With 30% more horsepower than the standard New Beetle, the New Beetle 1.8T is now a credible performer as well as an economical hatchback. The 1.8T’s turbocharged 1.8 litre four cylinder engine with five valves per cylinder and dual overhead camshafts is borrowed from the mid-sized Passat sedan.
Turbo Beetle is more fun to drive
With 30% more horsepower and 33% more torque than the standard New Beetle 2.0, the New Beetle 1.8T is now more than just a retro-styled economy car – it’s a sporty hatchback that’s fun to drive.
New Beetle 1.8T models have the same turbocharged 150 horsepower 1.8 litre four cylinder engine (with five valves per cylinder and dual overhead camshafts) found in the Passat sedan. That compares with the 115 horsepower 2.0 litre four cylinder powerplant found in the standard New Beetle.
The practical benefits of the more powerful 1.8 litre motor are in time-savings and safety: for example, merging onto the freeway in front of a looming semi-trailer; accelerating from a stop-light quickly in order to change lanes for the next turn; getting through a traffic light before it turns red…and other acceleration-dependent situations.
The other benefit to the turbo engine is a noticeable increase in the fun-to-drive quotient. No longer is the New Beetle just a funky way to get from Point A to Point B – getting there is now at least half the fun. Though the turbocharged 1.8 litre four cylinder engine is smaller than the standard 2.0 litre motor, it’s quieter, smoother, and more responsive.
There was no need to upgrade the New Beetle’s suspension and brakes to match the new engine – they were already better-than-average. The New Beetle’s suspension, which it shares with the New Golf and New Jetta, offers an excellent combination of handling and ride; its standard wheels and tires are 16 inch, and brakes are standard four-wheel-discs with ABS.
The New Beetle 1.8T is car you can enjoy driving on challenging roads, in part because it now has the power to tackle steep hills, and overtake slower cars. It’s also quite comfortable cruising on the freeway – the engine turns over a lazy 2800 rpm at a steady 100 km/h. The optional 4-speed automatic transmission in my test car held its upshifts for a sportier driving feel, and avoided shifting up unnecessarily when coasting down hills.
There’s no difference in interior styling between the standard New Beetle and the 1.8T. Both offer retro-styling that includes such nostalgic features as a single round instrument cluster with a big speedo, small tachometer, fuel gauge and blue/purple backlighting, body-coloured inside door sills, aluminum-look spokes on the steering wheel, a grab handle on the passenger side, and of course, a small bud vase for fresh flowers.
More modern design elements include a radio and heater in the center dash area that protrude toward the driver, comfortable front bucket seats with optional seat heaters with five temperature settings, illuminated switches for headlights, power windows and door locks, and height adjustable front and rear head restraints. The front seats tilt up and forward to allow passengers to enter the rear seat.
However, in some respects, the design of the interior has been compromised for the sake of the New Beetle’s exterior styling. The rear seats have minimal headroom for people over 5′ 5″ tall, the trunk is relatively small without the rear seat folded down (split folding rear seats are not available), there’s no centre armrest or storage compartments (on GLS models), and the centre dash area is so close to the manual shift lever that it’s possible to strike the dash when groping for the shift lever. In addition, the enormous dashtop seems like wasted space in a car with minimal rear headroom. I also wondered why there are three cupholders for front passengers and only one for rear passengers.
These criticisms aside, the New Beetle 1.8T is a car you can both enjoy driving and enjoy being seen in. A year after the first New Beetle was introduced, it still attracts admiring glances from passers-by. Curiously, there’s virtually nothing to distinguish the 1.8T model from the 2.0 model – not even a badge on the rear decklid. The only way to tell the difference is to look for the black roof spoiler which pops up at highway speeds.
1.8T models come in two trim levels: GLS and GLX, starting at $25,350 and $28,050 respectively. Standard equipment on 1.8T GLS models includes P205/55R-16 inch tires, roof spoiler, electronic differential lock, AM/FM/cassette with six speakers, air conditioning, anti-theft alarm, central power door locking with remote, cruise control, front and side airbags, height-adjustable front seats, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, digital clock and outside temperature display, two 12V power outlets inside and one 12V outlet in the trunk.
To these features, 1.8T GLX models add perforated leather upholstery, alloy wheels with anti-theft wheel locks, power glass sunroof with sunshade, centre armrest/storage compartment, heated windshield washer nozzles, heated front seats, and leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake cover.
New Beetles come with a 2 year/40,000 kilometre basic warranty and a 5 year/100,000 km powertrain warranty.
You can find out more about the New Beetle 1.8T on the web at www.turbonium.com.