2018 Volkswagen Beetle – In Depth Review

Not many cars reach the pinnacle of popularity and love as the Volkswagen Beetle. One of the most iconic subcompacts on the road, the Beetle continues to get better each year to keep its performance on par with its popularity. And though the redesigned 2012 Beetle never really got the attention the original did, the 2018 Volkswagen Beetle aims to change that with a compelling blend of style, performance, comfort, and features.

The Beetle is a bit pricier than the average subcompact car. But then, it isn’t your average subcompact car, is it? The Beetle starts at a price of $20,000 and goes up to $26,000 for the Dune trim. All Beetles use a new turbocharged 2-liter I-4 engine that’s mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission. FWD is standard across the board.

Although some rivals provide a better overall performance than the Beetle with more features available, better fuel economy, and at a cheaper rate, the Beetle has a style quotient that only a few can achieve. It may not be the fastest, most feature-filled, or the most economical, but it sure is a head turner.

What’ll impress you

  • User-friendly interior features
  • Upscale interior
  • Powerful engine

What Won’t

  • Poor fuel efficiency
  • Not as sporty as some rivals
  • High base price
  • Few safety features

What’s New in 2018 Volkswagen Beetle?

  • A standard 2-liter engine
  • A 6-year warranty
  • R-Line, Classic, and SEL trims discontinued
  • New Coast trim with surfboard-inspired wood-look dash pad added

2018 Volkswagen Beetle Trims

Trims S S with Style and Comfort Coast SE Dune
MSRP $20,220 $21,695 $23,120 $24,020 $26,790
Features Composition Color touchscreen sound system

Rear View Camera System

Bluetooth technology with Volkswageno streaming

Composition Media 6.3″ touchscreen sound system

V-Tex Leatherette

Heated front seats

Surfboard-look appearance dashboard

Pepita cloth seating surfaces

Panoramic sunroof

Climatronic dual-zone automatic climate control

Keyless access with push-button start

Blind Spot Monitor

Dune front and rear unique bumpers

Bi-Xenon headlights

18″ Canyon alloy wheels

The 2018 Volkswagen Beetle is a two-door, four passenger car that comes as a hatchback as well as a convertible. There are five trim levels available: S, S with Style and Comfort, Coast, SE, and Dune. All models are mechanically the same, except for the Dune models which come with a slightly raised suspension for more ground clearance. All Beetles come with a 2-liter turbo-four engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic and Sport mode. FWD is standard.

We Recommend

The S with Style and Comfort package offers the best cost-to-feature ratio in the lineup. It adds desirable equipment like an upgraded tech interface that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But if you want to really take you Beetle up a notch in terms of style, go for the new Coast edition that adds several stylish features on top of the Style and Comfort package.

2018 Volkswagen Beetle Engine and Performance

2018 Volkswagen Beetle Engine
2018 Volkswagen Beetle Engine

Engine and Transmission

The 2018 Volkswagen Beetle uses a 2-liter turbocharged I-4 engine with direct injection married to a six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic and Sport mode. The engine powers the front wheels only. Most buyers would find the engine powerful enough for highway cruising and zipping through the city. Although a separate manual mode is not available, drivers can shift manually in Tiptronic mode, and can further enhance their experience with the Sport mode.

Models Volkswagen Beetle (S) Mini Cooper  (Hardtop 2Door) Fiat 500X (pop)
MSRP $20,220 $21,600 $19,995
Engine Intercooled Turbo Regular Unleaded I-4 2.0 L/121 Intercooled Turbo Premium Unleaded I-3 1.5 L/91 Premium Unleaded I-4 1.4 L/83
Transmission 6-speed automatic 6-speed manual 6-speed manual
Power 174hp @ 5000 rpm 134hp @ 4500 rpm 160hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque 184 lb.-ft. @ 1500 rpm 162 lb.-ft. @ 1250 rpm 184 lb.-ft. @ 2500 rpm

Beetle’s 2-liter I-4 generates more power than similarly priced rivals. While the Mini Cooper is about $1400 more expensive, its 1.5-liter 3-cylinder only generates 134hp and 162 lb.-ft. of torque. The Fiat 500X and Beetle are almost priced equally, and their engines generate the same torque, but the Beetle stays ahead in the power department. Only the Beetle comes standard with an automatic transmission, Mini Cooper and Fiat 500x use a 6-speed manual transmission.

This power plant is among the most potent engines available in the subcompact car class. The standard automatic transmission, however, is occasionally unresponsive and sometimes feels unrefined” – US News

Acceleration

The 2018 Volkswagen Beetle receives a new 2-liter turbo engine which is quicker than its 1.8-liter predecessor. Beetle is quicker than most in its class. The engine provides it with adequate power, but the 6-speed automatic transmission sometimes feels unrefined and doesn’t shift as quickly as you’d like.

Models Volkswagen Beetle (S) Mini Cooper (Hardtop 2Door) Fiat 500X (pop)
0-60 MPH 7.4 sec 7.4 sec 8.5 sec
Quarter mile 15.7 sec @ 88.9 mph 14.2 sec @ 90 mph 16.6 sec @ 82.3 mph
Engine 2.0L 1.5L 1.4L

Emission (Tons/yr. of CO2 Emissions @ 15K mi/year)

6.1 5.5 6.3

The Beetle and the Cooper tie in the 0 – 60 mph speed test. The Fiat 500X lagged behind by more than a second. At the quarter mile, however, the Mini Cooper gained the lead and finished 1.5 seconds before the Beetle. The Fiat lagged here, too. With a time of 16.6 seconds, Fiat just couldn’t keep up with the rivals.

“Acceleration should be strong whether you’re pulling away from a stoplight or looking to overtake on the freeway” – Edmunds

Handling and Steering

For a car this size, the 2018 Volkswagen Beetle has a slightly heavier steering effort than you’d expect. This makes the Beetle feel a little more controllable at higher speeds. And while a smaller steering wheel is appreciated, Beetle’s thin-rimmed steering does feel a bit frail.

Handling the Beetle is not truly engaging like you’d expect from Volkswagen’s other cars like Golf or Golf GTI. The Dune trim raises the Beetle a bit higher than the others, but around tight corners, there is noticeable body-roll.

“The Beetle does most things right and is easy to drive. Its small footprint and standard rearview camera, plus available front and rear sensors, make it extremely easy to maneuver in tight spaces” – Edmunds

Braking

2018 Volkswagen Beetle Brake Caliper and Rotor
2018 Volkswagen Beetle Brake Caliper and Rotor

The 2018 Volkswagen Beetle has able brakes, but not a great brake pedal feel. There is a lack of initial braking force that makes it difficult to bring to a halt. The pedal also travels farther than desirable, which makes you apply more force to stop it.

Model Volkswagen Beetle (S) Mini Cooper (Hardtop 2Door) Fiat 500X (pop)
Brake Front (in) 11.3 11.0 12.0
Brake Rear (in) 10.7 10.2 11.0
Curb weight (lbs.) 3012 2625 2989
60-0 MPH (ft.) 115 117 116

Although Beetle’s brake pedal is not impressive, its braking power surely is. Beetle is heavier than Mini Cooper and Fiat 500X, but it still takes less distance at the panic stop test. The Mini Cooper is the lightest among the competitors, yet it takes the largest distance of 117 feet. Fiat takes a foot less, and Beetle takes a foot less than Fiat.

Fuel Economy

The 2018 Volkswagen Beetle replaced its 1.8-liter engine with a 2-liter turbo I-4 for better fuel economy and performance. The 2-liter engine is one of the most powerful ones in the class, but still, the Beetle isn’t as economical as some other subcompact cars.

Model Volkswagen Beetle (S) Mini Cooper  (Hardtop 2Door) Fiat 500X (pop)
mpg (city) 26 28 25
mpg (highway) 33 38 33
mpg (combined) 29 32 29

With a combined economy of 29mpg, the Beetle has just about the class average in the fuel efficiency department. The Mini Cooper leads the pack with 28/38 in city/hwy. The Beetle does better than the Fiat 500X, though, which is behind Beetle by 1mpg in the city.

2018 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior

2018 Volkswagen Beetle Side View
2018 Volkswagen Beetle Side View

The exterior design of the Beetle needs no description. It is one of the most recognizable shapes on the road ever since it was first designed. Beetle’s arching roof, low front and rear overhangs, curvy fenders, and the big oval headlights are just as memorable as any Italian speedster. No matter how old school the design may be, it still grabs your attention.

Model

Volkswagen Beetle (S) Mini Cooper  (Hardtop 2Door) Fiat 500X (pop)
curb weight (lbs.) 3012 2625

2989

Length (in)

168.4 151.1 167.2
Width (in) 71.2 68

79.7

Height (in)

58.5 55.7 63.1
Ground Clearance (in) 5.7 4.9

7.0

Wheelbase (in)

100 98.2 101.2
Track width (in) F/R 62.2/60.9 59.1/59.1

60.9/61.0

In the rear, you’ll find a spoiler that adds a sporty dimension to this classic. If you want to further go down the memory lane, check out the retro design of the Coast trim’s wheels. All the convertible Beetles have a power-operated folding fabric top and a trunk-lid instead of hardtop’s lift-gate. The top Dune trim is slightly wider and rides a little higher than the rest, which gives it a little off-roady look.

Exterior Features

Some of the exterior features include:

  • LED DRLs
  • Halogen headlights with polycarbonate lenses
  • Sport-design front and rear bumpers
  • Rear spoiler

2018 Volkswagen Beetle Interior

2018 Volkswagen Beetle Interior
2018 Volkswagen Beetle Interior

The 2018 Volkswagen Beetle has a modern cabin with just enough retro design to keep the nostalgia running. It is not the most upscale cabin you’ll see, though. There is still extensive use of hard plastic.

There is not much to complain about in the front seats, which are roomy and comfy for people of all heights, but the sloping roofline makes things a bit cramped in the rear seats. The infotainment system and controls are user-friendly and easy to reach.

Seating and Comfort

The front seats of the 2018 Volkswagen Beetle are spacious and comfortable, although the seat bottoms are not long enough to provide good thigh support to taller passengers. The cloth upholstery provides good cushioning. Lumbar support isn’t common in this class, so it’s a happy surprise that the Beetle provides it.

Model Volkswagen Beetle (S) Mini Cooper  (Hardtop 2Door) Fiat 500X (pop)
Passenger capacity 4 4 5
Passenger Volume(ft. cube) 85.1 102.6 100.1
Front (Head/Shoulder/Leg) (In.) 39.4/55.3/41.3 40.3/50.6/41.4 39.1/54.3/53.3
Second (Head/Shoulder/Leg) (In.) 37.1/49.0/31.4 36.9/47.8/30.8 37.8/52.8/34.8

The Beetle and Mini Cooper are 4-seaters, while the Fiat 500X can accommodate 5. Although the Cooper has more passenger volume, it provides similar head, shoulder, and legroom to the Beetle. The Fiat 500X provides better leg- and headroom in the back row as compared to the other two.

Interior Features

Here is a list of the standout features in the 2018 Volkswagen Beetle’s cabin:

  • 5-inch touchscreen
  • USB port
  • Bluetooth
  • Eight-speaker stereo
  • Rearview camera

Some optional features include:

  • 3-inch touchscreen
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration
  • Navigation
  • Fender premium Volkswageno system
  • Satellite radio and HD Radio
  • dual-zone automatic climate control
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Push-button start
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert and rear parking sensors

Infotainment

The standard infotainment system in the 2018 Volkswagen Beetle consists of a 5-inch touchscreen and an eight-speaker stereo. The system is user-friendly and the physical controls are straightforward, although the markings on them could be a bit hard to read for some passengers.

The sound quality is excellent for the optional Fender Volkswagen system. This system may not be as high-tech as provided by some of the rivals, but it goes well with the Beetle’s old-simpler-times persona.

Cargo

The coupe models of 2018 Volkswagen Beetle have a decent amount of cargo space for this class, although some rival hatchbacks provide significantly more space. Taller items won’t fit thanks to the sloping roofline. The convertible models have only 7.1 cubic feet of cargo space. Inside the cabin, there are plenty of spaces for small items, including two glove-boxes.

Model Volkswagen Beetle (S) Mini Cooper  (Hardtop 2Door) Fiat 500X (pop)
Behind 2nd Row (ft.3) 15.4 8.7 14.1
2nd Row Folded (ft.3) 29.9 38 39.8

The Mini Cooper provides a laughable 8.7 cubic feet of space with second row up. But after folding the seats, it provides 38 cubic feet of space, which is much better than what Beetle provides. Fiat 500X provides the most cargo space with the second row folded and trails Beetle by just 1.3 cubic feet with the second row up.

“Multiple storage bins hold cell phones and small items. And there’s the ‘kaeferfach’ — or Beetle bin — an upper, secondary glove box” – Kelley Blue Book

 

2018 Volkswagen Beetle Head-to-Head Competition

Mini Cooper 2-door Hardtop

The Mini Cooper is just as iconic as the Beetle. It offers the style and memorable design of the Beetle in a much better package. The Cooper is also more fun to drive, with powerful engines and available AWD for better turns and grip. For those who prefer changing gears on their own, the Cooper comes standard with a manual transmission.

Inside the cabin, the Cooper feels more upscale with modern materials. It also provides numerous performance and tech upgrades which are not present in the Beetle. One advantage the Beetle has over the Cooper is cargo space. With second row up, Cooper’s cargo space is nowhere near Beetle’s. You also have more options with the Cooper. While the Beetle is only available as a coupe or a convertible, the Cooper is available in 2-door, 4-door, or convertible body styles.

Fiat 500X

If you want the Beetle’s retro design but don’t want to spend as much, and won’t mind a smaller body, Fiat 500X is the car for you. It may be cheaper and smaller than the Beetle, but it offers one of the most intuitive infotainment systems in the market. The Fiat 500 is athletic and easy to maneuver.

The Fiat 500X also has an advantage in cargo storage. While the Beetle has more space with all seats up, the 500X has a 10 cubic feet lead on the Beetle with the rear seats folded. In the back row, passengers enjoy more head-, leg-, and shoulder-room in the 500X.

2018 Volkswagen Beetle Safety Ratings and Features

The 2018 Volkswagen Beetle does quite well in the crash tests, earning a ‘Good’ rating in four of IIHS’s tests and a ‘Marginal’ in one.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Safety Ratings
Moderate Overlap Front Good
Side Good
Roof Strength Good
Head Restraints and Seats Good
Small Overlap Front (Driver-side) Marginal

The NHTSA ran the following four crash tests on the 2018 Volkswagen Beetle:

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Overall Front Star Rating 4 out of 5
Front Driver Side 5 out of 5
Front Passenger Side 4 out of 5
Rollover 4 out of 5

The 2018 Volkswagen Beetle doesn’t have a long list of advanced safety features. A rearview camera is standard. The Dune trim adds rear parking sensors. The SE trim adds blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, and parking sensors are available in an option package.

Final Verdict for 2018 Volkswagen Beetle

The 2018 Volkswagen Beetle has a lot to offer. With its powerful engine and retro style, there is no denying you would get a lot of attention driving this bug around the town. But it does have a few flaws, though. Many rivals provide better safety features and a more upscale cabin, not to mention a better fuel economy.

For a subcompact car that costs as much as the Beetle, you’d expect it to have more to offer. The Beetle gets full marks in terms of style and power, but there are many rivals who offer much more in a more agreeable price. Still, the Beetle was and will remain one of the most memorable cars on the road.

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