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2015 Volkswagen Beetle REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/6/2017

Con: Slow responses of R-Line and TDI's DSG transmission; typically more expensive than rival models; indifferent handling.

Interior: The 2015 VW Beetle gets plenty of inspiration from the original flower-power model, but it still includes the same features, controls and construction as other modern Volkswagens. This translates to a pretty classy passenger environment. The trim that runs across the dash and doors can be color-keyed to the exterior just as in old Bugs, while the R-Line gets secondary dash-top gauges and available two-tone seats.

The optional navigation system is easy to use, though its small screen limits usefulness. The premium Fender sound system, on the other hand, is well worth the extra cost and provides impressive sound quality.

Despite its seemingly low roof line, the Beetle still provides plenty of room for tall drivers, and most people will find the front seats pretty comfortable. The rear seat also has a lot of headroom. Legroom in back is fairly tight, but it's still a little more than what you'll get from most rivals.

The Beetle coupe has 15.4 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk, though the convertible cuts maximum cargo capacity to just 7.1 cubic feet. That is around 1-2 cubic feet more than the Fiat 500 convertible or the Mini Cooper convertible, but loading luggage or other items can be difficult because of the Beetle convertible's awkward, upright trunk opening. Fold the rear seats flat in the Beetle coupe and you'll have about 30 cubic feet of cargo space to work with.

For the convertible, the power soft top folds down in about 10 seconds and it can be operated at speeds up to 31 mph. Problematically, though, when the top is folded down, it sits on top of the rear deck lid and rear visibility is limited.

Body: The 2015 Volkswagen Beetle is a four-passenger, two-door hatchback available in coupe and convertible body styles with three basic trim levels that correspond to the available engines: 1.8T, R-Line and TDI.

The Beetle 1.8T comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, heated windshield-washer nozzles, heated mirrors, full power accessories, automatic air-conditioning, cruise control, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated and height-adjustable front seats, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack. Also standard is VW's Car-Net telematics system.

The 1.8T Classic gets unique upholstery, lumbar adjustment for the front seats, a touchscreen audio interface, satellite radio and a navigation system.

The Sunroof package (called the Technology package on the convertible) incorporates the standard 1.8T equipment plus a panoramic sunroof, a rearview camera (late availability), keyless ignition and entry, satellite radio and a touchscreen audio interface. The Sunroof, Sound & Navigation package (just Sound and Nav on the convertible) includes the above plus 18-inch wheels, a navigation system and a nine-speaker Fender audio system.

The Beetle R-Line adds the following to the Beetle 1.8T's equipment: a more-powerful engine, 18-inch wheels, foglights, a rear spoiler, a sport-tuned suspension, sport seats, unique cloth upholstery, a performance gauge package, faux carbon-fiber accents and alloy pedals.

The R-Line Sunroof and Sound package (R-Line with Sound on the convertible) adds the same items as the 1.8T's Sunroof package along with the Fender audio system. The R-Line's Sunroof, Sound and Navigation System (R-Line with Sound and Nav for the convertible) adds 19-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, leather upholstery and a navigation system to the above package.

The Beetle TDI includes the 1.8T's standard equipment along with chrome exterior accents, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, a touchscreen audio interface and a performance gauge package. As an option, it also offers the optional Sunroof, Sound and Navigation package.

Driving: We're fond of all three of the available engines in the 2015 Volkswagen Beetle. The turbocharged 1.8-liter engine is smooth, powerful and provides respectable fuel economy. The more powerful engine in the Beetle R-Line has even more punch and sounds great. Like other Volkswagen diesel models, the Beetle TDI provides plenty of low-speed shove and very good fuel economy.

The six-speed manual is quite possibly the most easily shifted do-it-yourself transmission around, while the R-Line and TDI's sophisticated DSG gearbox is a nice compromise for those who want the convenience of an automatic with much of the performance and control of a manual. That said, the DSG's responses can be frustratingly slow when accelerating from a stop or in slow-moving traffic.

The Beetle's handling is respectably adept, though the car's overall abilities and steering response are well short of what you'll get from a Fiat 500 Abarth or Mini Cooper S. When just cruising on city streets or on the highway, however, the Beetle is pretty comfortable. Even the R-Line's sport suspension shrugs off bumps and ruts in the road. You'll notice the road's imperfections, but there's no harshness to speak of, while road noise is noticeable but not intrusive. All things considered, the Beetle is a pleasing long-distance road trip companion.

What’s New: For the 2015 Volkswagen Beetle, the optional 2.0-liter diesel engine gets 10 additional horsepower, yet also delivers a slight increase in fuel economy. A new trim level called the Beetle Classic enters the lineup, and all but the base Beetle now come standard with a rearview camera (late availability).

The standard engine for the front-wheel-drive 2015 VW Beetle is a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (1.8T) that produces 170 horsepower and 184 pound feet of torque. The 1.8T is paired with a five-speed manual transmission on the coupe as standard, and a six-speed automatic transmission is optional. The 1.8T convertible comes only with the automatic. For the coupe, EPA-estimated fuel economy with the 1.8T stands at 28 mpg combined (25 city/33 highway) paired to the automatic and 27 mpg combined (24/33) with the five-speed manual. Opt for the convertible where you can only get the 1.8T with an automatic transmission and you'll get 27 mpg combined (24/32) as well. During Edmunds performance testing, a convertible Beetle 1.8T accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds, which is a good time for the segment.

The Beetle R-Line gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 210 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automated manual (known as DSG) is optional. Fuel economy for the coupe is an EPA estimated 26 mpg combined with either transmission. For the R-Line convertible, the manual transmission also returns 26 mpg combined (23/31), while the automatic transmission drops estimates to 25 mpg combined (23/29).

Under the hood of the Beetle TDI is a turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder with 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. As with the R-Line, buyers can choose between a six-speed manual and a six-speed DSG. Regardless of transmission choice, fuel economy estimates stand at an impressive 34 mpg combined (31/41) for the coupe and the convertible.

Safety: Every 2015 Volkswagen Beetle comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and Volkswagen's Car-Net telematics system. Car-Net bundles crash notification, roadside assistance, stolen vehicle location, remote door unlocking and geo-fencing (which allows parents to set boundaries for teenage drivers).

In government crash tests, the Beetle coupe received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars awarded for total frontal protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the coupe its top "Good" rating in its moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. In IIHS's small-overlap frontal-offset test, the Beetle scored a rating of "Marginal," the second lowest rating. The seat and head restraints were rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear-end impacts.

During Edmunds testing, a convertible Beetle 1.8T came to a stop from 60 mph in 124 feet, which is about average for the segment.

Pro: High style yet functional interior design; powerful turbocharged engines; fuel-efficient diesel.

Edmunds Say: The 2015 Volkswagen Beetle pays proper homage to an icon of the past while still offering thoroughly modern features and performance. It's a good pick if you want a coupe or convertible with a mix of fun and practicality.

Introduction: The 2015 Volkswagen Beetle is as retro as they come. Park this modern Beetle next to its classic 1960s relative and you'll see plenty of styling cues that have carried over. But the appeal isn't merely superficial: When this bubbly Volkswagen is done reminding you of all things flower-power, turns out there's a pretty good car underneath.

One impressive aspect of the 2015 Volkswagen Beetle is under the hood. Freshly updated this year, the available turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine gets an additional 10 horsepower and a bump in fuel economy to an impressively frugal 34 mpg in combined driving, according to the EPA. If diesel isn't for you, the standard 1.8-liter turbocharged engine offers a good combination of economy and power, while the Edmunds "B" rated R-Line gets a 2.0-liter engine that has even more punch.

The interior of the Beetle also earns points. Take a seat inside and you'll find a stylish design that rises above common economy car standards, yet still is blessed with straightforward controls and high-quality materials.

Alas, the 2015 VW Beetle isn't without some issues. Visibility through the small rear window of the coupe is limited and the convertible has blocked views with the top up or folded down. In both cases, we recommend opting for the newly available rearview camera. The camera is a late-availability option, though, so depending on when your Beetle was built, it may not have one. Depending on your priorities, you might also be disappointed in the way the Beetle drives. While its engines are strong, it's not a particularly rewarding car to drive around turns, as neither the steering nor the brakes instill much confidence for spirited driving.

A more sporting choice would be the 2015 Mini Cooper. It has loads of personality and is fun to drive, but, like the Beetle, can end up being rather expensive. A more practical, if less exciting choice, would be Volkswagen's own Golf hatchback, which further benefits from a well-executed redesign this year. While it isn't available as a convertible, the 2015 Kia Forte Koup, with peppy engine options, generous standard features and affordable price, is another one of our favorites. Finally, the 2015 Fiat 500 is another respectable choice, particularly if you want an everyday car that's extremely compact and easy to park.

Overall, though, the Beetle presents a pretty appealing mix of fun and practicality. And we're pretty sure that's something people of all generations can appreciate.

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