The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

Final Edition 2019 VW Beetle Review By Thom Cannell

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

By Thom Cannell
Senior Editor, Technology Guru
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

Bullet Points—Brief observations based on a decade’s experience.

After eight decades Volkswagen is halting production of the iconic Beetle. The last Volkswagen Beetle, a Denim Blue coupe, rolled off the automaker’s assembly line in Puebla, Mexico on July 10th and was promptly installed in VW’s museum in Puebla. It was one of 5,961 “Final Edition” models marking the final chapter of “The People's Car”.

Since its inception post-WWII, more than 25 million Beetles have been sold worldwide—if you include the original Type 1 and new Beetle that arrived in 1997. New and old share only the iconic single curve shape.

People still look…

Drive through any small town as modest speed and folks likely will ignore everything from a Mustang to an Escalade—with one exception, the Volkswagen Beetle.

If you put every car and SUV head to tail and looked from the side, only one shape stands out, Volkswagen’s Beetle. Originally engineered by Ferdinand Porsche in 1938 (and perhaps first penned in 1925 by Bela Barenyl according to Wikipedia and Mercedes-Benz), it has been produced since 1945 until the Type 1 and its successors ceased global production in 2003. US import of the original ceased in 1977 according to Wikipedia, and the New Beetle went on sale in model year 1998.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

After that 20-year hiatus, the new Beetle was popular until declining sales forced its cancellation (for now, according to VW). Now built on Volkswagen's MQB modular platform, which it shares with vehicles as varied as the Audi A3 and VW Tiguan, it is a delight to drive. That’s due to a willing engine, the MQB chassis which delivers precise handling and all the smiles you could wish, plus abundant surprises.

Propelling the car is VW's excellent 2.0-liter TSI engine. It’s turbocharged and intercooled (intercoolers or charge air coolers deliver colder air to the motor, making more power) and delivers a solid 174 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The engine mates to a 6-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission with Sport mode. The combination is responsive, as well as having an EPA-rated 29 Combined MPG.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

What sets the Final Edition apart from its predecessors is it’s a rear spoiler, classic painted-to-match metal dash and the custom-appearing diamond-stitched leather seats—black in my car—that lend the car a vintage hot rod appeal. Those seats are 6-way adjustable, heated and with lumbar support adjustment. They’re comfortable, as well as stylish, and fully support most thigh lengths.

Because of them, every time I opened the door to enter, I smiled. I don’t get that often.

The question I’m regularly asked is, whom is this car, truck or SUV meant for? With its smaller capacity trunk, Beetle is a personal car, a commuter car, a fun car and not your four-person-family vacation vehicle. Alternatively, you could pack light and enjoy the drive.

That said, the value of the Final Edition is astonishing. It has an extensive list of included equipment that are normally options—and pay extra for, like: heated windshield nozzles and rain-sensing wipers, automatic bi-Xenon HID headlamps plus fog lamps and LED DRLs and LED tail lights, power tilt/slide sunroof, and parking distance warning. There are abundant safety features such as Brake Assist, stability control and anti-slip, electronic brake pressure distribution and anti-locking. And that’s just on the outside.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Once seated on those diamond-stitched seats, in front of your eyes is a classic three-gauge instrument cluster with tachometer, speedometer and fuel gauge. I'd have preferred that the fuel gage be smaller, the tachometer larger; oh, well. Also centered below the dash is a dual-zone climate control system and above is a modern 6.3-inch Navigation and Infotainment system featuring a Fender Premium audio system with a large sub-woofer that claims some of the limited trunk space. The head end uses both touch and gesture (you only have to be within a few millimeters of the screen) to swipe between station lists or other controls. VW’s Car Net connection allowed me to use Apple Car Play for familiarity. Like many vehicles, the rear camera view arrived quickly.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Driving the Beetle, like it’s close Golf relative, is fun. Steering is precise, with plenty of information transmitted to your hands, and even on rough (terrible) pavement the chassis remains calm and balanced. It is also quiet inside, unless that sunroof is opened. Something I didn’t expect to see, at night the front speakers have a glowing racing-red outline at night, one of three color choices. I enjoyed red enough not to discover controls for the other two colors.

The Good:

  • Everything that delivers nostalgia, from the body-colored dash to vintage-appearing diamond-stitched leather seats.
  • Fender audio system is bold, delivering everything from Beethoven to Beatles…
  • Ride and handling is spot on due to the MQB/Golf/Audi underpinnings, and the motor is way more than sufficiently powerful, while keeping you well away from the gas pump.
  • Price for this coolness, $23,600-$25,800 according to Kelly Blue Book

Needs Improvement:

Oh, come on! Well, a larger tach, smaller gas gauge and a DCT (dual clutch transmission). Which ain’t gonna’ happen.

Cool Hacks:

  • Proximity sensor on the infotainment system means you don’t have to touch the screen.
  • Changeable interior color lighting scheme isn’t novel, just cool.
  • Old School painted dash, again not new to the Beetle, but still cool.

auf Wiedersehen Little One, Rest Well

The Most Helpful Volkswagen Research Information; Anywhere!