Volkswagen went way back to the drawing board with its reimagining of the Beetle. The new Beetle (VW has dropped "New" from the name) draws its inspiration from the original Beetle that was made from 1938 through the 1970s. The modern Beetle features a lower, flatter roofline and a more aggressive stance. Of course, the engine is now up front, reflecting modern car design. Overall dimensions have grown, which translates to more interior room for passengers. Those passengers get a combination of retro simplicity in the gauge layout, elegance in the quality of cabin materials and high-tech in the available gizmos and gadgets.
The Beetle comes in three basic trims--the base 2.5L, the TDI and the Turbo. The base model utilizes a 170-hp, 2.5L 5-cylinder engine driving the front wheels through a standard 5-speed manual. The TDI features a 2.0L turbocharged diesel engine good for 140-hp mated to either a 6-speed manual or a DSG. The Turbo delivers 200 hp from a 2.0L direct-injected and turbocharged 4-cylinder. Like the TDI, the Turbo is available with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed DSG. On 2.5 models, a 6-speed automatic with Tiptronic and Sport mode is optional. The dual-clutch unit offers drivers both fully automatic and semi-manual control.
The Beetle shares its underpinnings with the new Jetta, which include front struts and a rear twist-beam axle. Steering-feel will feel very familiar to those who have driven previous New Beetles, though the driving experience has changed significantly, thanks to the revised A-pillar angle and accordingly, the abbreviated dashboard. The effect is to bring the driver closer to the action.
A convertible version gets a power-folding fabric top. The top folds in 9.5 seconds and will operate at vehicle speeds up to 30 mph. Convertibles feature the same engine and transmission lineup as the coupe, and the modest weight increase barely hinders performance.
Base trims come nicely equipped with cruise control, keyless entry, 3-color ambient lighting, 6-way adjustable and heated front seats and a 50/50 split folding rear seat. On the technology front, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and a media device interface with iPod cable are also standard.
Base models can be equipped with a powered panoramic sunroof and a Fender premium sound system and navigation.
TDI models add a leather-wrapped steering wheel, push button start, Sirius XM radio and a multi-function trip computer.
Turbo models add a rear spoiler, 4-wheel disc brakes with red calipers behind special 18-inch Twister alloy wheels, variable electromechanical power steering, front MacPherson struts and a Cross Differential System, which helps prevent inside wheelspin when cornering. Inside, accents such as brushed aluminum-look pedal covers, sport seats, the 8-speaker sound system of the base car, cloth seating and special interior trim pieces.
Safety comes standard as well in all 2013 Beetles, with anti-lock brakes, dual front airbags and combined curtain and side front seat airbags.
After the successful introduction of the redesigned Beetle in 2012, VW has begun to flesh out the lineup. The biggest change for 2013 is the reintroduction of a diesel model (TDI). The diesel promises serious fuel economy for the stylish compact and is rated at 28 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway. Later in the year VW plans to introduce a special model dubbed the Fender Edition, as in Fender guitars. Featuring a premium sound system leather seating and special styling cues, the Fender edition should satisfy those looking for a more premium version of the iconic Beetle.