Review
Comment

2006-10 Volkswagen New Beetle: Hip, fun and cute, but not all that reliable

Mexican-built Beetle slow, cramped, thirsty and an electrical mess

HIGHLIGHTS
ENGINE
2.5L I-5 FWD
POWER
150hp @ 5,000RPM
CURB WEIGHT
1,323 kg
TORQUE
170 lb.-ft. @ 3,750RPM
FUEL TANK CAPACITY
55.0L
ECONOMY
7.1L/100 km
BASE PRICE
$24175
PRICE AS TESTED
NA

The Toronto Star for Wheels.ca

Remember Beetlemania? Not the mop-topped English phenomenon, but the chrome-domed German one?

Volkswagen reintroduced its iconic Beetle here in 1998, almost 20 years after the last fuel-injected Super Beetle rolled off the line in West Germany (production of the air-cooled classic continued in Mexico until 2003).

The love was rekindled in 1994 when Volkswagen?s Concept One prototype toured the autoshow circuit. The public went gaga over American J Mays? retro-future interpretation, so VW green-lighted it for production. The New Beetle created a stir as the cars trickled into showrooms.

?We had the first New Beetle early in 1998. It stopped traffic and emptied restaurants as we passed by,? recounted one fan online.

It was poised to be a runaway success and it was, briefly. So what happened?

CONFIGURATION

The New Beetle was the artful marriage of the familiar Bug shape with the front-drive Golf platform. It initially came only as a three-door hatchback; a soft-top convertible followed for 2003.

To retain the proportions of the scabrous Beetle, various four-cylinder engines had to be shoehorned under the short cowl and massive dashboard. The celebrated arc roofline afforded warehouse-sized headroom up front, but left the back seat and cargo hold wanting.

Constrained by its heritage, the New Beetle sold for eight years with no styling updates. It was finally refreshed for 2006, bringing some tweaks ? including new bumpers, revised headlights and taillamps ? and a revised cabin with a redesigned instrument panel, console and added chrome trim.

Although smaller inside than the Golf, the New Beetle offered enormous noggin space up front for a pair of 10-gallon (38-litre?) Stetsons, while the two folding rear buckets were best left to children. There were four seatbelts, not five.

The rear hatch, a novelty for those familiar with the old Beetle, revealed just 350 litres of cargo space.

Standard safety gear included four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-side and curtain airbags, and active front head restraints. Convertibles featured a rollover protection system.

Most significantly, 2006 saw the adoption of VW?s reputable 2.5-L five-cylinder gasoline engine pinched from the Jetta. It was good for 150 hp and a robust 170 lb.-ft. of torque. Optional was the TDI 1.9-L turbodiesel four-cylinder making 100 hp and 177 lb.-ft. of torque, limited to the hatchback only.

The five-cylinder came with a five-speed manual gearbox or conventional six-speed automatic. The TDI offered the manual stick or optional Direct Shift Gearbox, an automated manual transmission that could be left in full automatic mode.

The diesel was dropped in 2007 due to tightened emissions standards. Beyond some revised equipment packages and a few fresh paint colours, the New Beetle remained largely unaltered through 2010. After an 18-month hiatus, VW introduced an all-new model, now just called the Beetle.

ON THE ROAD

Equipped with the standard 2.5-L five-banger, the New Beetle scurried to 96 km/h in 8.8 seconds, a good deal better than the molasses-like time recorded with the previous 2.0-L four. It could generate 0.83 g on a circular skidpad, proof that the well-sorted Golf platform was present underneath.

Despite the firm foundation, critics noted that the deep-tub convertible exhibited some cowl shakes and door rattles over uneven pavement. Notably, the Mk IV Golf chassis dated back to 1997 (the Golf/Rabbit got the Mk V platform in 2006).

Although the five-cylinder engine worked well with the automatic transmission, it seemingly delivered all the economy of a six-cylinder combined with the power of a four-banger.

WHAT OWNERS SAY

Buying a New Beetle is largely an emotional decision. Owners adore their Bugs for their cheerful disposition, urban practicality and hipster recognition. But the reincarnated Beetle hasn?t lived up to its namesake?s legendary reliability ? and there?s the rub.

The Mexican-built New Beetle can induce headaches, owners warned. Chief among them are persistent electrical issues, especially concerning the power windows, trunk release, door locks and short-lived headlamps.

The convertible?s power top may become inoperable, while the manual top may see the cords snap. Some have had their roof liners fall down, making driving difficult.

Nagging mechanical issues include faulty ignition coils, broken air conditioners, truculent transmissions, overheating engines, leaking fuel lines and mysterious stalling.

?On the way to the dealership, it stalled, started smoking and then caught on fire,? reported one owner.

The moral? Interminable cuteness can exact a toll.

Tell us about your ownership experience with these models: Dodge Durango, Infiniti FX and Kia Forte. Email: toljagic@ca.inter.net.

2006-10 Volkswagen New Beetle

What?s Best: Refined ride, available convertible, lots of cheerful hues.
What?s Worst: No 2.0T turbo available, a little fuelish, don?t drive it to a Bills game.
Typical GTA prices: 2006: $9,500, 2010: $14,500

  • 2006-10 Volkswagen New Beetle: Hip, fun and cute, but not all that reliable ARRIVED VIA EMAIL BY EDT PHOTO BBS ---------- From: _Jil McIntosh Sent: _Tuesday, July 17, 2007 2:45 PM To: _Photodesk - Toronto Star; Toronto Star, Wheels Subject: _VW New Beetle Convertible - 1 of 2 <><><> Please cascade to Wheels - 2007 VW__New Beetle Convertible - photos by Jil McIntosh ¬_ 1 of 2 emails 2007 VW New Beetle Convertible - photo by Jil McIntosh - for Mark Richardson, Wheels
  • 2006-10 Volkswagen New Beetle: Hip, fun and cute, but not all that reliable ARRIVED VIA EMAIL BY EDT PHOTO BBS ---------- From: _Jil McIntosh Sent: _Tuesday, July 17, 2007 2:45 PM To: _Photodesk - Toronto Star; Toronto Star, Wheels Subject: _VW New Beetle Convertible - 1 of 2 <><><> Please cascade to Wheels - 2007 VW__New Beetle Convertible - photos by Jil McIntosh ¬_ 1 of 2 emails 2007 VW New Beetle Convertible - photo by Jil McIntosh - for Mark Richardson, Wheels

Show Comments