By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 7.5
By evolving the original Beetles styling to meet 21st-century demands, the 2016 VW Beetle is set to win over a whole new generation. Like its ancestor, the Beetle is cute and affordable. Unlike the first Beetle, however, this latest version is loaded with modern safety and high-tech features, comes in a number of colors and offers a choice between two powerful turbocharged engines. The 2016 Beetle elongates the original car’s form, creating a silhouette more reminiscent of a vintage Porsche 356. Unique wheels for each trim further set the Beetle apart from the Mini Cooper and Fiat 500, as does its considerably larger size both inside and out. Regrettably, the excellent TDI diesel engine won’t be offered until its emissions issues are resolved.
If you’re shopping a compact coupe but you want something that really stands out from the crowd, Volkswagen’s 2016 Beetle coupe and convertible deserve a good look. Their build quality is excellent, as is the quality of the materials used to form the feature-rich cabin.
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The 2016 VW Beetle gets a simplified trim lineup, including a new value-added 1.8T S. Automatic Post Collision braking is made standard, while all but the base S trim gain VW Car-Net App-Connect.
Depending on the engine, the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle coupe can either feel like a peppy go-kart or a racy coupe. The standard engine for all but the R-Line is VW’s...
... 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that delivers both good acceleration and fuel economy. If you’re seeking GTI-like acceleration, the R-Line’s 210-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo can deliver it. Both engines offer the option of a manual (5-speed on the 1.8T, 6-speed on the R-Line) or automatic transmission. While the R-Line’s stiffer suspension provides better handling, it’s not so stiff as to make it unpalatable to the Beetle’s intended audience. Overall, the Beetle returns a softer ride than the Mini Cooper or Fiat 500, and its interior is quieter and more comfortable. At freeway speeds, the Beetle feels stable and solid, returning the kind of ride and handling more commonly associated with a midsize sedan.
A dying feature in most cars, Volkswagen arms the 2016 VW Beetle with two manual transmission choices: a 5-speed for the 1.8T, and a 6-speed for the 2.0-liter R-Line.
The Beetle’s interior is retro done right, paying homage to the original while making its 21st-century occupants feel like they’re riding in a $40,000 luxury coupe.
Coupe or convertible, all 2016 VW Beetles have four seats. The front seats are spacious but the rear seats are tight. The Beetle's interior is clean and simple with easy-to-use controls. A center armrest makes long commutes more comfortable. Multiple storage bins in the center console hold cell phones and small items. And there's the "kaeferfach" – an upper, secondary glove box that's a throwback to Bugs of yore. Coupe models have a hatchback design and surprising cargo space – 15.4 cubic feet with rear seats upright. Convertibles have less than half that space, and trunk access is rather awkward.
Less Flower. More Power. Today's Beetle is bigger, beefier and sportier-looking than the New Beetle that came before it with a built-in vase. VW’s 2016 Beetle and Beetle Convertible are still instantly recognizable, but their iconic shape has been elongated and now looks more like their sexy cousin, the Audi TT. A rear spoiler that's standard on the R-Line and optional on other models injects sporty appeal and a visual break from the rest of the Beetle's mounds of round. Convertible Beetle models have a power-operated folding fabric top and a trunklid instead of the hardtop's liftgate.
The 2016 VW Beetle lineup consists of two models and three trims: S, SE and SEL. The least expensive S model includes an automatic transmission, 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, air conditioning, cloth seats, 5-inch MIB II touch-screen radio with USB port, Bluetooth, cruise control, heated power mirrors and a rear spoiler. The SE trim adds a 6.3-inch MIB II touch-screen radio with App-Connect, a rearview camera and a 5-speed manual transmission. The SEL brings 18-inch wheels, navigation and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert. All new VWs come with one year/10,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance.
Options for the 2016 Beetle by VW are dependent on trim and include a navigation system, panoramic sunroof, keyless access, 18-inch alloy wheels, and premium Fender audio system. R-Line models can be had with bi-xenon headlights, leather interior and upgraded 19-inch wheels. Accessories to personalize the Beetle include a rear spoiler, retro-style wheels, body styling kit, and nickname badges on the rear, e.g., to call your new Beetle a "Bug."
With the TDI temporarily removed for 2016, the two remaining engines are both gasoline-powered and turbocharged. The 1.8-liter turbocharged gasoline engine churns out 170 horsepower and up to 33 mpg, and it offers a good balance of pep and efficiency. The zippiest Beetle is the R-Line with its 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine that makes 210 horsepower. All Beetles are front-wheel drive. As mentioned in Favorite Features, manual transmissions are widely available across the Beetle lineup, but the 6-speed automatic DSG is just as recommendable. The turbo gasoline engine in 1.8-liter models can run on regular unleaded; premium is recommended in the R-Line.
1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4
170 horsepower @ 4,800-6,200 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500-4,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/33 mpg (manual, coupe), 25/33 mpg (automatic, coupe), 24/32 mpg (automatic, convertible)
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
210 horsepower @ 5,300 rpm
207 lb-ft of torque @ 1,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/31 mpg (manual, coupe), 24/30 mpg (automatic, coupe), 23/29 mpg (manual, convertible), 23/31 mpg (automatic, convertible)
The 2016 VW Beetle has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting right around $20,600 for the S trim coupe, and it offers impressive content, including an automatic transmission. The SE coupe starts closer to $22,200, while an SEL with the 6-speed automatic starts around $26,800. Convertible models start just over $26,300. The R-Line SE Coupe starts near $26,800, while a top-line R-Line SEL Convertible rounds out just under $36,900. At these prices, the 2016 Beetle is in line with the 2016 Mini Cooper Hardtop and Convertible, and a few thousand higher than the starting points for the Fiat 500 fleet. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying for their new Beetle. The VW Beetle's resale value is not expected to hold up well, and not nearly match that of the Mini Cooper.