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red volkswagen beetle

Volkswagen Beetle review

Volkswagen’s retro Beetle first appeared in 1997 when Cool Britannia ruled and the 60s and 70s were back in style. And it proved an immediate hit with people wanting to own this cool reinterpretation of the original car. The family vehicle was revamped in 2011 and comes as a four-seat hatchback and a convertible with a folding fabric roof. It borrows much of its engineering from the VW Golf, too.


The VW Beetle is instantly recognisable as a reincarnation of the original car that first appeared all the way back in the 1930s, with round headlights, curvaceous bodywork and a bulbous rear end.  

The ‘new’ Beetle appeared in 1997 and was relaunched in 2011 with fresher styling that included daytime running lights. This is the version you will find on cinch. 

Both the hatchback and cabriolet have three doors. Most versions come with alloy wheels, with some cars getting a steel design that apes the ‘classic’ car’s wheels. Higher trim levels get bigger alloys, tinted windows, and a rear spoiler, while the Dune version gives the Beetle quasi-SUV styling, although it’s still just front-wheel drive, like the rest of the range. 

red volkswagen beetle side

The VW Beetle is instantly recognisable as a reincarnation of the original car that first appeared all the way back in the 1930s.

What's it like to drive?

Just like the VW Golf on which the Beetle is based, comfort is the name of the game here. The suspension is set up to deal with rugged road surfaces.  

It doesn’t give the Beetle the handling prowess of, say, the Mini Hatchback, but the VW still handles pretty well, with little body roll on roundabouts and twisty country roads. 

Petrol engines include a 1.2, a 1.4 and a 2.0-litre unit. Choose the 1.2 if your motoring is done mostly in town and the others if you make motorway journeys. The 2.0-litre diesel engine comes with two power outputs – the more powerful version is best for longer journeys, but both are good choices. 

vw beetle driving

Petrol engines include a 1.2, a 1.4 and a 2.0-litre unit. Choose the 1.2 if your motoring is done mostly in town and the others if you make motorway journeys.


The Beetle’s retro exterior styling is mirrored by the interior with the dashboard fascia, tops of the door trim and steering wheel inserts getting the same paint as the exterior – it certainly helps to brighten things up.  

There is a trio of analogue instruments ahead of the driver, a 6.5-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dash and controls for the ventilation below that. Most striking are the gloveboxes – that’s right, more than one. One is located on the painted portion of the dash (as on the ‘classic’ Beetle) and the other is below it, where you’d normally expect to find it.

volkswagen beetle r interior

The entry-level trim gives you electric windows, air-con, Bluetooth, electronic stability control, 6 airbags, a digital radio, USB port and hill hold assist (which makes hill starts easier). Parking sensors, climate control, sporty trim and cruise control are added by higher trims. 

The front seats are comfortable and offer plenty of leg and headroom; things are a little tighter in the rear two seats because of the curved roof – so these are best reserved for the kids. Parents will appreciate the standard Isofix mounting points for child seats, too. 

The standard sound system is good enough, but you’ll find some cars have an upgraded Fender set-up that brings an eight-speaker, 400-watt stereo with a sub-woofer. 


As well as the gloveboxes, you get somewhere to put your phone, courtesy of a small tray in front of the gear lever, and some cars get a tray on top of the dash.  

There are pockets in the front doors but proper bins for the rear occupants, while there are 2 cup holders up front and 1 in the rear, plus pockets in the backs of the front seats. 

Boot space is better than you’ll find in the Mini Hatchback – there is enough room for a handful of holdalls. The rear seatbacks are split 50:50 and fold to allow you to fit in larger loads such as a couple of suitcases.  

volkswagen beetle boot

Reliability and running costs

The 2.0-litre diesel engine is the most economical motor in the Beetle, rewarding you with more than 50mpg on average on longer journeys. You may be able to just squeak 40mpg in the 1.2 and 1.4 petrol, but bear in mind that the 1.2 needs to be worked harder on faster roads, which is when economy will suffer. 

This manufacturer has a strong reputation for reliability and durability – it’s why the Beetle’s brand has endured for so long – so maintenance costs should rarely be a worry. VW sold the Beetle with a three-year warranty when it was new, however, so you might want to consider cinchCare for added peace of mind. 

What we love

We love the Beetle’s styling. It’s as trendy as the Mini and Fiat 500 and also raises a smile from others as you pass them on the road. It’s nice to know it’s based on tried-and-trusted tech as seen in the Golf and gives you a choice of petrol and diesel power, depending on your motoring needs. It’s well suited to new drivers, young families and anyone who likes to get noticed when they’re on the road.

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Dedicated followers of fashion will love the Beetle, which in this final form looks terrific inside and out. It’s well built, uses engines and tech from other VW models and is good to drive both in town and on the motorway. The Beetle isn’t sold new any more, so buying a used model is the perfect chance to snap one up before they become scarce.

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