This is one of those cars that is just so effortless to drive that you can’t get out of the driver’s seat.
As it stands today, you’d be hard pressed to find somebody, even those oblivious from the car world, who has never heard of the Volkswagen Beetle. Brought to fame by Disney’s “The Love Bug” series where the world fell in love with Herbie the Beetle, the car holds true as one of the best selling cars of all time. The rear-engine Volkswagen Type 1 started production in 1938 and was produced in almost the same form in certain markets until 2003, also giving it one of the longest production runs in the world. Remaining true to its roots, Volkswagen revived the New Beetle for 1998, a front-drive front-engine hatchback based on the Golf (reviewed here).
The second-generation vehicle as tested here shares its platform, codenamed “A5”, with the outgoing Jetta (reviewed here), which bodes well for it. Our test vehicle here is a 2018 Volkswagen Beetle Coast Coast, with an added “Style” package. The Coast is effectively an appearance package as the Beetle approaches the end of its production run, one that adds unique 17” wheels with chrome hubcaps, a surfboard-inspired material on the dash, Fender premium audio, and a 2.0L inline four-cylinder mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
A far cry from the original Volkswagen Type 1, the turbocharged inline-four in the 2018 Beetle is good for 174 horsepower at 5,000RPM and 184 lb-ft. of torque at just 1,500RPM. Manuals are available on the Beetle, but this particular test vehicle sees the conventional six-speed auto, which is not a dual-clutch unit as seen in the GTI (reviewed here). The 2.0L replaces the 1.8L TSI engine that was used in Beetles and other Volkswagen products in the past few years, and adds a little bit of horsepower and a lot of refinement.
Power delivery from this engine is immediate with minimal turbo lag, but still feels underpowered sometimes when approaching highway speeds. Most of this is due to the six-speed auto being lazy to downshift and being tuned for efficiency, but it’s still worth mentioning. The automatic does have a manual shift (Tiptronic) mode for added control, which is a benefit. For the vast majority of drivers though, this powertrain is more than adequate and the Beetle’s well-tuned chassis makes for a compliant ride.
The electrically assisted power steering is good and exhibits adequate feel, but could definitely benefit from more weight (even if artificial) to increase driving engagement slightly. If competency in the corners is of a high priority, the Beetle won’t impress as much as a Golf R (reviewed here), but it does about as well as a standard Golf or Jetta.
The aftermarket does have plenty of support for Volkswagen and those who want to stiffen up their Beetle will have no trouble finding subtle modifications. As it is, the suspension tuning is on the softer side, definitely calibrated for comfort over sharpness, but it has the right amount of dampening for good body control. The front MacPherson struts and rear multi-link setup makes for good absorption of road imperfections and the jarring potholes that Toronto’s streets are currently riddled with.
On the inside, the Beetle Coast impresses, with plenty of space for two and reasonable accommodations in the rear as well. The front seats have the right amount of bolstering to hold you in your seat around spirited corners, but adults relegated to the rear will find headroom and legroom a challenge. Models equipped with sunroofs have an added penalty in the headroom department, but on the plus side, Volkswagen does offer a convertible body style as well.
The Beetle still remains true to its heritage with a simplistic layout that makes everything very easy to find. The AppConnect touchscreen (6.33” in this model) adds connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is a godsend for those of us living in, you know, the present. The instrument cluster in the Beetle has always been one of the car’s plus points, with very clear visuals and obvious legibility. There are some low-rent plastics visible, but nothing that’s out of line for a car built to a $21,000 price point. The seats and dashboard on the Coast feature cool patterns that are a great retro throwback that you won’t find in any competing cars.
Offering great efficiency operating on regular 87-octane fuel, Volkswagen Canada rates the Beetle Coast at 9.0L/100km city and 7.2L/100km on the highway. Our test week consisted of a cold front during the winter and a considerable amount of city driving. Even still, we still managed to squeeze 7.7L/100km in combined driving over about 600km with the car.
The 2018 Volkswagen Beetle Coast will not break any speed records or be the most engaging little car on the block, but it has come a long way from the stereotypes that pop culture has instilled on it. This is one of those cars that is just so effortless to drive that you can’t get out of the driver’s seat. Everyone has some sort of memory growing up around a Beetle, and that’s because it’s a car that looks cool and offers excellent value. Though the current model sits on a dated platform, it doesn’t feel nearly as old as it is, and the added engine displacement this year does a little bit to give it the performance hike it needs. AppConnect adds the latest in connectivity for millennials, meaning this is one car that will live on as long as we’ll let it.