2008 Volkswagen New Beetle

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2006 Volkswagen New Beetle

This 2006 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2010.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

The retro-style New Beetle gets strategic improvements.
Pros:
  • Larger standard engine
  • Smoother styling
  • Fun to drive
Cons:
  • Tight back seat
  • Tiny tachometer
  • Occasionally awkward long doors

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.

Thoroughly Modern
The New Beetle is thoroughly modern. The only major drawbacks are a small trunk and tight back seat for taller adults. At least the trunk is usefully shaped, and the rear seatbacks can be flipped forward in the hatchback model for more cargo space.

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 has the basic shape of the old one, but couldn't be more different in most other ways. For instance, there was no hatchback version of the old Beetle because it had an air-cooled engine in back that drove the rear wheels. The New Beetle has a front-mounted liquid-cooled engine driving the front wheels.

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
The latest New Beetle has a more streamlined look, although the average person probably couldn't tell the difference between a 2005 and 2006 model.

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.

Interior Changes
Inside the quiet interior is a revised single-bezel instrument cluster that houses a large 140-mph speedometer and too-small tachometer and fuel gauge. Chrome accents enhance the cluster and dashboard air vents. Redesigned sun visors are more effective, and the newly designed console has larger cupholders.

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 gas engine needs only 87-octane fuel and was developed especially for U.S. driving. It's impressive, with dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, cross-flow cylinder heads and an advanced fuel injection system. It delivers 90 percent of its torque from 1750 to 5125 rpm for quick throttle response.

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 diesel's estimated economy is 37 mpg city and 44 highway with the manual and 35 city and 42 highway with the automatic. It's a modern direct-injection diesel, with none of the smell and smoke of the old diesels.

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
The New Beetle is not as agile as a MINI Cooper, but its steering is fast, handling is good, braking is strong and the ride is firm but compliant. The old Beetle also was fun because it was small, light and nimble, although its design was dated even in its era.

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
There's good space up front, with tremendous headroom, but rear-seat leg room is tight for anyone but children or smaller adults. Long doors allow decent rear-seat entry but are a handicap in tight parking spots.

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.

Worthwhile Options
There are a number of worthwhile options. A $1,390 option package for the hatchback contains a power sunroof, upgraded sound system and heated front seats. A $3,145 package has those features, along with leather seats, 17-inch wheels, fog lights and rain-sensing wipers.

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.

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BB01 - 4/17/2014 5:29:03 PM