2008 marks the eleventh year since Volkswagen (VW) resurrected its beloved retro ""Bug"" for a new generation. The Beetle has always held a special place in America’s heart, and its reintroduction was a worthy cause for excitement. Over the past decade, however, the New Beetle faded in popularity. Even with a rolling list of upgrades over the years, the VW Beetle’s vintage reputation struggles to keep up with a slew of more modern competitors.
That’s not to say that the Volkswagen New Beetle doesn’t have anything going for it, however. Its instantly recognizable style and its sturdy German construction will surely please its drivers. Most basic features are included as standard with a wealth of upgrades available through different trim packages or individual options. But bringing an old favorite back to life has its challenges; in attempting to balance the Beetle’s retro personality with modern standards of power and convenience, this new Bug tends to fall off somewhere in the middle. A number of other small coupes and hatchbacks offer better quality and performance at a comparable price. Still, dedicated fans of the VW Beetle’s vintage personality and style will be pleased with the 2008 model.
Body Styles: hatchback, convertible
Engines: 2.5-liter five-cylinder
Transmissions: five-speed manual, six-speed automatic
Models: S, S PZEV, SE, SE PZEV, Black Tie Edition PZEV, Black Tie Edition, Triple White PZEV, Triple White
The only updates include some revision to the trim level names and some rearranging in the lists of optional features.
The VW Beetle’s unique ""Bug"" styling is what’s kept this car close to America’s heart over the decades, and the New Beetle maintains that classic look. This fresh version maintains the fun silhouette that continues to make the Beetle a one-of-a-kind personality on American roads. Volkswagen does expand the appeal and functionality of the New Beetle with a range of body and trim levels. The 2008 New Beetle is offered as a two-door hatchback coupe and convertible. The base S model’s standard offerings include16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a front air dam, and heated exterior mirrors. The SE model upgrades to 17-inch alloy wheels and a sunroof.
While the 2008 New Beetle’s interior may be stylish, it certainly isn’t roomy. With the closely-rounded roof, the back seat is particularly tight. The convertible, with the roof down, provides a bit more room as well as good sound insulation when the top is up. Poor visibility is another disadvantage of the Beetle’s bubble-shaped body, and cargo space is also severely limited.
The base S model comes with cruise control, V-Tex leatherette seat trim, and a CD/MP3 stereo with satellite radio and an auxiliary input jack. Upgraded options with the SE model include heated front seats, a leather steering wheel, and a premium audio system. The Triple White and Black Tie Edition packages also each include its own range of style points and creature comforts.
Performance & Handling
The new VW Beetle houses a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine, rated at 150 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration is not much more than adequate with both the standard five-speed manual and optional six-speed automatic transmission. Compared to most subcompact cars, the Beetle’s estimated fuel economy of 20/29 mpg city/highway is relatively low.
In keeping with its fun style and heritage, the New Beetle is a joy to drive with plenty of smoothness and comfort for longer excursions. The suspension is a bit soft, but steering and handling are steady and reliable. While it’s not the most powerful or athletic car on the road, the Beetle is certainly a machine consumers can enjoy playing with every once in a while.
Standard safety features for the 2008 Beetle include anti-lock disc brakes, stability control, front seat-mounted airbags, and active front head restraints. A rollover protection system is also included on the convertible. The 2008 Volkswagen New Beetle received four out of five stars for frontal impact safety in government crash testing, while side-impact tests earned in five stars for front passengers and three for the rear. The IIHS awarded the 2008 Beetle a ""good"" score in frontal-offset crash protection and a low ""poor"" for side impacts.
EPA Fuel Economy
Volkswagen Beetle: 20/29 mpg city/highway
- Classic style
- Long list of standard features
You Won't Like
- Old design
- Average power
- Limited room
- Lower safety ratings
An old classic that it hasn’t caught up to the competition in terms of power and performance.
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