2015 Volkswagen Beetle Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
June 25, 2015

The 2015 Volkswagen Beetle offers plenty of powertrain choice and decent practicality in a retro-leaning package.

The 2015 Volkswagen Beetle mixes the original Bug's design elements with a thoroughly up-to-date front-drive chassis. It has shed some cuteness in the current generation, but still carries the happy look of its ancestors. It may be more of a fashion accessory than a practical choice nowadays, but it's less compromised than it once was.

Sold as both a coupe and a convertible, the Beetle offers three engine options once again. For 2015, the TDI diesel is replaced by a newer version, while the turbocharged gas engines, in 1.8- and 2.0-liter sizes, continue on unchanged from last year.

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.

Last year, Volkswagen replaced the aging 2.5-liter engine with a 1.8-liter turbo four that makes the same power (170 horsepower) but more torque. The turbo four-cylinder also boosted gas mileage by 16 percent. For the best mileage, there's the Beetle TDI Clean Diesel (yes, that's its full name), which gets a new 150-hp engine that makes 10 hp more than the outgoing engine and improves city fuel economy by 3 mpg. 

For those who like a little more punch, the 2015 Beetle R-Line offers 210 horsepower from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The R-Line replaced 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.

The 2015 model year also brings with it a new trim line available on both the convertible and coupe. It's called Classic, and builds on the base 1.8T model, adding unique cloth upholstery, front seats with lumbar, a six-speed automatic, and navigation.

Comfortable and spacious (up front), though not all that quiet, the 2015 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. Available tech and equipment upgrades include: navigation, sunroof (coupe models), and VW's new Car-Net connectivity system. There are also several retro-style wheels offered, which really help to connect the modern Beetle with the Bugs of yore.

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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2015 Volkswagen Beetle

Styling

The Beetle blends modern and classic cues as well as a MINI Cooper or a Mustang.

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.

Whether or not you want to drive one, we can all pretty easily agree that the Beetle's lines 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.

We're particularly fond of the Circle wheels, which put the look of an old chrome hubcap on a modern alloy wheel. They're available in black and white, both with the chrome center dish.

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2015 Volkswagen Beetle

Performance

R-Line Beetles have great thrust on tap; VW's other turbo four is an excellent replacement for the tedious in-line five.

The 2015 Volkswagen Beetle isn't in search of all-out performance, but instead finds nice balance between fun and efficiency. There are three very different engines to choose from, each of which is available with a choice of manual or automatic transmission.

The old naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four is finally gone from the lineup, replaced mid-2014 by a new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. It's rated at the same 170 horsepower as the 2.5, but with improved torque and efficiency. The 1.8T is the base engine, and can be had with a five-speed manual or six-speed auto.

Step up to the Beetle R-Line, which replaced 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. The automatic option is a six-speed dual-clutch.

The most Beetle-feeling Beetle might be the TDI Clean Diesel, however. For 2015, it gets a new 150-hp engine that makes 10 hp more than the outgoing engine and improves city fuel economy by 3 mpg. Even with 150 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 made up for by the torque, making third gear a highly tractable back-road companion.

In any 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.

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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2015 Volkswagen Beetle

Comfort & Quality

The back seat and trunk come up short, but the Beetle's front-seat passengers get good seats and great head and leg room.

The 2015 Beetle and Beetle Convertible offer two very different driving experiences, but are 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. 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 seats. 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.

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 so-called 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 attaches to the upper side of the trunk. The rear seats in hardtop Beetles fold and lay flat, expanding the cargo capacity to nearly 30 cubic feet; Convertibles get a pass-through between the rear seats. 

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.

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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2015 Volkswagen Beetle

Safety

The NHTSA gives the Beetle good star rankings, but the IIHS's new small-overlap tests poses problems.

The nationally recognized testing agencies give good marks to the Beetle, although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not test the convertible. The scores carry over from the previous model year.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the 2015 Beetle mostly top-tier scores, with top 'good' scores in most categories, although it does achieve just 'marginal' in the tougher new small overlap frontal test.  

The NHTSA rates the 2015 Volkswagen Beetle hardtop at five stars overall, with four-star front and rollover ratings and five stars in side crash. Those are high marks, and indicative of the Beetle's structural soundness. Assuming the convertible is well engineered and behaves similarly in a crash, it's likely just as safe, or nearly so.

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 2015 Beetle, and offers the added safety of hands-free phone calls. A rearview camera is available for higher trim levels.

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2015 Volkswagen Beetle

Features

Upgrades to the Beetle include a mediocre navigation system and Fender audio; a new Classic trim level is a good value.

For 2015, the big Beetle trim change is a new level added for the base 1.8-liter car. It's called Classic and adds navigation, an automatic transmission, unique cloth upholstery, and front-seat lumbar controls on top of the base equipment. It's actually somehow about $500 cheaper than a base car with an auto, but includes more equipment.

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 TDI Clean Diesel gets all of the base Beetle's equipment plus 17-inch alloy wheels and a chrome trim package inside and out. It of course includes the updated 2.0-liter diesel engine as well.

The Beetle R-Line replaced the Beetle Turbo last year, bringing with it the R-Line exterior styling and badges. Standard equipment includes most of the optional gear from the base model, plus the 2.0-liter turbo gas engine, 18-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, and sport seats. Upgrade packages offer navigation, sunroof, and other equipment upgrades like a Fender audio system.

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.

Notable features in the standard or available Beetle equipment list include a Bluetooth audio streaming system, with steering-wheel-mounted controls that actually work with Bluetooth-connected devices.

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7

2015 Volkswagen Beetle

Fuel Economy

The Beetle TDI grows even more fuel-efficient this year; other Beetles have decent gas mileage.

With three engines and a choice of transmissions, the Beetle offers several different approaches to fuel economy. The coupe and Convertible get similar ratings, although the Convertibles are generally a little bit lower due to increased weight and less-optimal aerodynamics.

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 hardtop TDI scores 31 mpg in the city and 41 highway (up from 28/41 mpg last year); manual Convertibles are one mpg lower in each test, at 30/40 mpg (compared to 28/41 last year).

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.)

Swapping in the automatic, the hardtop scores the same as the manual (up from 29/39 mpg for 2014), and the Convertible scores the same 30/40 mpg as its manual counterpart (from 28/37 mpg). Those aren't quite hybrid-like figures, but they're still considerably greener than average and improve despite the new engine's 10-hp gain for 2015.

Other Beetle models don't do quite as well. The 210-horsepower Beetle R-Line has an EPA rating of 23/31 mpg for a manual or 24/30 mpg for the dual-clutch automatic in a coupe. The Convertible is similar, at 23/31 mpg for the manual and 23/29 mpg for the auto. That's still respectable given the pep in the R-Line's step.

The 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder model scores 24/33 mpg for a manual coupe and 25/33 mpg with the six-speed automatic; Convertibles are rated 24/32 mpg with the six-speed auto; there's no manual 1.8T Convertible offered.

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March 6, 2016
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Yes my silver beetle design with electric sun roof parking sensors very good speed control and mpg outstanding
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