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2015 Volkswagen Beetle Test Drive Review
The range of trims offers a lot of flexibility to tailor your Beetle to your needs without paying for features you don’t want, but it’s not a bargain no matter which trim you choose.
The 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI keeps its retro styling, but loses some of the cute this year, making it a little more guy-friendly than in years past. It does not lose any of the fun with three engine choices including a new, more powerful TDI clean diesel that also offers improved fuel economy.
Look and Feel
The Beetle is the kind of car you love or hate. It’s so adorable that you either want to give it a hug or you gag a little at the sight of all that rounded cuteness. Your reaction all depends on what you’re looking for in a car. If what you’re looking for is kick-backed fun, the Beetle will happily accept all your hugs.
There are five trim choices, each available as either a hardtop or a power-retracting 1-button soft top. The base model is the 1.8T, which starts at $25,595 for the soft top. It comes with a 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque and only a 6-speed automatic transmission. As the base Beetle, it comes equipped with heated leatherette seats, cruise control, telescoping steering, and a multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel. It also has a rear spoiler, heated exterior mirrors, and 17-inch Turbine alloy wheels.
The 1.8T can be upgraded to the Tech trim, which adds a rear-view camera, touchscreen sound system, and keyless entry with push-button start. Take it one level further with the Sound and Navigation trim to add a Fender Premium Audio system, touchscreen navigation, and 18-inch disc alloy wheels.
If you want your thoroughly modern Beetle with even more retro styling, opt for the Classic model. This trim comes in only Moonrock Silver Metallic with a black roof and 17-inch Heritage alloy wheels, which immediately call this trim out as different from the rest. The inside also boasts a unique Classic checker pattern found only in the Classic.
A more performance-oriented drive is offered by the R-Line 2.0T with its 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine and a choice of 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission. This replaced the Turbo trim in 2014 and gives you 210 hp with 207 lb-ft of torque. It also comes with larger 18-inch Twister alloy wheels, a sport suspension, and R-line front and rear bumpers.
Inside, the dash gets a 3-pod instrument cluster featuring a boost pressure gauge, sport lap timer/stopwatch, and oil temperature gauge. The Sound trim level adds a Fender premium audio system and keyless entry. Choose the Sound and Navigation trim for navigation, bi-xenon headlights, and 19-inch Tornado alloy wheels.
Those in the market for a diesel can select the TDI Clean Diesel, which has a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder TDI diesel engine with 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. This has less horsepower than the R-Line 2.0T, but the extra torque makes it a responsive ride. A rear-view camera, touchscreen sound system, and keyless access with push-button start are standard. Only one additional trim option is offered for this model, the Sound and Navigation, which adds touchscreen navigation and the Fender premium audio system.
At the very top of the lineup, starting at $30,755, is the Premium 1.8T/TDI, which gives you a choice of either the 1.8-liter gas engine or the 2.0-liter TDI Clean Diesel. Both trims of this model pack loads of features, including the Fender premium audio system, dual-zone climate control, leather seating with sport front seats, bi-xenon headlights, and touchscreen navigation. There are 19-inch Tornado alloy wheels in white for the gas engine and 18-inch disc alloy wheels in gray for the diesel.
The 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI might not come with the most powerful engine in the lineup, but it comes with a lot of torque. The 2.0-liter TDI Clean Diesel 4-cylinder engine has 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. This is 10 more horsepower than the previous diesel engine, and it gets better fuel economy by 3 mpg.
That low horsepower rating might have you thinking this is the slowest of the lot, but all that torque ups the fun factor. There’s only a slight lag, which makes this a very fun car to drive, especially when you let that top down on a sunny day. It does not feel underpowered at all and is a spirited ride, especially on the highway.
Handling is comfortable and a little soft without much road feedback, which can be a drawback. Keep in mind that this car isn't focused on sportiness, but on a fun, peppy ride, and it all makes sense. Things feel a little heavy, especially for such a small car that seats only 4 people, but it’s still responsive, even if it’s not exactly light on its feet.
Road noise is minimal, and wind noise with the top up is about what you’d expect in a convertible. Rainy weather and big trucks passing will make their presence known. Surprisingly, there’s not much noise from the diesel engine even when that top is down. Sure, diesels aren't the loud, obnoxious cars they once were, but they are louder than the average gas engine. In this case, the slight engine noise doesn't prove a nuisance at all.
Fuel economy is very good at 30 mpg city/40 highway/34 combined, thanks to that diesel engine. My average was slightly lower at 32, but that was with the top down and four people in the car during most drives.
Form and Function
The Beetle’s interior design carries through perfectly from the outside. Lots of rounded edges and body-color accents complement the well-placed controls. This is a small car, so storage is not its strong suit, but the trunk will hold more than you think, especially for a convertible, with 7.1 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
Seating up front is comfortable and supportive and adjusts so that even those over 6 feet have plenty of room for long legs. Head and shoulder room is also very good up front. In the back, well, that’s a different story.
There is room for two, but it better be a very small two. Even with the front seats adjusted forward, there just isn't a lot of room back there. Kids will do okay, but adults are not going to want to be in it for the long haul. Rear legroom is 31.4 inches, so there’s really no space to spare.
Interior materials are all of good quality, with nice plastics and bright body-color accents doing what fancy woods and varnishes do in other cars. They tie things together and do it in a lighthearted way that suits the Beetle. Soft-touch surfaces are found in all the right places, making this a comfortable and attractive place to spend time.
The Beetle Convertible TDI with Sound and Navigation includes Bluetooth with audio streaming for compatible devices, as well as a touchscreen navigation system with 5-inch color display and SD memory-card reader. The screen feels small, and it’s positioned a little further from the driver than is comfortable, especially for shorter drivers. There is also a Media Device Interface that comes with an iPod cable.
The upgraded Fender premium audio system comes with 8 speakers and a subwoofer and sounds fantastic. There is also an AM/FM/CD system with MP3 playback. Sirius XM Satellite radio is offered free for the first 3 months before a subscription is required.
VW Car-Net offers a suite of features including Family Guardian, Remote Vehicle Access, Diagnostics & Maintenance, and Safe and Secure. It’s a subscription service that can be tried out for free, and it offers a wide range of safety and convenience services. It will do everything from monitoring teen driving habits to sending directions directly to your car, keeping you connected when you’re on the road.
The Volkswagen Beetle comes equipped with multiple airbags, automatic rollover support, antilock brakes, electronic stability control, an intelligent crash-response system, and a tire pressure monitoring system. A rear-view camera isn't standard but is available on higher trims, as is a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.
VW Car-Net provides an extra level of safety with roadside assistance, manual emergency call, and automatic crash notifications that will connect you with a customer-service specialist in the event the airbag is deployed. This is available only by subscription and is a good safety net for emergencies.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates vehicle crashworthiness on a scale of Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor. The Beetle received Good marks for all tests except for Small Overlap Front, which received only a Marginal rating. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave it a 5-star overall rating.
Those who put a premium on fuel economy will find this a very cost-effective purchase. The TDI is rated at 30 mpg city/40 highway/34 combined, which is the reason many people opt for a diesel vehicle. Our average was 32, so slightly lower than its rating, but this was with the top down and 4 people in the car for most of my drive time.
Balancing out the money saved at the pump is how much you’ll be paying at the dealership. The base 1.8T starts at $25,595, with the TDI Premium coming in at $32,755. This might be a small car, but it does not come with a small price tag.
The range of trims offers a lot of flexibility to tailor your Beetle to your needs without paying for features you don’t want, but it’s not a bargain no matter which trim you choose. This is a case where you’re paying for a package. The Beetle is an iconic car if ever there was one, and it's an experience that carries a premium.
Warranty coverage includes a 3-year/36,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty, 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain limited warranty, 12-year/unlimited mileage limited warranty against corrosion perforation, and 3-year/36,000-mile 24-hour roadside assistance.
Nicole Wakelin's passion for cars started on the day she went for a ride in a bright red Ferrari as a teenager. She writes reviews and covers everything cars for CarGurus, The Boston Globe, BestRide, and Be Car Chic and blogs all things geek over at TotalFanGirl.
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