1998 Volkswagen New Beetle

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1998 Volkswagen New Beetle
Available in 2 styles:  New Beetle 2dr Hatchback Base shown
Asking Price Range
$1,313–$6,889
Estimated MPG

23–41 city / 29–48 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 3 of 8

By 

The Detroit News
Like a bazillion other Americans, we're both former Beetle owners. Anita loved her silver 1976 Beetle. Paul loathed his well-used 1965 and '66 models. Unlike many American couples, we actually agree on something: We both love the all-new 1998 Beetle.

Thanks, Volkswagen. For the memories, old and new.

He: I can't remember ever having this much fun watching other people react to one of our test cars. Driving the New Beetle is a blast, but it's almost incidental. I have to admit that I'd love to have one in my driveway permanently, too. And you don't hear me say that about many of the vehicles we drive, do you?

She: No, you are feeling quite gushy. And so am I. But we have to deal with the New Beetle's warts. I remember standing outside one at the Detroit auto show and thinking, 'I'm not that impressed. It's too pricey for a Beetle. The old one was better.' And I've totally changed my tune after driving it. It's a bargain whether you get the base $15,200 model or our $17,455 test model with extras such as automatic transmission, fog lamps, alloy wheels, cruise control and power windows.

He: Let me get the gripes out of the way. You have to pay extra for anti-lock brakes, even though the Beetle comes with standard four-wheel power disc brakes. But ABS should be standard. And the header on the roof drops so low, it's difficult to see stop lights. If you're a six-footer, forget about getting comfortable in the back seat. And I doubt a family of four will be able to fit a week's worth of groceries or luggage in that tiny trunk. So what? I still love it.

She: I first drove the New Beetle at night and was delighted with the unusual instrument panel that lights up in blue with a few red accents. Stunning. Everything about it is solid from the dimpled and chunky grab handle above the glove box to the net map pockets on the door and the matte-finish plastic and brushed-aluminum trim. And the bud vase is a hoot. You really want to keep it filled. I put a white carnation in it immediately and felt jaunty - like Maurice Chevalier.

He: You just forgot the straw boater. Mechanically, the New Beetle is light years ahead of the old one. It basically rides on the chassis of the new Golf, which went on sale last fall in Europe, but we're not likely to see for another year. That means the New Beetle is front-wheel drive, which makes for better traction on wet and slippery roads. The engine is in the front, not the rear, and it's water-cooled, not air-cooled. A fringe benefit of that is you get a constant and ample supply of heat all winter.

She: You're talking mechanics, I'm talking metaphysics. Volkswagen performed a miracle here. They managed to retain the mystique of the old Beetle while updating it to fulfill the expectations of fussy '90s buyers.

He: Unlike the old Beetle, the '98 model has power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, which makes it easy to park and maneuver.

She: This car isn't ju st a cute face, like a Plymouth Neon, or a good import buy, like the Hyundai Tiburon. You're driving history in the making with this car. And unlike the old ones, there are few worries. You even get two-year roadside assistance. I could have used that on my old Beetle.

He: That and a few more cylinders, huh? When you put it like that, I'd say with the New Beetle, you get to drive a piece of history - without the baggage.

1998 New Beetle

Type: Front-wheel-drive, four-passenger two-door hatchback

Price: Base, $15,200; as tested, $17,455 (including $500 destination charge)

Standard equipment: Four-wheel disc brakes; power rack-and-pinion steering; power mirrors with defog feature; tilt and telescope steering column; AM/FM cassette stereo with six speakers; air conditioning; power central locking with remote control; anti-theft alarm system.

Safety features: Dual front and side air bags; front safety belt pretensioners and belt force limitersa time running lights

EPA fuel economy: 22 mpg city/27 mpg highway.

Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 115 hp at 5,200 rpm; 122 lb-ft torque at 2,600 rpm

Transmission: Four-speed automatic

12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan: $995.

Rates based on an average family of four from the Livonia area whose primary driver is aged 40 with no tickets who drives 3-10 miles each way to work. Rates reflect multicar discount.

Specifications

Wheelbase: 94.5 in.

Overall length: 161.5 in.

Curb weight: 2,150 pounds

Legroom: 42.6 in. front/32.7 in. rear

Headroom: 38.7 in. front/37.8 in. rear

Shoulder room: 52.8 in. front/52.4 in. rear


    Expert Reviews 3 of 8

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