- Iconic shape
- Convertible version
- Good front-seat headroom
- Lackluster five-cylinder engine
- Rear-seat headroom
- Middling side crash performance
The 2008 Volkswagen New Beetle’s looks are its best features—interior room, performance and crash protection are not.
The 2008 Volkswagen New Beetle coupe and convertible have been on the market for a decade in largely the same form. Based on a previous generation of the Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit, the New Beetle coupe and convertible were updated in 2006 in a very subtle way. While the bubbly shape remains instantly recognizable--and the interior as well trimmed as ever--the New Beetle is showing its age, particularly under the skin.
While diesels and turbo fours have been offered in the past, a 2.5-liter in-line five-cylinder is the only engine available on the 2008 Volkswagen New Beetle these days. It's rated at 150 horsepower and works through either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. It pushes the New Beetle with a minimum of enthusiasm, but with decent efficiency; the New Beetle gets 20/29 mpg with the automatic transmission in the coupe, and 20/28 mpg with the manual transmission in the coupe and the automatic in the convertible. Handling is similarly dull.
The rounded shape makes the 2008 Volkswagen New Beetle look larger from the outside than it is inside. The dash slopes far away from the driver, and the roofline cuts into headroom in the cramped backseats, as well as into trunk room (the New Beetle's engine is up front, against Beetle tradition).
The convertible version adds heft but balances it with a sunnier disposition. With help from Karmann, which designed the top for the original Beetle convertible, the top in the Volkswagen New Beetle keeps the signature roofline arc and excess of front headroom, as well as a shortage of rear headroom. There's a noticeable decrease in rear cargo space (5 cubic feet in the convertible versus 12 cubic feet in the coupe). The three-layer fabric top lowers in 13 seconds, though.
Volkswagen has deleted some equipment from the New Beetle's spec sheet; front floor mats are no longer standard, while fog lights, leather seating, and rain-sensing wipers are off the equipment list entirely. Tire-pressure monitors and a temporary spare tire have been added as standard equipment, though, and Sirius Satellite Radio is an option. More advanced features such as a navigation system and Bluetooth are unavailable.
Stability control is standard, along with anti-lock brakes and front airbags. The NHTSA rates the 2008 Volkswagen New Beetle at four stars for front crash protection, four for driver side protection, and three stars for passenger side protection.