2002 Volkswagen New Beetle

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2002 Volkswagen New Beetle
Available in 7 styles:  2002 Volkswagen New Beetle 2dr Hatchback shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

23–42 city / 30–49 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 3 of 8
2002 Volkswagen New Beetle 3.9 9
$ 2,033-7,877
March 20, 2002

When it came time to shell out for a personal vehicle, we chose a bright yellow 2000 New Beetle, a nostalgic pick for two Baby Boomers who were both former Beetle owners. The only members of the family who turned up their noses at our choice were our two kids, now in their early 20s.

The 2002 New Beetle Turbo S, with a beefed-up engine and six-speed transmission, is supposed to trigger a change of heart, especially in those Gen X guys. But at nearly $24,000, this turbo Beetle doesn't seem to hold strong appeal for either one -- and is priced beyond the reach of both.

He: In Russia, there's an old automotive joke. How do you turn a Lada into a sports car? Throw a pair of Nikes in the trunk. I kind of get that feeling with the Beetle Turbo S. The addition of a 180-horsepower 20-valve 1.8-liter turbo engine hasn't really transformed the Beetle into a sports car, despite Volkswagen's protestations. Sure, the Beetle Turbo S is fun to drive -- but so's the regular Beetle, which somehow makes do with a lousy 115 horsepower. I'm just not sure I'd pay that much money for a Beetle -- any Beetle -- just to get the go-fast goodies.

She: You used a car analogy, but I want to use a dog analogy. This iteration of the Beetle isn't like walking a pit bull -- a sensation you can get in a real performance car like the Corvette. It's more like walking a terrier. The Beetle Turbo S is not like a rocket or a muscle car. It's a lot of heart in a small package, but this VW is not at all fierce. I happen to like terriers, but I don't think a lot of guys do.

He: Wrong, kiddo. I LOVE Jack Russells. You just won't let me bring one home. I'm assuming you feel the same about the Beetle Turbo S.

She: My bigger concern is that I actually find the Turbo S funny. You know, the priest at our church gave a sermon a couple of weeks ago and talked about humor. He said humor its all about putting two incongruous things together. I understood immediately because his words reminded me of the bud vase on the Turbo S. Can you really make that sweet little touch more masculine by trimming it in a metal-studded collar? I think not. And even though I drive a manual version of the Beetle, I never found it necessary to jump into the extra sixth gear, a brand-new feature, on our test car.

He: I think you have a point, although I hate to concede anything to a girl. It's just hard to take the Beetle Turbo S seriously. Funny, but you get that same engine in the Audi TT, which I think most people would agree is a serious sports car. At least it looks and feels more serious. And it actually has many of the same underbody components. Problem is, it starts at around $32,000. Does that make the Beetle Turbo S a bargain at $24,000, or does it make the TT a ripoff?

She: I don't think you could ever call the TT a ripoff. But there's no comparison. First of all, the New Beetle will never get over the stigma of being the perfect car for the menopausal set. Ma ke no mistake about it, the Turbo S doesn't really look that much different from the standard Beetle. And that's why, turbo or no turbo, no self-respecting young male is going to jump on this one. The other gripe I have is that noise from the pop-up rear spoiler is obnoxious. The first few times it snapped closed, we both thought the trunk had somehow come open.

He: I suspect that VW believed it could lure younger buyers by gussying up the Turbo S with that rear spoiler, some fancy 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps and a cabin trimmed in leather and brushed aluminum. I have a confession to make. I really like all that stuff -- but, then, I'm hardly the target demographic.

She: All the safety stuff on the Turbo S appeals to a mother, but I'm not the right audience either. I'm still impressed by the standard safety features, which include side air bags, four-wheel disc brakes with antilock, and stability control to help you keep from skidding on slick pavement. One last gripe, however. I miss the indigo lights on the gauges, which is one of the most charming features on my 2000 Beetle. Sorry, Volkswagen. The best value is still the original, not the Turbo S.

Anita's rating: (Acceptable)

Paul's rating: (Above average)

Likes: Sensational performance. Still huggable and cute despite macho posturing (Anita). Sharp brushed aluminum-and-leather interior (Paul). Impressive standard safety features include side air bags, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, stability control. Fun to drive, but then, Beetle always was fun to drive. Decent four-year/50,000-mile warranty. Great gas mileage for a turbo car.

Dislikes: Overpriced for a Beetle at almost $24,000. Noisy pop-up rear spoiler. Silly touches like metal-trimmed bud vase (Anita). Not convinced that making the Beetle a turbo will bring in flocks of young, Gen X guys. Six-speed gearbox may be overkill. No standard CD player.

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

Price: >Base, $23,400; as tested; $23,950 (inc. $550 destination charge).

Engine: 1.8-liter I-4; 180 hp; 173 lbs-ft torque.

Fuel economy: 23 city/30 highway.

12-month insurance cost, estimated by AAA Michigan (Rates may be higher or lower depending on coverage and driving record.): $1,050.

Where built: Mexico.

    Expert Reviews 3 of 8

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