Following its debut for the 1998 model year, Volkswagen's retro-themed New Beetle saw an early sales surge. Its popularity waned somewhat later, prompting Volkswagen to look for variants. A sporty Turbo S edition joined the lineup in 2002 but was dropped after 2004, and a New Beetle Convertible debuted in 2003.
For 2005, an MP3 player connection is standard. Optional XM or Sirius Satellite Radio includes a three-month subscription. A six-speed-automatic transmission with Tiptronic manual-shift capability is now available with the turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder.
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Nothing else on the road looks like the modern-day Beetle. This hatchback rides a 98.7-inch wheelbase, measures 161.1 inches long overall and stands 59 inches high, making it one of the taller compacts on the market.
Equipped with a front-mounted engine and front-wheel drive, the New Beetle is based on the platform used for Volkswagen's Golf and Jetta models. Standard wheels measure 16 inches in diameter, but 17-inch alloy wheels are available. High-intensity-discharge headlights are optional on the GLS, which comes with a standard sunroof.
A bubble-shaped roof gives the four-passenger New Beetle a strong visual kinship to the original. Unfortunately, it also infringes on rear headroom, and backseat legroom is limited. The rear seatback folds down for additional storage space.
The GL includes air conditioning, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable front bucket seats, a CD stereo, cruise control, remote keyless entry, heated power mirrors, and power windows and locks. Monsoon Sound is included with GLS models. A Cold Weather Package that includes heated front seats and heated windshield-washer nozzles is optional on most models.
Under the Hood
GL and GLS models come standard with a 115-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder. A turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder that produces 150 hp is available in the GLS 1.8T. The GLS TDI uses a 100-hp, turbocharged 1.9-liter direct-injection diesel four-cylinder. The engines can team with a five-speed-manual gearbox or a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. The diesel model can be equipped with a six-speed automatic with a Direct Shift Gearbox, which Volkswagen claims eliminates power-transfer loss during gear changes.
Side-impact airbags, antilock brakes and daytime running lights are standard.
Other than its tight backseat, the New Beetle coupe is a wholly appealing automobile. Performance with the base engine is modestly energetic, and it's surprisingly eager with the diesel. The easy-to-operate manual gearbox takes the fullest advantage of any engine's potential, but the automatic doesn't sap away too much of the engine's strength.
New Beetle Convertible
The New Beetle Convertible's development took place at the Karmann facility in Germany. The five-layer lined top features a glass rear window. Convertibles come in GL and GLS trim levels.
Much like the original Beetle convertibles of the 1950s to 1970s, the modern-day model has a fabric top that rests on the back of the car; it doesn't fold into the body. Designers retained the familiar curve of the hardtop New Beetle with the convertible's soft-top. The top is devoid of ridges and has a smooth, round appearance.
The base GL convertible has a manually operated roof, but the GLS gets a semi-automatic top. Automatic pop-up rollover supports behind the rear seats are standard, and a wind blocker is optional. Except for a slightly narrower rear seat, the four-passenger New Beetle Convertible's interior looks nearly identical to the hardtop's. Trunk capacity is a modest 5 cubic feet.
A 115-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder goes into GL and GLS convertibles, but a 150-hp, turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder powers the GLS 1.8T. The engines can team with either a five-speed-manual transmission or a six-speed-automatic transmission with Tiptronic operation. An electronic stability system is standard in the GLS 1.8T.
Volkswagen did a masterful job of designing the New Beetle Convertible, which is cute and appealing. Other than a shortage of passing power from the 2.0-liter four-cylinder, the soft-top delivers a wonderful driving experience and a superior ride; the suspension absorbs plenty of road imperfections. Directional stability is top-notch, and the convertible handles expertly. Steering feel and feedback are excellent.
Performance with the manual gearbox is smooth and easy, and the clutch is light. But Volkswagen's six-speed-automatic transmission doesn't react quickly enough when tromping on the gas pedal at 40 or 50 mph. The automatic transmission's Tiptronic feature is helpful. Back to top
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