There’s really nothing else like it.
Words by: Adam Allen
It certainly is unique…kinda cute, too.
It is. Not kittens-playing-with-a-ball-of-yarn cute, but it certainly is nostalgically charming. You wouldn’t bestow that label to anything else on the road, save for maybe a Mini or perhaps a Fiat 500. The styling is the Beetle’s defining trait- if you didn’t care for the design, you would set your sights on a much more traditional looking Golf; the two share a common platform. Yet as good as the Golf is, it doesn’t elicit the same kind of curbside reaction as the Beetle. People smile faintly as you drive by, a wistful expression on their faces as they recall their own fond memories of the car. The Beetle in its various forms has enjoyed a longevity that is exceedingly rare in the automotive world, and the enormous amount of them produced ensures that it has touched the lives of a vast amount of people. Marketing departments put in a lot of effort to tap into those joyful experiences- this Beetle needs none of that to conjure up recollections of good times gone by.
Let’s talk about this new trim level VW calls ‘Coast’.
In the hierarchy of Beetle trims, Coast fits neatly in the middle; for us, it’s the one to have. There are exclusive features you can only get with this model, and the first and most obvious is the flawless Deep-Sea Teal paintjob. It seems to suit the car perfectly, although it would look good on just about any car in the Volkswagen lineup. We aren’t sure we would spec the Pepita Cloth upholstery in say, a GTI, but they seem perfectly appropriate for the Beetle. Another highlight is the Heritage 17” alloy wheels that are a modern take on rolling stock from Beetle’s past. There’s not much to them but they pull off the whole retro thing amazingly well and received a ton of positive feedback from all those who encountered the car. Also gaining its fair share of praise was the dashboard treatment VW calls ‘surfwood’ design. Meant to evoke images of carrying one’s longboard to the breakers, we just plain liked it and can’t recall in recent memory any other manufacturer having so much fun with an appearance package. Unique door sill plates are also part of the deal.
How’s the rest of the interior?
The Beetle may be a quirky car, but the interior is all business except for some of the playful flourishes we just mentioned. The layout is straightforward and will be instantly familiar to anyone that has owned a Volkswagen in recent years. The infotainment system works reasonably well but is feeling a bit long in the tooth these days- at least Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, and we see no reason why they wouldn’t be used over the stock VW interface anyhow. The instrument panel is minimalist to the point that we missed a temperature gauge- there certainly is enough real estate for one- but information about speed, rpm and fuel level are available with only the briefest flick of the eyes. Generally speaking, the Beetle offers a comfortable, carefully assembled interior that will please those who have it on their shopping lists- no weird Mini ergonomics or Fiat flimsy build quality to speak of here. We also appreciated the airiness afforded by generous sightlines and lots of glass- too often it feels like you’re doing your driving from the bottom of a mineshaft as is the case for most modern cars these days.
Just a guess, but it probably drives a bit nicer than its air-cooled ancestors.
That is absolutely true, and the only thing we missed from the old school versions was the rear engine/rear drive layout that isn’t possible with today’s platform sharing resulting economies of scale anyway. If you have spent any time in the original Beetle, you know that refinement is a concept that is not part of that car’s lexicon. Our tester showcased how far automotive build techniques and refinement have come compared to the Beetle’s predecessors by effortlessly plying the roads and highways with serenity the old timers could have only dreamed about. It also has that Teutonic feel of solidity and substance that we’ve come to expect from Volkswagen. Despite the 2.0 turbo four cylinder’s modest 174 horsepower output, it would show the older version its taillights without much effort and if driven with restraint, could likely teach it a thing or two about efficiency. The only fly in the drivetrain ointment would be the transmission- it’s prone to clumsy lurching about town and will occasionally change gears without much in the way of precision. We thought putting the gear lever in ‘S’ mode would liven things up a bit, but the calibration overshoots the mark and the Beetle begins to feel nervous and holds onto lower gears for far too long. At least the handling feels well sorted, even if it doesn’t goad you into attacking corners.
What might go wrong?
Not that most Beetle drivers will complain, but we do wish for the ability to shut off or at least relax the stability control’s intervention- there isn’t a button anywhere in sight nor is there an option buried within a menu somewhere. Most Beetle drivers will be quite content to let the 6-speed auto perform shifting duties for them, but we would love to see a manual option available. The only other issue we found during our time on the Beetle occurred on frigid mornings when we’d open the door and the frameless glass would struggle to release itself from the weather stripping making a cringe worthy noise as it did so. We’ll put our faith in VW’s cold weather testing for this kind of thing but dealing with damaged weather stripping (or worse) as you get your day started is probably not something people will get excited about.
Should I buy a Beetle?
Those thinking about doing just that but want to bide their time before they pull the trigger might want to rethink that. Although Volkswagen has never made any comments to suggest the Beetle’s days are numbered, we wonder how much longer it will remain in production and whether or not it will benefit from a new generation. This is a car that is perfect for non-conformist types or simply for those who want to drive something quite unlike anything on the road and that won’t ask for any undue compromise. If you are driving an air-cooled model (which is pretty cool if you are) and you’re thinking about making an upgrade then yes, you should definitely buy a Beetle. Those in the throes of soul searching who’ve decided that they need a little more fun in their life, starting that journey in the driveway is always a good place to start…with a Beetle, of course.
2018 Volkswagen Beetle Coupe Coast Edition — Specifications
- Price as tested: $26,865
- Body Type: 2-door, 5 passenger coupe
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Engine: 2.0 litre turbocharged inline-four, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 174 @ 5,000 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 184 @ 1,500 rpm
- Curb weight: 1,370 kg (3,020 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 10.1 L/100km (23 mpg)