Greatest road tests ever: Volkswagen Beetle

Volkswagen Beetle front three quarter

The Beetle was originally shown as a concept at the Detroit motor show

The stylish Beetle was a Golf-based concept car put into production, but its engine disappointed

Tested 19.5.99

Before the Mini and Fiat 500 were reimagined for the modern age, Volkswagen set about reprising the classic Beetle on top of Mk4 Volkswagen Golf underpinnings. 

The Concept One car from the 1994 Detroit motor show was faithfully recreated in the new Beetle, with plastic wings and bumpers placed atop the Golf’s front-drive chassis. Power came from the Golf’s old eight-valve 2.0-litre engine. Suspension was also inherited from the hatch in the form of front struts and a rear torsion beam. 

Despite the engine’s lowly output, performance was adequate. The engine note was harsh above 4000rpm, although it was more comfortable around its 2400rpm torque peak. Brakes impressed for both pedal feel and stopping power. 

A slightly narrower front track and firmer springs meant the Beetle was a sharper steer than the Golf, with an acceptably firmer ride keeping roll in check. The stylish cabin featured retro details and was roomy up front, but rear passenger space and boot capacity fell well short of the Golf’s and quality was dubious in places. 

Generous kit and a keen price were countered by poor fuel economy on account of short gearing and an aged engine.

For: Fabulous looks inside and out, fun chassis, value

Against: Poor packaging, build quality, coarse engine


Price £15,755 Engine 4 cyls in line, 1984cc, petrol Power 115bhp at 5200rpm Torque 125lb ft at 2400rpm 0-60mph 10.4sec 0-100mph 38.9sec Standing-quarter mile 17.8sec, 77mph Top speed 111mph Economy 23.7mpg

What happened next?

Several petrol engines and a 1.9 turbo diesel joined the range, the most powerful choice being the 167bhp 2.3-litre V5 petrol. A cabriolet appeared in 2003, and both bodystyles remained on sale until 2010. A sleeker and more sophisticated replacement based on the Mk6 Golf was introduced in 2011 and stayed in production until 2019.

Source: Autocar

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