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2017 Volkswagen Beetle: New Car Review

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Certified 2017 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T Coupe
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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2017

Make the most of the 2017 Volkswagen Beetle while it's still around. Despite it being one of the few compact cars with a bit of personality, individuality and charm -- and one of the least expensive ways to own a brand-new convertible with four seats -- this might be the final year of its existence, if industry rumors are true.

There's some logic to this, since the current trend is for crossovers, and the Beetle is based on a previous-generation Golf platform. But it has most of that car's fundamental goodness, surrounding it with an arguably pleasant wrapping, particularly in convertible form. In the meantime, VW has made some updates.

What's New for 2017?

The bumpers have received some styling tweaks. Trim levels and equipment have changed, but not really become any simpler. The previous special-edition Dune trim now becomes a firm fixture, and a new Classic trim debuts. R-Line versions of the convertible have been discontinued.

What We Like

Decent engines; distinctive looks; confident highway ride; convertible option

What We Don't

Limited rear headroom; not VW's plushest interior; convertible's awkward trunk.

How Much?

$20,815-$33,370

Fuel Economy

The front-wheel-drive Beetle range starts with a 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine (1.8T) making 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission comes standard. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates this drivetrain at 24 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in combined driving (coupe and convertible). The exception to these figures are the Dune models, which achieve 24 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined (coupe and convertible).

The R-Line coupe has a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that develops 210 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. VW's 6-speed DSG (which is technically an automated manual -- it can still shift gears for the driver) is the standard transmission with this engine. Fuel consumption runs to 23 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Volkswagen Beetle is available as a coupe or soft-top convertible. All the convertible versions have a powered fabric roof with a tonneau cover and an insulated glass rear window.

The 1.8T coupe and convertible come in S, Classic, SE, Dune and SEL trim levels. There's also the R-Line SEL coupe with the 2.0-liter engine.

The 1.8T S coupe ($20,815) and 1.8T S convertible ($25,545) have 16-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel/shift knob/parking brake, leatherette upholstery, manual-adjust/heated front seats with height adjustment for the driver, power windows, a self-dimming rearview mirror, 50/50 split/folding rear seats, air conditioning, cruise control, heated side mirrors, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, a trip computer and an 8-speaker audio system with a 5-in touchscreen, an auxiliary input and a USB port.

The 1.8T Classic coupe ($21,295) and 1.8T Classic convertible ($25,815) add navigation with a 6.3-in touchscreen.

The 1.8T SE coupe ($23,270) and 1.8T SE convertible ($27,570) have 17-in alloy wheels, keyless entry/ignition and the upgraded infotainment system with satellite radio (but minus navigation) and a 6.3-in touchscreen.

The 1.8T Dune coupe ($24,815) and 1.8T Dune convertible ($30,215) both have a slightly raised ride height in an attempt to evoke the old dune-buggy versions of the old-school Beetle. They also have 18-in alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, parking sensors front and rear, plus trim-exclusive bumpers and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The coupe adds a sunroof. Keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control and a Fender audio system are all optional in Dune models.

The 1.8T SEL coupe ($26,795) and 1.8T SEL convertible ($31,095) get blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, dual-zone automatic climate control, parking sensors, a Fender-branded audio system, 18-in alloys and navigation. The coupe also has the sunroof.

The R-Line SEL coupe ($33,370) has the bigger engine and comes with a sportier suspension, an XDS electronic limited-slip differential (maximizing traction in fast corners), sport seats, three dashboard-mounted gauges, fog lights, various cosmetic differences, leather upholstery and 20-in alloys.

A Lighting Package (automatic bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, LED taillights and an LED rear license-plate light) is optional in all models.

Safety

The Beetle comes with 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and four airbags (front and full-length side curtain). The R-Line's front brake discs are slightly larger.

VW's standard Car-Net connected services include crash notification, roadside assistance, stolen-vehicle location, remote vehicle access, vehicle health reports and boundary and speed alerts, which are all accessed via a smartphone app.

In government crash testing, the Beetle coupe received a perfect five stars out of five overall, as well as four stars for front impacts and five stars for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Beetle coupe its top score of Good in all categories except the small-overlap front crash test, where the car received a Marginal rating (second worst).

Behind the Wheel

The dashboard can be dressed up with body-color inserts (or carbon-fiber ones on the R-Line), which is a must when competing against MINI and FIAT. In higher trim levels, the standard kaeferfach (Beetle bin) glove box with an upward-opening door is what VW calls a "heritage" feature. Rear visibility is a bit of an issue in the convertible when the roof is down, as that roof doesn't fold into anywhere, but just sits on the body.

The 2-person back seat is certainly usable, though headroom in the coupe (or in the convertible when the top is in place) is limited by the sloping rear roofline. Trunk space for the coupe is a decent 15.4 cu ft.; maximum capacity with the rear seats flipped forward is just 29.9 cu ft. Given that the Beetle isn't particularly small, that's not much room. The convertible has a trunk area of 7.1 cu ft., and the size and shape of the aperture makes loading and unloading quite awkward.

Go for the 2.0-liter engine in the R-Line, by all means, but the 1.8 is still a well-respected unit that also performs excellent duty in other VW models.

The suspension soaks up bumps with unusual grace for the class (that's the Golf platform making itself felt), while handling is respectable, if not truly athletic. The R-Line's sport suspension improves capability, but unless you're cornering fast enough for the XDS electronic differential to kick in, you may not notice. Even then, the R-Line can't match the agility of a MINI, but it compensates with its supple ride and high-speed composure. There's a certain maturity to the way the Beetle drives that comes as a pleasant surprise.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 FIAT 500 -- The turbocharged Abarth version of the 500 has a seriously memorable exhaust note and enough power to keep up with the Beetle R-Line.

2017 Ford Fiesta ST -- If you're looking for a small car with a lot of personality and a winning front-drive chassis, check this one out.

2017 MINI Hardtop -- Blends acceleration, handling, charm and fuel economy.

2017 Subaru BRZ -- Comes as a coupe only, but has a great combination of usable power and excellent rear-drive dynamics.

Used Volkswagen Golf/GTI -- The Golf and GTI have superior cabins in terms of both quality and space. A certified pre-owned (CPO) model could be a great deal.

Autotrader's Advice

In coupe or convertible form, a 1.8T SE offers a useful mix of equipment and affordability.

Find a Volkswagen Beetle for sale

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Certified 2017 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T Coupe
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Volkswagen Beetle: New Car Review - Autotrader