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2004 Volkswagen New Beetle

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2004 Volkswagen New Beetle
Available in 9 styles:  2004 Volkswagen New Beetle 2dr Convertible shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

23–38 city / 30–46 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 3 of 4
2004 Volkswagen New Beetle 3.8 22
$ 2,720-9,172
February 8, 2004

What an interesting life the Volkswagen Beetle has lived.

First it was hot. Then it was not. Then it was hot again. And then not, again.

More than six years ago, when the Golf-based New Beetle first arrived on these shores (in its second incarnation), the buying public went nuts. It was cuddly. It was odd. It was a better version than anything anyone ever remembered, especially the noisy, sewing machine rides that were mostly a difficult trip from Point A to B during the 1960s.

But cute and adorable lasts only so long, especially when you're supposed to be cool and retro. When the public craziness faded, VW infused a little power, adding a Turbo S model.

A Turbo Beetle? Ho-hum, said the buying public. What to do? Spruce up the existing models and add a topless option.

If you've been waiting to get excited about the Beetle again (and again and again for some 40-year-old buyers), here's your chance.

For 2004, the Beetle is back with new safety features, new colors, new options, a new, more efficient diesel and a new roof. Or the lack thereof. VW hopes the New Beetle Convertible even gets you thinking about spring a little early. At the very least, VW hopes you think of the Beetle when you consider a convertible this spring.

With the PT Cruiser convertible on the way, followed by the Mini convertible, followed by all kinds of other retro makes doing refreshes these days, the competition is getting fierce for throwbacks that look and ride well.

In either form - hardtop or convertible - the Beetle still excels. It offers the best of German engineering. That means a refined ride that combines performance with excellent finish. At just a shade over $16,000 in the coupe or $20,000 in the convertible, it's also a heck of a value.

The Beetle might not be as spacious as other two-door models on the market, but it is still refreshing, and it offers a good deal of charm. And available with an assortment of gasoline and diesel-fueled four-cylinders, now there is a Beetle for everyone.

For 2004, the coupe is available as a GL, GLS, GLS 1.8-liter turbo and Turbo S. The convertible arrives in all models but the Turbo S.

Either way, the two-door Beetle is a vehicle loaded with standard equipment and available with more options than you'd expect in the old-school Beetles.

GL models come with things like 16-inch wheels, power equipment for the locks, windows and mirrors, cruise control and a manually folding top. Options include a premium sound system and heated seats. The convertible arrives with such features as a power-folding cloth top, a rollover protection system and, as a first in its price range, a six-speed transmission.

Power? Rollover? Six-speed? The Old Beetle was lucky if it had power, didn't tip over and could find 60 mph.

As a real bonus, every version is a wonderfully well-crafted and very typical VW environme nt. Touch points (climate controls, stereo knobs and door handles) are done up with the class we've come to expect from German models these days. VW's interiors have become the industry standard and the Beetle still scores well in that department. It is simplicity - a textured, rubber surface in favor of faux wood - and it is effective.

Smaller inside than the Golf, the Beetle is all about style. Its dashboard resembles the length of a coffee table. Its round vents are still unique, and its instrument panel, with the enormous, round speedometer, still stands out in a crowd.

A few notable faults inside: the top, back and trunk. The convertible is a cloth top that is easy to fold but suffers from the usual convertible buffeting. It delivers an occasional whoomp! when the wind hits the roof at highway speeds. Interior volume is obviously something you'd have to live with, and although it isn't the worst we've heard, the noise is noticeable.

But the power top is functional. On GLS models, the power-top option takes the roof up or down in about 13 seconds with a twist of a handle and a push of a button.

The back seat isn't even worth trying. It's still the same bench seat that left one passenger sore when we first tested the Beetle more than four years ago. And the trunk is downright minuscule, although the back seats can be dropped if needed for more room. Small bags only, please.

Under the hood, our tester arrived with the base 115-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder - not the 150-horse, 1.8-liter turbo or 180-horsepower Turbo S. In any version it is still a peppy ride with adequate power in city driving.

Even in the base engine, the Beetle zips its way around corners and in and out of traffic. It revs hard and delivers a little gusto.

It's a trip that is solid from the start. A rigid chassis results in a smooth, controlled ride with little vibration or harshness.

The coupe offers an optional four-speed automatic ($875), while the convertible arrives with the segment's first six-speed. It is great for fuel economy, which the EPA rates at 22 for the city and 29 for the highway. And this year VW plans to replace its diesel engine with a more advanced version of its 1.9-liter turbo-diesel using high-pressured injection technology that will achieve 46 mpg on the highway.

From the city streets, the best part about the Beetle is still its head-turning style. With its top up, it still has a classic look. With its top down, it stands apart.

Standard safety includes four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, front, side and head curtain air bags and active head restraints that protect you against whiplash. The rollover protection system automatically deploys supports behind the rear seats to provide added protection in the event of a rollover, whether the convertible top is up or down.

Also new this year: Colors such as Uni-Red, Platinum Gray, Cyber Green, Aquarius Blue and Sundown Orange. In any color, in any flavor, the newest Beetle is both fun to drive and comfortable (in the front seats) on short and long trips.

All these years later, it's fun, it's provocative, and now it's even topless. Now if only it could stay cool.

2004 Volkswagen New Beetle

Rating: 3.5

High gear: Unique interior and exterior design, a load of engine options and a ton of standard features make the Beetle an unbeatable value in the small-car class.

Low gear: Rear-seat room is limited, and convertible models suffer from mild buffeting at highway speeds. Trunk is downright tiny.

Vehicle type: Front-wheel-drive, front-engine, two-door, four-passenger coupe or convertible

Key competition: PT Cruiser, Mazda Miata, BMW Mini

Base engine: 115 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder

Standard safety equipment: Dr iver and passenger front air bags; side air bags; head-curtain air bags; rollover protection (convertible)

Wheelbase: 98.8 inches

Length: 161.1 inches

MPG rating: 22 city/29 highway

Manufactured: Mexico

Basic warranty: Basic warranty is four years/50,000 miles

Base price: $16,330 (GL)

Price as tested (GLS convertible, including options, destination and delivery): $25,355

    Expert Reviews 3 of 4

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