2006 Volkswagen New Beetle
This 2006 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2010.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Volkswagen has made significant changes to its 2006 New Beetle, which arrived for the 1998 model year as a coupe with the basic shape of the iconic old Beetle and as a convertible for 2003.
The new model has mildly revised styling, a more powerful base engine and an updated instrument cluster.
The original Beetle (all two of them) arrived here in 1949, and it took a few years for Americans to fall in love with the car. But it then dominated the import auto market in the United States until the early 1970s, when more modern Japanese cars began outdoing it.
Even the 1970s Beetle was just an improved version of the original Beetle. It was rugged, reliable, economical and solidly built. It also was slow and had just-adequate handling and braking, besides a cramped interior and almost no safety features. It finally was dropped here in 1979, when it was available only as a convertible.
List prices for the 2006 New Beetle hatchback go from $17,180 to $19,465. The convertible version costs $21,920 to $22,995.
The New Beetle was an immediate hit. Many folks stood in line to get one, making it an auto dream for Volkswagen dealers because it let them charge full list price or more for it. Boys will be boys, and auto dealers will be auto dealers.
Iconic Shape Retained
The New Beetle no longer is the newest kid on the block, but Volkswagen still sold a fairly good number of them in 2005, although the car's sales have been falling for years.
Changes to the 2006 New Beetle are about as major as Volkswagen can make them, while holding down prices and retaining styling continuity. The car's styling must be kept virtually the same because it's a big part of the car's charm.
More Streamlined Look
Here are the exterior changes, which would make a good auto trivia game question: The 2006 model has a new bumper design that flows from the hood and trunk and wraps unobstructed into the fender sides. Turn signals in the front bumper are slimmer and underline new, more oval headlights.
Also, small white circles of turn signal lights in the rear are set inside at the bottom of the larger, red circle taillights. Along the side, sharper wheel arches accent stronger "character lines." And an oval fuel filler door replaces a rectangular door.
The convertible version is especially attractive, even resembling the classic 1950s Porsche Speedster, valued at about $105,000.
The 2006 New Beetle is easier to order because it comes with only two engines: a base 2.5-liter 150-horsepower 5-cylinder gas engine for the hatchback and convertible and a fuel-stingy 1.9-liter 100-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel engine for the hatchback. The gas engine replaces smaller 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter gas engines, while the diesel is a carryover.
Impressive Gas Engine
The New Beetle gas version accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds with the manual gearbox and in 8.6 seconds with the automatic. It provides an estimated 22 mpg in the city and 31 on highways with the manual and 23 and 32 with the automatic.
The diesel version does 0-60 mph in a respectable 10.3 seconds with the manual and in 10.9 seconds with the automatic.
Fuel Stingy Diesel
The gas engine comes with either a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 6-speed automatic transmission with Volkswagen's Tiptronic manual-shift feature. The diesel is offered with the manual gearbox or an innovative new 6-speed "DSG" automatic transmission; it allows fully automatic, semi-automatic and manual gear changes without the power interruption associated with traditional clutch use.
Fun to Drive
Drawbacks of the old model included minimal standard equipment, but the New Beetle has many standard features. They include air conditioning, cruise control, an in-dash CD/MP3 radio with 6 speakers and power windows and locks. There also is a tilt-telescopic wheel and fully reclining, height-adjustable front seats that provide good side support but have awkward backrest recliner controls.
Tight Rear Seat
Standard safety items include front-seat side airbags with head and torso protection.
A new Electronic Stabilization System with brake assist accompanies the anti-lock 4-wheel disc brakes and traction control. Fairly large 16-inch wheels are standard. Optional are 17-inchers, which improve handling a little but hurt the ride a bit.
The convertible offers a $1,325 package with a semi-automatic convertible top (instead of the standard manual-folding top), premium sound system, heated seats and a wind blocker for less cockpit buffeting at highway speeds. There's also a $3,030 package with those items and leather seats, 17-inch wheels, fog lights and rain-sensing wipers.
Both New Beetle versions are offered with $375 XM or Sirius satellite radio and a $499 trunk mounted 6-disc CD changer.
The improvements to the solidly built New Beetle make it more appealing. There's nothing on the road quite like it, and it always will always look distinctive because no automaker will ever copy its body shape.