Review: Volkswagen Beetle (2012 – 2019)


Huge improvement on previous Beetle. Distinctive interior harks back to original Beetle. Enjoyable to drive. Engine line-up includes 1.2 TSI 105PS and economical 1.6 TDI.

Rear visibility isn't great.

Volkswagen Beetle (2012 – 2019): At A Glance

Icon is a word that's banded around too frequently when it comes to car designs but the Beetle can rightly claim to be a true automotive icon. First seen in 1938 the original air-cooled Beetle was the 'people's car', an affordable and reliable motor that promises mass mobility for all. The intervening years saw more than 21.5 million Beetles sold worldwide until the final one was produced in Mexico in 2003.

Replacing an icon is never easy though. Volkswagen brought back the Beetle in 1998 with the 'new Beetle' but while it sold more than a million, it never caught the public's imagination in the same way, although it does have the distinction of being the first 'retro' model, coming several years before the MINI and Fiat 500.

Now Volkswagen is back with its new Beetle and a look that's much more in line with the original Beetle of the 1930s. It's certainly more masculine than the previous Beetle and far less twee - there's no vase on the dashboard for starters - while the interior harks back to the old model too with a flat dashboard and the recognisable flip-up glovebox built into it. Practicality is much improved with a boot that's almost 50 per cent bigger and more interior room too.

Overall quality and refinement is a huge step forward from the previous model and on the road it's far more together with sharper handling, a hugely improved ride and better steering. While the exterior shape is similar, underneath this Beetle is very different from its predecessor of 1998. It gets a good range of engines including Volkswagen's excellent TSI engines - a 1.2-litre, 1.4-litre and the top 2.0-litre with 200PS - plus there's an impressively frugal diesel in the shape of a 1.6 TDI BlueMotion Technology than averages a claimed 65.7mpg.

The new Beetle is well priced with on the road prices starting at a very competitive £14,875 - about the same as a MINI Cooper. It's an incredibly likeable car with plenty of charm and character, much more so than the previous 'new' Beetle. There's also an even more desirable Cabriolet version which was launched in April 2013.

What questions were asked when we covered the launch live?

What does a Volkswagen Beetle (2012 – 2019) cost?

Volkswagen Beetle (2012 – 2019): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4278–4288 mm
Width 1808–2021 mm
Height 1486–1502 mm
Wheelbase 2537–2538 mm

Full specifications

It’s good to see that Volkswagen has given the Beetle a bespoke interior so it’s far more than just a Golf in a posh frock. As with the outside, the unique design harks back to the original Beetle with a vertical dash that comes in the same colour as the outside – a nice touch that works really well on the brighter colours, or it comes in a carbon fibre effect trim. There’s a split level glovebox with a conventional lower bit while the top section is integrated into the dash with an upward folding lid, an instantly recognisable bit of design from the classic air cooled Beetle.

Compared to the original new Beetle, this second generation has a far more special feel to it inside. The quality of the materials is good, although some of the plastics lower down are borderline scratchy, but refinement is impressive and the layout neat and distinctive. Oh – and the little glass vase of the old model has been ditched too as the Beetle aims to ‘man up’.

The emphasis seems to be on keeping things simple and uncluttered. So the main instrument cluster has just three dials – dominated by the speedo like the classic Beetle, plus a rev counter and a (strangely large) fuel gauge. As an option you can have extra dials (stuff like turbo boost pressure) on the top. The steering wheel is unique to the Beetle too and looks good, although we’d question why it needs a flat bottom – a feature that’s usually the preserve of performance models.

There’s a far more vertical windscreen than the original new Beetle, so from behind the wheel it has a similar feel to a MINI. The driving position is pretty much spot on – not too high that you’re perched on top of it but high enough to give you decent all round visibility. It feels very spacious in the front too, helped by the fact the seats slide a long way back (although this means zero rear legroom) while the fact this Beetle is wider than the last one definitely has benefits for elbow room.

It’s a three-door only but getting to the back seats isn’t too much of a strain (you’re not likely to stick the grandparents there but for kids it’s a doddle) as the front seats fold and slide while the doors open wide. There’s decent room in the back and a surprising amount of headroom, although legroom is a little tight if you’ve got a reasonably tall adult in the front. It’s also worth noting that there are only two seats in the back.

The good news is that the boot is far more useable than the previous Beetle. It’s now 310 litres (compared to just 209 litres in the old one) meaning it’s about the same as a Skoda Fabia. Plus the tailgate has a usefully wide opening so it no longer feels like a design that’s been lead by style rather practicality. You can fold down the back seats too which increase the boot area to 905 litres.

There will be three trim levels - Beetle, Design and Sport - although details of what the actual equipment for each will be has yet to be finalised. However, all models will come with air conditioning, DAB radio, alloy wheels, a multi-function leather steering wheel, Bluetooth, colour co-ordinated dash and door panels on Design while Sport will have climate control, Piano Black dash panels, parking sesnors and black wing mirrors.

Child seats that fit a Volkswagen Beetle (2012 – 2019)

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What's the Volkswagen Beetle (2012 – 2019) like to drive?

The outside of the Beetle may be very different but the engine line up includes the usual Volkswagen suspects. From launch in early 2012 there will be two engines - a 1.2-litre TSI with 105PS that's fitted with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox along with a 1.4 TSI with 160PS and a standard manual gearbox.

Later in 2012 the 1.2 TSI will become available with a manual gaerbox while the top 2.0 TSI will also be introduced. At the same time the all important diesel version will launched in the shape of a 1.6 TDI BlueMotion Technology that averages a claimed 65.7mpg and emits 114g/km of CO2 meaning cheap annual tax rates and low BIK company car tax rates. It comes with a standard six-speed manual plus there's the option of a DSG version.

There's no performance version as such but the 2.0 TSI is shared with the Golf GTI and provides more than enough poke with 200PS in reserve. It sounds good too thanks to a modified exhaust which gives it a nice deep resonance on start up and when you accelerate. It certainly doesn't hang about with a 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds when fitted with the six-speed DSG gearbox. It's surprisingly economical too given its power and averages a claimed 36.7mpg.

On the move it pulls very strongly in gear and if you choose the optional DSG gearbox, you'll find it responds well when you ask it to accelerate with quick kickdown and subsequent rapid upshifts. The only surprise is that Volkswagen hasn't yet confirmed whether this version will come with steering wheel mounted paddle shifts as standard. It seems odd to have them as an option on what is the raciest version.

The 2.0 TSI does get a lightweight strut-type suspension set-up at the front along with semi-independent rear suspension and also has the XDS electronic differential system from the Golf GTI. This also features on the 1.4 TSI and acts like a differential by bracking the inside wheel in a corner meaning you don't have to turn the steering wheel as much. It works very well making cornering more precise and accurate and although the Beetle could do with more feel through the steering, it's still fun and enjoyable to drive.

The ride is quite firm, but better that than too soft and wallowy. It's part of Volkswagen's measures to make the newest Beetle better to drive, especially in corners, helped by a longer wheelbase and wider track than the previous Beetle. It's still comfortable though and deals well with rough road surfaces. Along with the standard suspension, there is sports suspension available as an option which is stiffer and 15mm lower. The top model also gets a rear spoiler (as you can see in the picture above) but that won't be on all models and it does look sleeker without it.

Refinement is very impressive and the Beetle feels well put together, quiet and relaxed on the move. There's a little wind noise around the top of the windscreen pillars at motorway speeds but it's not intrusive.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.2 TSI 51–52 mpg 10.9–11.3 s 127–128 g/km
1.2 TSI DSG 48–54 mpg 10.9–11.3 s 123–137 g/km
1.4 TSI 150 49–50 mpg 8.7 s 132–134 g/km
1.4 TSI 160 43 mpg 8.3 s 153 g/km
1.6 TDI 66 mpg 11.5 s 113 g/km
1.6 TDI DSG 66 mpg 11.5 s 114 g/km
2.0 TDI 110 66 mpg 11.0–11.5 s 112 g/km
2.0 TDI 110 DSG 61 mpg 11.0 s 116 g/km
2.0 TDI 140 58 mpg 9.4 s 129 g/km
2.0 TDI 140 DSG 52 mpg 9.4 s 140 g/km
2.0 TDI 150 61–63 mpg 8.9–9.2 s 117–119 g/km
2.0 TDI 150 DSG 59 mpg 8.9–9.2 s 124–127 g/km
2.0 TSI 210 39 mpg 7.3–7.5 s 169 g/km
2.0 TSI 210 DSG 37 mpg 7.5 s 176 g/km
2.0 TSI 220 44 mpg - 150 g/km
2.0 TSI 220 DSG 42 mpg - 157 g/km

Real MPG average for a Volkswagen Beetle (2012 – 2019)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

30–64 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Volkswagen Beetle (2012 – 2019)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Volkswagen Beetle gearbox chatter

I have just bought a Volkswagen Beetle 1.4 TSI. The car is a 2012 model and has started making a loud noise from under the bonnet. It seems to go when I put the clutch in, sometimes it stops doing it if I put it in a gear and take it back out. Also when changing gears sometimes feels like it is juddering, could you please help me with this as I've been told it's called gearbox chatter.
Could be 'chatter'. VW transmission bearings are of very variable quality. There can also be problems with the casings. Might help to use a molybednum disulphide gearbox oil additive such as STP or Wynns. I've used it to hold noisy VW boxes together in the past and have seen it do so for a couple of years.
Answered by Honest John
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