Volkswagen's New Beetle, a smash hit in the United States that seems to appeal to everyone from graying Baby Boomers to Generation Yers who haven't started shaving, rolls into 2000 with a handful of new features.
Rumors of a New Beetle convertible are true, but the ragtop won't arrive until the 2001 or 2002 model year. Until then, the hardtop two-door hatchback continues as the lone body style. The New Beetle debuted in 1998 and has enjoyed more success in the United States than in Europe. It was named 1999 North American Car of the Year by a panel of automotive journalists. It also had the highest projected residual value of any 1999 vehicle.
The bubble-shaped roof gives the four-seat New Beetle a strong visual link to the original, but it infringes on rear headroom. Legroom is limited in back, too, so this isn't the best choice for a family car. There is 12 cubic feet of cargo space at the rear, and the split rear seatbacks fold for additional room.
All models have a new theft-deterrent feature that immobilizes the engine unless a key with the proper electronic code is used in the ignition. Heated seats formerly were available only with leather upholstery, but now the "bun warmers" are part of a less-expensive Cold Weather Package.
As a modern interpretation of the original, the New Beetle is a one-of a-kind sporty hatchback in a world filled with cookie-cutter sedans and coupes. Whereas the original had an air-cooled rear engine and rear-wheel drive, the New Beetle is based on the Golf/Jetta platform and has a front engine and front-wheel drive.The New Beetle won't get squashed like a bug in minor collisions. It suffered the least amount of damage in a series of four bumper tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, performing much better than several larger cars.
Under the Hood
Three four-cylinder engines are available. Base engine is a 115 horsepower, 2.0-liter. A turbocharged 1.8-liter with 150 horsepower (also used in the Audi A4) is available on GLS and GLX models. The GLS TDI model uses a 90-horsepower turbocharged direct-injection diesel. Manual and automatic transmissions are available with all three.The traction control system on models with the 1.8-liter engine adds a new feature that applies the brakes to one front wheel at a time when needed instead of both all the time. All models have standard anti-lock brakes and side-impact airbags for the front seats.