Line's step.

The base 2.5-liter engine scores 22/31/25 mpg city/highway/combined with the manual transmission in the Beetle hardtop, and 22/29/25 with the automatic transmission. The 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder model scores 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined with the six-speed automatic; with the five-speed manual, those figures drop slightly to 24/33/27 mpg.

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August 21, 2016
For 2014 Volkswagen Beetle

2014 Beetle GSR 6 speed manual

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Performs well. Clutch is weak. Needs more of the standard features found on its GTI brother. No ability to turn traction control off, no standard rear view camera. Has had some issues with sunroof.
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April 17, 2015
For 2014 Volkswagen Beetle

God looking, terrific 1.8T engine, disappointing reliability

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Very nice body style and assembly, not a luxurious car but very well made. The good surprise is the 1.8 Turbo engine which is fantastic (mate with a tiptronic gearbox) Disappointing and unacceptable... + More »
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8.0
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Styling 9.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 8.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 7.0
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