MODEL: 1998 to 2005 Volkswagen Beetle
VEHICLE TYPE: Coupe or convertible
APPROXIMATE USED CAR PRICE RANGE: $2,500 to $19,000
HISTORY/DESCRIPTION: The VW New Beetle was probably the most successful retro-car resurrection of all time. When VW re-introduced the model back in 1998, it quickly gained enormous popularity, flew off dealer lots, and won countless awards. VW had a hit on their hands.
The New Beetle got much of the original’s fun-loving attitude and cheeky character — though it shared its guts with the new Jetta and Golf. Originally, the New Beetle was available with a 2.0 litre four-cylinder engine with 115 horsepower, or a 1.9 litre TDI four-cylinder diesel unit. The diesel engine uses less fuel, though the simple 2.0 litre gas engine should inexpensively meet the needs of most drivers.
Later in the Beetle’s life, a 1.8 litre turbo four cylinder engine was available with 150 horsepower, and a 2.5 litre five-cylinder unit eventually replaced all of the above as Beetle’s sole engine option. Manual, automatic and “Tiptronic” gearboxes were all available — depending on the model.
The gist? It shouldn’t be hard to find a Beetle that’s just perfect for your needs and budget.
WHAT OWNERS LIKE: The upscale interior, fun-to-drive factor and fuel consumption ratings are primary points of owner praise. Stereo systems with iPod integration were appreciated, as was the refined overall experience.
WHAT OWNERS HATE: The two biggest gripes reported by owners deal with visibility and trunk space — though some note squeaks and rattles that develop over time, too.
COMMON ISSUES: Looking at a TDI model? Be sure the idle is relatively smooth and free of missing, which could indicate a compression problem or potential engine damage.
Be sure the 1.8 litre turbo engine, if equipped, idles and pulls smoothly, too. These engines were known for frustrating failures of the electric coil packs that fire the spark plugs. If the engine ‘misses’, that’s likely what’s going on.
Also, be sure the timing belt on the turbo engine is within its service life and that oil changes were carried out within prescribed limits. Suffice to say a poorly-maintained 1.8T engine is not a desirable thing to own.
Get under the car and check for any signs of leaks, especially coolant. This could indicate a water-pump that’s readying to fail.
THE VERDICT: The used New Beetle comes standard with a great sense of community and great driving dynamics. It’s also a great candidate for a thorough pre-purchase mechanical inspection and extended warranty opt-in.