Volkswagen’s new Beetle premiered at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show in January with classic tunes from the 1960s blasting and daisies decorating its dashboard. The original Beetle first appeared in America after World War II, achieving its greatest U.S. sales through the 1960s flower power era. Sales slumped throughout the 1970s and the Beetle eventually got discontinued at the end of the decade. Volkswagen hopes that the new 1998 Volkswagen Beetle will rekindle the magic of yesteryear, in particular appealing to now aging but nostalgic baby boomers.
The new Beetle does a great job of evoking memories but it falls far from an exact replica of the original Beetle. Volkswagen has decided to mix design elements from the original Beetle with modern amenities and technology. This new Beetle does not share any of the same parts of its original namesake. However, the trademark-look and -shape of the original Beetle remains. Stylistically it appeals to those who love the original, while not alienating younger buyers who have no recollection of the old Beetles.
Body Styles: two-door hatchback
Engines: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 1.9-liter four-cylinder diesel
Transmissions: five-speed manual, four speed automatic
Models: Volkswagen Beetle, Volkswagen Beetle TDi
This marks the first year that the new Volkswagen Beetle hits the market. VW brings a legendary car back to life, combining retro styling with a modern flair.
The most noticeable difference between the 1998 Volkswagen Beetle and the original Beetle concerns the location of the engine, which used to sit in the front of the car. The new 1998 Volkswagen Beetle’s engine sits in the back of the vehicle. The new Beetle also uses front drive rather than rear drive.
The trademark shape of the old Beetle’s body still remains. That said the new Beetle, while still being compact, looks larger than its predecessor at 161.1 inches long, 67.9 inches wide, and 59.5 inches tall. It rides a wheelbase of 98.9 inches. The 1998 Volkswagen Beetle with the automatic transmission has a curb weight of 2778 pounds while the manual transmission has a 2712-pound curb weight. The new Beetle comes standard with 16-inch tires, rack and pinion steering, and an independent suspension.
The Beetle has two doors. This somewhat complicates entry into the back seat. One nice thing about the new Beetle’s design is that the trunk now sits in the back of the vehicle. This shift actually adds much more room.
The 1998 Volkswagen Beetle advertises four seats but the back seat uses a one-piece bench seat style. It offers a total of 96.3 cubic feet of interior space Front headroom totals 41.3 inches, with 39.4 inches of front legroom. Rear headroom totals 36.7 inches, while rear legroom measure 33 inches.
Cloth seats, air-conditioning, a tachometer, an AM/FM/cassette audio system, an anti-theft alarm system, a keyless entry system, remote trunk release, daytime running lights, power door locks, and tilt steering come standard in the new Beetle. Options include a leather shift knob trim, heated front seats, a CD changer, cruise control, and vinyl seating.
With the trunk in the back of the Beetle, it offers 12 cubic feet of rear storage space. This space can be expanded for even more storage space with the rear seat folded down.
Gauges sit located in one round instrument pod for easy access and convenience. The instrument panel and its controls have illumination, so turning the lights on at night looks very much like plugging in a Christmas tree.
Performance & Handling
The 1998 Volkswagen Beetle feels peppy and handles very well while driving. Road noise remains minimal even at highway speeds. The new Beetle offers a surprisingly smooth ride.
The new VW Beetle comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission. To the dismay of some hardcore Beetle purists, it also offers the option of a four-speed automatic transmission. The 1998 Beetle also presents a choice between two engines. The standard 2.0-liter engine has been used for years in VW performance motors for racecars and race boats. It cranks out 115 horsepower with 122 ft-lb of torque. This kind of power, with minimal noise, seems unimaginable with the original Beetle, which sounds like it accelerates up to 190 mph when it only reaches 55 mph.
Volkswagen also offers an optional, more environmentally friendly, 1.9-liter engine that runs on diesel with 90 horsepower and 149 ft-lb of torque. Thanks to the diesel technology, this engine emits 20 percent less carbon dioxide.
IIHS frontal-offset crash tests rate the 1998 Volkswagen Beetle “Good? based on the car’s performance in a 40-mph frontal crash simulation. The Beetle proves solid with all body panels and fenders packed with high-impact foam and front driver and passenger side airbags.
EPA Fuel Economy
Volkswagen Beetle: 23/27 mpg city/highway
Volkswagen Beetle TDi: 35/44 mpg city/highway
- Looks and style
- Roomy interior
- Cute but powerful
- Compact size
- Huge dashboard
You Won't Like
- Back seat
- Electrical system problems
- Reliability issues
Meet the Beetles!
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