2010 Volkswagen New Beetle Coupe Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 6, 2010

The 2010 Volkswagen New Beetle still has an attractive shape, but not much else about this car is very appealing.

Here in this Bottom Line covering the 2010 Volkswagen New Beetle, the editors of TheCarConnection.com have brought you their own take on this small coupe and convertible, based on multiple driving experiences and comparisons to rival vehicles. And to give you the most complete picture of how the New Beetle stacks up to top rivals, TheCarConnection.com has also combed the Web and included some of the most useful excerpts from other source in a full review.

Based on a previous generation of Volkswagen’s Golf/Rabbit, the 2010 New Beetle is no longer remarkable in any way but with respect to styling. It remains available as a coupe or convertible, and the convertible is one of the better choices for two who want to cruise in comfort.

The Beetle has been around for about 10 years and has seen no major changes to its exterior in that time; that’s a good thing, as the iconic design has held up well, even if it’s no longer a head-turner. Its interior, however, could have used a more serious spruce-up long ago (it got a minor dress-up for 2006). The interior design comes across as a little plasticky and gimmicky for most tastes, and the long expanse of dashboard between the driver and windshield is a sign that the New Beetle was designed from the outside in.

The more exciting turbocharged and turbodiesel (TDI) four-cylinder engines that used to power the New Beetle are long gone; all that remains is a 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder that neither performs well nor impresses for fuel economy. Through either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, the engine is relatively smooth but comes up short when you ask for brisk performance. EPA fuel economy ratings are just 20 mpg in the city and 28 or 29 mpg on the highway. Handling is pretty dull, too, but it’s very maneuverable. The convertible is noticeably heavier, so performance suffers a bit.

Review continues below

With a design that clearly favors the exterior silhouette over interior accommodations, the 2010 Volkswagen New Beetle makes pronounced sacrifices in terms of backseat space. Headroom in back is severely limited, though it's acceptable in coupes. In convertibles, you’ll be hard-pressed to fit any adult back there as the contour of the seat is different. Although there’s plenty of space in front, the driving position can take some getting used to, as the dash slopes far away from the driver. Ride quality is a plus; the New Beetle soaks up larger bumps without wallowing.

The New Beetle convertible is one of the best-executed drop-tops for those who simply want a practical vehicle that accommodates two for open-air cruising. The 2010 New Beetle convertible retains the coupe’s distinctive roofline but in addition to the reduced backseat space sacrifices quite a bit of cargo space (5 cubic feet versus 12 for the coupe). The three-layer fabric top lowers in 13 seconds.

The 2010 Volkswagen New Beetle sorely lacks other features. In a clear admission that VW is no longer putting any significant development into the model (it plans to discontinue the model in a year or two), no factory navigation system is available, and Bluetooth hands-free isn’t even an option. Many of the features once offered on the New Beetle, such as leather upholstery, fog lamps, and rain-sensing wipers, are no longer available. A Cold Weather Package, which includes heated front seats and heated windshield washer nozzles, is now standard, and two special editions for 2010—a Red Rock edition and the aptly named Final Edition—add a few extra features.

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2010 Volkswagen New Beetle Coupe

Styling

The 2010 Volkswagen New Beetle pairs a timeless shape and outdated details.

The Beetle has been around for about 10 years and has seen no major changes to its exterior in that time; that’s a good thing, as the iconic design has held up well, even if it’s no longer a head-turner.

Edmunds says that "the New Beetle's oh-so-cool veneer has worn thin as it faces strong competition from more modern rivals." They also describe the New Beetle as “aged.” Cars.com asserts that "nothing else on the road looks like the modern-day Beetle." They add it's "cute and appealing." Kelley Blue Book contends the New Beetle "remains a popular choice among those seeking a less conventional mode of transportation."

Car and Driver reports the New Beetle has been "garnering adoration and unnerving otherwise confident men since 2003," and points out "its inherent and flamboyant femininity," while noting that even the convertible is "losing its head-turning ability." With the Convertible's top down, Automedia says, "A slip-on boot fashions the pile into something approaching a soft-touch whale tail."

The Convertible evades such scrutiny, and reviewers are more complimentary. "The Beetle convertible makes an especially classic and polished statement" with its "retro chic," says Edmunds.

Its interior, however, could have used a more serious spruce-up long ago (it got a minor dress-up for 2006). The interior design comes across as a little plasticky and gimmicky for most tastes, and the long expanse of dashboard between the driver and windshield is a sign that the New Beetle was designed from the outside in. Few reviewers provide recent comment on the New Beetle’s interior, but Kelley Blue Book reports that the instrument panel configuration "takes some getting used to as it spans the considerable distance between the windshield and the driver and front-seat passenger." The dash-mounted bud vase, blue lighting, and round, bulbous dash shapes are cutesy—positively or not, depending on your take—and the dash is wide, deep, and flat, creating an odd separation for the driver.

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2010 Volkswagen New Beetle Coupe

Performance

Performance isn’t a strong suit for the 2010 Volkswagen New Beetle, but if you’re looking for a cruiser, the Convertible will probably be just fine.

The more exciting turbocharged and turbodiesel (TDI) four-cylinder engines that used to power the New Beetle are long gone; all that remains is a 150-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder that neither performs well nor impresses for fuel economy. Through either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, the engine is relatively smooth but comes up short when you ask for brisk performance.

Car and Driver says "the VW returns an 8.8-second huff to 60 mph," not an impressive figure but light-years beyond the performance of the original Beetle. ConsumerGuide reports that the "slow-revving 5-cylinder engine needs full throttle for best takeoffs." Edmunds indicates that regardless of whether the vehicle is equipped with the manual or six-speed automatic, "acceleration is merely adequate." Cars.com observes, "The manual gearbox operates easily, and the clutch is light."

EPA fuel economy ratings are just 20 mpg in the city and 28 or 29 mpg on the highway. Edmunds remarks that "fuel economy is similarly lackluster for a compact."

Handling is pretty dull, too, but it’s very maneuverable. The convertible is noticeably heavier, so performance suffers a bit. Car and Driver reports that "this is not a corner bomber." Torque steer is an unanticipated issue, they warn, "when you poke the gas hard." Cars.com points out that "steering feel and feedback are excellent." Edmunds says, "It isn't a spirited experience, but excels at what it was built for—cruising and being seen cruising in," and "the suspension is on the soft side of sporty."

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2010 Volkswagen New Beetle Coupe

Comfort & Quality

Backseat space in the 2010 Volkswagen New Beetle is tight and the driving position is a little odd, but comfort is a strength—especially versus other convertibles.

With a design that clearly favors the exterior silhouette over interior accommodations, the 2010 Volkswagen New Beetle makes some pronounced sacrifices in terms of backseat space. Headroom in back is severely limited, even if it's acceptable in coupes. In convertibles, you’ll be hard-pressed to fit any adult back there, as the contour of the seat is different.

"The front seats are roomy," Edmunds reports of the Volkswagen New Beetle, "but the same can hardly be said of the back." The situation is exacerbated when the front seats are moved back; "the sloping hatch creates a nearly unusable rear seat," says Kelley Blue Book.

Cars.com reports what most of us already know by looking at the New Beetle: "Unfortunately, this design also infringes on rear headroom, and backseat legroom is limited." They do note "the rear seatback folds down for additional storage space." At least "access to the back seat is easy," thanks to a nifty seat mechanism, Car and Driver observes.

Although there’s plenty of space in front, the driving position can take some getting used to, as the dash slopes far away from the driver. Ride quality is a plus; the New Beetle soaks up larger bumps without wallowing. Cars.com says that the New Beetle "delivers a superior ride; the suspension absorbs plenty of road imperfections.”

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2010 Volkswagen New Beetle Coupe

Safety

The 2010 Volkswagen New Beetle is downright disappointing if you go by the crash-test ratings.

Safety is a concern if you’re considering the 2010 Volkswagen New Beetle or New Beetle Convertible. NHTSA (the federal government agency) rates the New Beetle at four stars for front crash protection, four for driver side protection, and just three stars for passenger side protection. The insurance-supported IIHS gives the New Beetle a frontal-offset score of “good,” though the New Beetle is rated “poor”—the lowest score—in side impact.

Edmunds calls the side-impact crash tests results "subpar." And although TheCarConnection.com is unsure why, Kelley Blue Book points to the New Beetle’s "excellent crash-test results and projected accident-repair costs."

Though the protection might not measure up, the features are there: Stability control is standard, along with anti-lock brakes and front airbags. Consumer Reports notes that, if sensors detect an imminent tip, pop-up roll bars activate automatically.

Automedia warns that with the top down, "the straight back view is limited somewhat by the tall, top stack."

6

2010 Volkswagen New Beetle Coupe

Features

The 2010 Volkswagen New Beetle lacks some of the key features that almost any small car buyer would expect, but the convertible’s top alone makes it a model well worth considering.

The New Beetle convertible is one of the best-executed drop-tops for those who simply want a practical vehicle two-seater for open-air cruising. The 2010 New Beetle convertible retains the coupe’s distinctive roofline but in addition to the reduced backseat space sacrifices quite a bit of cargo space (5 cubic feet versus 12 for the coupe). The three-layer fabric top lowers in 13 seconds.

Automedia says, "When up, the cabin is snug and weather tight, comfortable even in single-digit cold. When lowered, the top folds into a stack that sits behind the rear seats, as in Beetles of yore." The reviewer likes the design of the top, saying that "you can make the cabin largely free of gusts (even at highway speeds) by rolling up the tall side window glass and deploying the pop-up wind blocker."

According to ConsumerGuide, "S convertibles have a manual-folding top; it's power-operated on the SE." The power-folding top gets high marks for being fast, quiet, and classy.

The 2010 Volkswagen New Beetle is sorely lacking in other features, though. In a clear nod that VW is no longer putting any significant development into the model (it plans to discontinue the model in a year or two), no factory navigation system is available, and Bluetooth hands-free isn’t even an option. Many of the features once offered on the New Beetle, such as leather upholstery, fog lamps, and rain-sensing wipers, are no longer available.

A Cold Weather Package, which includes heated front seats and heated windshield washer nozzles, is now standard, and two special editions for 2010—a Red Rock edition and the aptly named Final Edition—add a few extra features.

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