Reviews

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Walk Around

Today's Beetle is more dynamic and muscular than the pre-2012 models. It's not quite as cute and feminine, but it is just as identifiable as it's ever been. The coupe's coefficient of drag is 0.37, a good number that still lags behind some competitors, and reveals the legacy of a round bug. The Beetle convertible comes in at a close 0.38 Cd. The 2012 Honda Civic, by comparison, slips in under 0.32. (A lower number is better.)

Looking head-on at the Beetle, it's wide and chubby enough that the lines are actually horizontal. A narrow black mouth under the bumper spans the face like a pinched grin, under perky headlamps like eyes, and a hood seam that seems to define a wide nose, having one chrome nostril with VW in it.

At profile, the good-looking roofline is like a stylish tight arc, reminiscent of the 2005 concept car called the Ragster, which had the look of a chopped-top hot rod.

The wheel cutouts are perfect semi-circles dropping down toward the pavement. In contrast to the smooth curves of sheet metal everywhere else, the fender flares have squared edges, offering contrasting definition to the shape.

The Beetle coupe might be called a hatchback. The rear gate is massive. You could probably load a refrigerator in there, a short one anyway. VW had to make no compromises to the car's shape for the utility of cargo loading. When the hatch is closed, it flows invisibly into the car's roundness.

The convertible, on the other hand, has a trunk that sits below the hold for the convertible soft top. The top opens in just 9.5 seconds and closing in 11 at speeds up to 31 mph. A leatherette top boot cleans up the look, but most people won't use it.

Interior

We take pleasure in saying that every control is easy to access and understand, making driving a joy because you can think about driving. It's like the old bug, in a welcome way.

Volkswagen does gauges well, and the Beetle's are super clean. There's a big speedometer in the center, insanely optimistic at 160 mph, with organic white numbers and red needles. A small tach sits to the left of the speedo, balanced on the right by a big analog fuel gauge. The TDI has an additional instrument pod with oil temperature and turbo boost gauges, plus a stopwatch.

In the center of the speedo VW provides a multi-function digital display. It is accessed with a flick of the driver's right thumb, scrolling a small wheel on the steering wheel. Everything you need to know is right there, almost automatically without thinking or searching for it. It makes for safe driving.

The base radio is excellent. A big screen tells you what's playing. Big dials and buttons are easy to reach, and you can spin through the many satellite stations. You can get in this car for a first time and easily tune the radio. We're guessing that we can only do that with maybe one out of every three or four cars we test nowadays. We used to blame this complexity on German thinking, but the Beetle disproves that.

However, VW has two other touchscreen radios that aren't so easy to use, one with a navigation system and one without. The graphics are quite attractive, and the layout is pretty simple, but we found the system to be slow to react at times, making the navigation functions especially frustrating on occasion. Despite the screen, VW does not offer a rearview camera.

There's a decent amount of room inside the 2013 Beetle, 85 cubic feet in the coupe, 81.4 in the convertible. Rear headroom, and front legroom and shoulder room are greater than in the New Beetle, so it doesn't feel so much like a capsule.

Front legroom is plentiful, and with the Beetle's standard tilt-telescope steering wheel, drivers of all sizes can fit with no problem. The bucket seats are comfortable with excellent bolstering.

The two doors are wide, and the front seats flop forward easily, so access to the rear seat is good, especially in the convertible. But it's not so roomy in the rear, with just 31.4 inches of legroom, which is 1.9 inches less than the subcompact Toyota Yaris, despite the Beetle being nearly 14 inches longer. However, that excess length is mostly overhang; the Beetle wheelbase is only 1.1 inches longer than the Yaris. We found that a pair of adults can fit back there, but they sit bolt upright, so long trips will become uncomfortable. Kids will have plenty of space. The backseat accommodates only two, not three.

The coupe's trunk has a spacious 15.4 cubic feet of cargo space, and with the 60/40 rear seat folded, there's a vast 29.9 cubic feet behind the front seats. The rear trunk lid is like a hatchback or wide liftgate, so larger boxes will fit inside. We were astounded when our Beetle swallowed three huge boxes from Harbor Freight. With the dear old VW bug, there would have been no way, for even one of them. The convertible, on the other hand, has only 7.1 cubic feet of space in a small trunk instead of a hatch. Thankfully, the convertible top doesn't intrude on trunk space when folded down and VW still provides fold-down rear seats.

That convertible top works very well. It lowers in just 9.5 seconds and raises in 11, and there is no need to pull a lever or secure a latch. The top can be operated at speeds up to 31 mph. It fits tight, too, with little wind buffeting on the road. VW offers a wind blocker for use when the top is down, but it's only sold as an accessory. It features a smart design that folds and stows away out of the way in a slot at the top of the turnk.

With either the coupe or the convertible, the Beetle has good visibility out the front and rear, even with the low roof and high beltline. And it's a quiet ride. The base engine is smooth for a five-cylinder and the other two engines are even smoother.

Volkswagen says that some of the interior colors and shapes harken back to the original Beetle. For example the extra glovebox, called the kaeferfach or Beetle bin. We also like the old school simplicity of the control layout.

In the small convenience department, VW provides a big flat cubby on the dash, a small cubby forward of the shift lever, and a coin cubby and shallow console under the flip-up armrest between the seats. There are also two cupholders, and door pockets with elastic straps that are a bit lame.

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