Volkswagen Beetle Hatchback 1999 - 2005

Volkswagen Beetle Hatchback 1999 - 2005

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016


  • It has a distinctive funky image
  • It is cheap to run
  • Solidly built and reliable


  • The interior space is cramped
  • The boot is tiny and the tailgate in the cabriolet is ridiculously small


The new generation Volkswagen Beetle still retains the older generation’s rounded shape, but underneath it is essentially a Golf. Traditionally a hatchback, a cabriolet model was introduced in 2003. As you would expect from a car that is technically a Golf, it’s solidly built, reliable and offers a safe and composed ride. The distinctive shape has some negatives as the curved design eats into the interior space leaving only enough room in the back seats for children, and the boot is tiny.

Exterior and Interior

The Volkswagen Beetle comes as both a hatchback and a cabriolet, the latter adding even more style and fun to the car. The Beetle’s characteristic design that makes it stand out from the crowd also has a negative effect on the interior space. The back seat passengers receive very little room, making the back seats only usable for children. In the front, the space is much better. Adult occupants receive plenty of legroom and the seats offer good support and comfort. The boot is tiny and with its odd shape it makes loading large objects difficult. The high boot lip doesn’t make it any easier. The tailgate in the cabriolet is ridiculously small and terribly designed with only small items being able to fit into the boot. The interior isn’t as eye catching as the exterior, feeling rather drab, however, if you want a little extra colour and flair, there’s always the optional flower to put in the dash-mounted vase. Everything is well designed and the buttons on the dashboard are all easily reachable, and the build quality is very good. The roof of the cabriolet is electric on most of the models except for the basic 1.4-litre Luna model. It doesn’t look very nice when it’s down as it doesn’t stow away neatly and is actually a let down detracting from the Beetle’s looks. The 1.8-litre T models also come with a spoiler that rises up when you reach 96mph to improve the cars stability. As for picking a trim level, most models don’t come with a lot of choice, however, you receive plenty of kit as standard. It includes air-con, CD stereo, heated electric windows and electric mirrors. The top of the range T and V5 models come with the top trim level.

Performance and Economy

The Volkswagen Beetle was never built as a performance vehicle and so most of its engines reflect that fact, as they offer good rather than excellent performance. The range kicks off with a 1.4-litre unit, but it’s rather sluggish, taking a leisurely 14.1 seconds to get to 60mph. It is the most economical of the petrol engines, achieving 39mpg. The 1.6-litre engine is a better choice, getting to 60mph in 11.2 seconds, whilst still returning 37mpg. The 2.0-litre unit is the only one to be coupled with an optional automatic gearbox. The engine is not worth having because even in the manual version it’s only just faster than the 1.6-litre unit, whilst only achieving 32mpg. With the automatic gearbox instead of the manual the fuel efficiency and acceleration both drop noticeably. The 1.8-litre T and 2.3-litre V5 are the performance engines, but we’d go for the smaller 1.8 T unit as it’s just as quick to 60mph doing it in 8.4 seconds and is more economical, achieving an impressive 34mpg. It’s also the only one of the two performance engines available in the cabriolet model. The only diesel engine, the 1.9-litre TDI, is the most economical of the range, achieving 53mpg. The same unit has been used across the whole Volkswagen range as well as in SEATS, Skodas and Audis. The only down side to it is that it’s fairly noisy, especially when revved. Insurance costs start at group 7 for the 1.4-litre version, going up to group 9 for the 1.6-litre and go as high as group 15 for the two performance engines.

Like to Drive

As a lot of its components come from the Golf, you can expect the Beetle to perform well. Overall, it’s very easy to drive with the soft suspension ironing out all of the bumps in the road. It feels safe even on the most demanding of roads. It’s also a very good motorway cruiser with the noise from the wind, road and engine kept to a minimum. This is apart from with the 1.9-litre TDI engine, which is rarely quiet even at the best of times. However, the soft suspension does mean that there is plenty of body roll in the corners and that there is only a limited amount of grip, which is most apparent in the two high performance models. Parking can prove tricky in the cabriolet because the roof blocks a lot of the rear view whether it’s up or down.

Faults and Repairs

Compared to the classic Beetles, the new generation is practically bullet proof. As it’s based on the Volkswagen Golf, it suffers from the same generic problems. The clutch is the main culprit as it wears quickly. You’ll need a new one after just 40,000 miles. It has also been subjected to two recalls over its lifetime, the worst being over worries that water was entering the ABS unit. It would allegedly result in a short circuit and ultimately a fire. The other was over the passenger side air bag that could work itself loose, so be sure to check that this work has been carried out. Other than that the beetle is as reliable as most VWs. The Beetle is slightly more expensive to service than the Golf, but if you can find a good independent specialist, you should be able to save a fair amount.