2013 Volkswagen Beetle Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
December 4, 2012

The 2013 Beetle Turbo and TDI rightfully stir some excitement, especially with new convertible variants offered, but the base model's still a bit boring.

All-new in 2012, and with a new convertible variant available for 2013, the Volkswagen Beetle isn't what you're thinking--it's better.

The New Beetle which preceded the current Beetle was loved by press and public alike at its introduction, and for many, the love affair continues, but in truth, neither the design nor the packaging forced on it by the architectural shape has held up over time. That's all done with now--the 2013 Beetle is both its own car and at the same time, tied solidly to its past.

With a more masculine design aimed at bringing more men to the fold--without losing the women that loved the last Beetle so much--the new car draws more heavily on the prototypical Bug, but filters it through a thoroughly modern lens.

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Three core variants are available: a five-cylinder base model, a turbocharged four-cylinder for those with a taste for performance, and an efficient, fun turbodiesel. All three are available in both coupe and convertible form.

The Beetle Turbo is the performer of the group, slicing to 60 mph in under 7.5 seconds with its 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine. It even sounds the part, with a throaty exhaust note and just a hint of turbo whine. Opt for the dual-clutch transmission over the six-speed manual and you'll get effortless shifts, though you might notice a slight bog pulling away from a stop. Body roll is insignificant, especially considering the comfortable ride, and handling is composed, if not quite full-on sporty.

The most practical choice, in some ways at least, is the diesel-fueled Beetle TDI. With its 41-mpg highway rating, there's no question it's efficient.You can choose from a six-speed manual or a six-speed DSG automatic with the TDI.

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.)

For those looking for the least expensive entry to the Beetle range, there's the 170-horsepower, five-cylinder 2.5-liter base model. While it's not nearly as quick as the Beetle Turbo, it's still peppy, and like the other Beetles, it rides and handles well.

Passenger space is quite good up front, with plenty of head, leg, and shoulder room, whether you're talking coupe or convertible. Trunk space is pretty good in all versions, though convertibles lose a little bit of space to the collapsible wind deflector, which stows in a special rack at the top of the trunk compartment.

In the features department, the Beetle covers the basics, with USB, Bluetooth, and upgradable audio available on all models. A range of special-editions, grouped by their homage to the decades of the '50s, '60s, and '70s, offer unique appearance packages, and a Fender special edition adds some interior flair and a great sound system. A sunroof (in coupe models), navigation, and stereo upgrades are rolled into the various trim lines.

At more than 70 years old and just into its third generation, the Beetle has as much baggage as it does history--but this new model does its best to carry forward the good while dispensing with the bad, and, for the most part, pulls it off.

9

2013 Volkswagen Beetle

Styling

More masculine in shape, and now available as a convertible, the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle cuts an iconic figure.

You might have a hard time pinning a gender on the classic Beetle--the Bug--but you won't have that issue with the latest to join the fold. It's much more decidedly masculine, though it still carries the classic Beetle's general proportions.

The previous-generation New Beetle, on the other hand, was decidedly feminine--right down to the bud vase in the dash. This time around, Volkswagen hopes to find a balance that keeps the fans of the previous "chick car" while bringing in new buyers--mostly men.

A longer body, flatter roof line, wider haunches, and heritage details combine to give the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle a fresh-yet-classic look. The hood is flatter than the New Beetle's, and the windshield is set at a steeper pitch--which coincidentally eliminates the expansive sea of dashboard inside the cabin.

Sporty cues like the spoiler and graphics of the Turbo model, larger wheels (up to 19 inches), and xenon headlights help give the Beetle more edge, too. Special-edition models decked out in eponymous '50s, '60s, and '70s style offer a set of ready-made looks. Of the three, we find the wheels of the '50s models compelling, as well as the retro-chic Toffee Brown of the '70s models.

Inside, the cabin carries the exterior's heritage-meets-hip theme through to body-color plastic panels (optionally carbon fiber-look on Turbo models), a simple but clean button and center-stack layout, and gauges framed by a flat-bottom steering wheel. The upright feeling really captures the essence of the original, without looking like it's trying too hard.

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7

2013 Volkswagen Beetle

Performance

The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo is a great choice for enthusiasts, though some will find the TDI's balance more attractive, while all will agree the base car is a bit bland.

There's a definite dichotomy in the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle's performance character, but it's not drawn on the tradition coupe/convertible lines.

Instead, it's a bright line between the peppy and sharp Beetle Turbo and the rest of the range.

In either convertible or coupe format, the 2013 Beetle Turbo is fairly quick, sprinting to 60 mph from a stop in under eight seconds. At 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine isn't overpowering, but it does deliver good torque, and hence acceleration, from about 2,500 rpm. A brusque sound and more controlled suspension calibration complement the thrust level with firm-but-compliant handling--as you'd expect from a car that's essentially a coupe version of the GTI. Steering feel is good, but not all that natural, a common fault for electric power steering systems.

A 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine rated at 170 horsepower motivates the standard Beetle. While it's noticeably less powerful, a good wringing-out can muster some better-than-average acceleration. In coupe form, the base car can be had with either a manual or automatic transmission; in convertibles, it's automatic only with the five-cylinder engine. Neither combination is particularly inspiring, nor is the suspension tune.

There's also a TDI diesel option, with a 140-horsepower, 236-pound-foot rating and 41 mpg on the highway. Those are solid figures on all but the horsepower account, and the car's performance reflects it. The tall gearbox used to extract the high gas mileage ratings uses up much of the torque, but once the engine is on boost, the Beetle TDI is good fun, with a settled chassis and an almost classic-Beetle burble.

In all models where it's available, the DSG dual-clutch gearbox is a welcome addition, changing gears smoothly for the most part--there is a slight hesitation or bog when rolling away from a stop.

The brakes give a bit too much travel but seemed to bite deeply enough around West Virginia switchbacks to make this Beetle more engaging and more serious than the bubbly old New Beetle ever was, even after you got it to stop giggling.

Interestingly, Beetle Convertible models perform almost exactly the same as their hardtop counterparts, with the stiffened chassis performing admirably, communicating to a reasonable degree from all four corners to the driver's seat.

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7

2013 Volkswagen Beetle

Comfort & Quality

The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle is a 2+2 of classic proportions--meaning there's plenty of head and elbow room, but not much rear passenger or trunk space.

For 2013, the Beetle Convertible joins the Beetle Coupe in the lineup, but aside from the easy power-folding soft top, there's not much in the way of difference outside the trunk.

Compared to the previous-generation New Beetle, the 2013 Beetle is longer--by about six inches--and roomier inside as a result.

Most of the room goes to the front seats, which are spacious enough for most adults. The rear seats are more of a "plus 2" configuration, best reserved for children and gear.

Flat-bottomed seats are standard in base Beetles, though the Turbo's seats are more bolstered and still very comfortable. Seat controls are easily reached and offer a wide range of adjustment, including height. The slightly towards-center seating position can make it difficult to avoid contact with the center tunnel--or to make contact with the door armrest.

A shallower dash (thanks to a steeper windshield angle) and the extra overall length add space to the cabin, which still manages to feel open, despite the flat-topped roof, thanks to ample headroom. In the Convertible, the open-air experience is complete.

Convertibles get a collapsible wind guard that stows, folded, in a special niche in the trunk. When in place, it does a good job of reducing buffeting, but it eliminates the possibility of rear-seat passengers, and it has a tendency to wobble and vibrate with the wind.

Small-item storage has been carved into most of the available nooks and crannies. The traditional glove box is deep enough, once you ditch the thick owner's manual. The available kaeferfach box has a lovely aluminum pop-out lever, but it's pretty shallow and tall, and pretty un-useful. The shallow dish on the dash is practically made for an aftermarket GPS mount, and your smartphone will fit nicely in the bin ahead of the shifter. Pens and Post-Its are about all you'll wedge into the available armrest bin.

On paper the Beetle's trunk is bigger than its predecessor's, up to 15.4 cubic feet of space, but the sloped hatchback means only a pair of roller bags and some soft-siders will fit unless you fold down the rear seats. Bonus: they lay nearly flat, and expand the cargo area to just under 30 cubic feet. Convertible models offer nearly the same trunk space, minus the stowage space for the wind deflector, because the soft top stows in the trunk.

The fold-down rear seats in the Beetle Coupe are reduced to a pass-through in the Convertible, however, as pyrotechnic pop-up rollover protection fits in behind the rear seats.

With thinner glass and consequently slightly more noise than European versions, North American Beetles tend to be a bit on the noisy side, most noticeable in Turbo models, though all Beetles exhibit relatively high wind noise, tire-thrum, and the occasional high-velocity whistle.

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8

2013 Volkswagen Beetle

Safety

The 2013 Beetle Convertible hasn't yet been rated, but strong 2012 scores for the Coupe, plus VW's strong safety reputation, weigh against unavailable features like rearview cameras and parking sensors.

Because the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible is a brand-new model, it has not yet been fully tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The 2013 Beetle Coupe has scored five-star side-crash and four-star rollover ratings from the NHTSA, however, and the 2012 model scored four stars overall. In IIHS testing, the 2013 Beetle rates a top mark of Good in moderate overlap frontal offset crashes and in roof-strength measures; a complete IIHS rating isn't yet available due to lack of side- and rear-impact data.

All Beetles offer the requisite standard front, side and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes and stability control; and active head rests. Fairly large rearview mirrors mean it's not difficult to get a good view of the driving environment from the driver's seat, though there is slightly less rearward visibility than in the New Beetle.

Hands-free talking reduces distraction behind the wheel, and Bluetooth is standard or available on all models of the 2013 Beetle.

Some of the more high-tech safety equipment Volkswagen does not yet fit to the Beetle includes: parking sensors, rearview camera, and blind-spot monitors--options we've come to expect on vehicles in the $30,000 price range, and more and more, the $20,000 price range.

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9

2013 Volkswagen Beetle

Features

Fender sound, panoramic views, and a quick power soft-top are some of the best of the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle's available features.

Increasing the availability of unique appearance packages to better keep pace with the image-conscious competition, the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle ranges from about $20,000 to just over $30,000 depending on your required feature set.

The basic $19,795 Beetle comes with a standard CD player with an auxiliary jack; a leather steering wheel; 17-inch wheels and tires; and a split-folding rear seat. On this version, VW offers packages that include Bluetooth; Fender premium sound; iPod connectivity; ambient lighting; 18-inch wheels; a panoramic sunroof; leatherette upholstery stitched to look like the real thing; heated front seats; and a "kaeferfach" glove box that looks like the one on vintage Beetles.

On the $23,365 Beetle Turbo, VW adds on the Bluetooth and iPod controls as standard equipment, as well as the ambient lighting and kaeferfach glove box. Also bundled in: red brake calipers; sport seats; 18-inch wheels; a rear spoiler and fog lights; a set of three ancillary gauges on the dash; a flat-bottomed steering wheel; and alloy pedals.

The $24,995 Beetle Convertible is also offered in base 2.5L and Turbo ($27,795) models, as well as TDI ($27,895). Convertibles are available with a range of packages that parallels the Coupe's, plus the addition of a series of "decades" appearance options that emulate the style of the '50s, '60s, and '70s. A Fender edition is also available in the Beetle Convertible, which adds unique Fender appearance touches as well as a Fender sound system. 

Packages including navigation can raise these starting prices more than $3,000, and, in coupes, you can't get navigation without the sunroof.

We recommend the Fender sound system, which uses Panasonic speakers, a massive subwoofer (slightly smaller in the convertible due to space requirements) and 400 watts of output for brilliantly rendered sound, from stripped-down acoustic pieces to Sixties walls of sound.

Unlike many Bluetooth-streaming sound systems, VW's actually lets you use the steering-wheel controls to change tracks, a major bypass around musical frustration. The panoramic sunroof is your best bet for fun in the sun short of the new-for-2013 Beetle Convertible, as it's twice the size of the New Beetle's panel.

Volkswagen also offers a premium audio system with an SD card slot, touchscreen controls and navigation. A colorful, well-rendered interface makes the five-inch LCD screen easy to use. Optional keyless entry and pushbutton start add to the near-luxury feel, but there's no option for leather in any Beetle.

VW is adapting some of the custom trim pieces to the Beetle portfolio. There are lively Turbo decals for that model; there's also a choice of nameplates for the car, whether you know it as a Kaefer or as a Bug or as a good, old Beetle. Some body-color trim makes its way into the cabin, too, in a particularly winning touch.

Volkswagen also includes its free basic maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles, including synthetic oil changes.

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7

2013 Volkswagen Beetle

Fuel Economy

At 41 mpg highway, the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI is a good mileage bet--but the rest of the range is just middling.

While the base Beetle and the sportier Turbo might not get the gas mileage you'd expect, the Beetle TDI, both coupe and convertible, scores impressive EPA figures that many have managed to beat in real-world use.

The base 2013 Beetle uses Volkswagen's familiar 2.5-liter five-cylinder gasoline engine, and scores 22/31 mpg city/highway with the five-speed manual transmission. Base Beetle Convertibles are only available with an automatic, and score a less impressive 21/27 mpg.

Beetle Turbos use a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and Convertibles score 21/30 mpg in manual and 21/29 mpg in DSG dual-clutch guise. Turbo Coupes rate an EPA-estimated 21/30 mpg in manual and 22/30 mpg in dual-clutch form.

The best mileage is found not with gas, but diesel, in the Beetle TDI. Rating 28/41 mpg in manual trim, or 29/39 mpg with the dual-clutch, for coupe models, and an identical 28/41 mpg for the Convertible TDI (only available with a manual), the estimated figures put it in range of some of the compact/sporty hybrids on the market. In real-world use, many Volkswagen TDI owners have been able to consistently beat the EPA figures.

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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2013 Volkswagen Beetle 2-Door Automatic 2.5L Fender Edition PZEV

Never will buy another one

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My car has had more issues with fuses and sensors burning out it is in the shop getting new one all the time. Glad it is still under warranty because this would get expensive after a short time. Volkswagen... + More »
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April 20, 2015
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I've driven VW TDI's since 1998 when I purchased a Jetta sedan. Since that time I've purchased a 2005 Jetta Wagon TDI and most recently, a 2013 Beetle TDI. Although, appearance is subjective. the Beetle wins... + More »
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Styling 9
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