2013 Volkswagen Beetle Introduction

The Volkswagen Beetle was completely redesigned for 2012. For 2013, Beetle convertible joins the lineup.

As with the coupe, the 2013 Beetle convertible is longer, lower and wider than the New Beetle, which is what we called the old one that was phased out after the 2010 model year. Today's Beetle has a roomier interior than did the pre-2012 models, with more headroom, legroom and shoulder room. It feels like a capsule inside than it did before.

Front legroom is plentiful, but the Beetle coupe's rear seat has just 31.4 inches of legroom, which is 1.9 inches less than the subcompact Toyota Yaris, on a wheelbase that's 1.1 inches longer. Still, two adult passengers will fit back there; they just sit rather upright.

The rear hatch area of the Beetle coupe is spacious at 15.4 cubic feet. With the rear seat folded, the coupe has nearly 30 cubic feet of cargo space, and the high-swinging hatchback enables giant things to fit inside, making the coupe handy for hauling. The Beetle convertible has a trunk with only 7.1 cubic feet of space.

The Beetle seats and trim are neat but not fancy. The bucket seats are simple and comfortable, with excellent bolstering.

Instrumentation is so clean it's memorable for its rarity. In the center of the big clear speedometer there's a multi-function digital display, accessed with a flick of the driver's right thumb, scrolling a small wheel on the steering wheel. All of the trip computer information you need to know is right there, almost automatically without thinking or searching for it. It makes for safe driving.

The 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine, with an iron block and dual overhead cams, carries on, delivering 170 horsepower. Torque is 177 pound-feet at 4250 rpm. Acceleration with the 2.5-liter engine is adequate, and 75 mph on the freeway is smooth and mostly effortless.

A 5-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a 6-speed automatic transmission optional. The automatic did not wow us. The automatic has manual shift capability, but it's done with side-to-side movements using the lever. It's better than nothing, but it's not racy. The manual gearbox is satisfying and gives the car pep when accelerating. We recommend the manual.

A 2.0-liter Turbo model is also available that comes with a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automated manual that VW calls a DSG for Direct Shift Gearbox. The Turbo also has sportier suspension tuning. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine makes 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque at a low 1700 rpm, and it gets about the same fuel mileage as the 2.5-liter engine although on more expensive Premium gasoline. It's hot, with acceleration not far behind a Mini Cooper S.

Also available is the TDI turbocharged direct-injection diesel engine, which delivers jaw-dropping torque and fuel mileage on the far side of 40 mpg. The 2.0-liter turbodiesel delivers 236 pound-feet of torque. Torque is that powerful force you feel propelling you from intersections and the diesel has a lot of it. The TDI engine has been used successfully for some time in the Golf and Jetta models and is well-proven. It's clean and runs quietly.

Coupe or convertible, the Beetle chassis is rigid and the body solid, with subframes front and rear, supporting the suspensions. VW did a lot of work to make the convertible impressively rigid.

The base coupe uses a torsion beam rear suspension, but the Beetle Turbo and all convertibles use a more sophisticated multi-link, for a higher threshold of cornering. The freeway ride in the base coupe doesn't suffer for the torsion beam. It's comfortable and consistent. Potholes don't hurt, but rough pavement can make the rear end of the coupe want to dance. The other models are more composed over rough pavement.

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