Volkswagen confirms that a convertible version of the New Beetle is coming as a 2002 model, answering the prayers of some loyal fans. For 2001, the two-door hatchback returns with a handful of new features.
A premium Monsoon sound system is standard on the GLX model, while it is a new option on the GLS. New options also include 17-inch alloy wheels and high-intensity discharge headlights.
Built on the front-drive Golf/Jetta platform, the New Beetle has been more of a hit in the United States than in Europe, drawing a cross section of American buyers that ranges from teen-agers getting their first car to aging baby boomers reliving their youth.
The New Beetle won't get squashed like a bug in minor collisions. It suffered the least amount of damage in a series of four bumper tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and it performed much better than several larger cars.
As a modern interpretation of the original Beetle, the current model is a one-of-a-kind sporty hatchback in a world filled with cookie-cutter sedans and coupes. Whereas the original had an air-cooled rear engine and rear-wheel drive, the New Beetle is based on the Golf/Jetta platform and has a front engine and front-wheel drive.
The bubble-shaped roof gives the four-seat New Beetle a strong visual link to the original, but it infringes on rear headroom. Legroom is limited in back, too, so this may not be the best choice for a family car. There is 12 cubic feet of cargo space at the rear, and the split rear seatbacks fold for additional room.
All models have a standard theft-deterrent feature that immobilizes the engine unless a key with the proper electronic code is used in the ignition.
Under the Hood
Three four-cylinder engines are available. The base engine is a 115-horsepower 2.0-liter. A turbocharged 1.8-liter with 150 hp is available on GLS and GLX models. The GLS TDI model uses a turbocharged 90-hp 1.9-liter direct-injection diesel. Four-speed automatic and five-speed manual transmissions are available with all three.
All models have standard antilock brakes and side-impact airbags for the front seats. Models with the 1.8-liter turbo feature standard traction control.