$8,106 - $18,674

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle was new.


Performance: 7.3

Reviewers like driving the sporty 2013 Volkswagen Beetle. Of the three available engines, test drivers seem to prefer its turbocharged engines, one of which runs on diesel fuel. All models have strong brakes. Reviewers think the Beetle Turbo has the sportiest handling, though its suspension doesn’t absorb potholes and bumps as well as the softer base suspension.

  • "Driving the 2013 Beetle, we are both entertained and disappointed. Entertained, because it does everything well: All controls feel direct and responsive, and the behavior is stable and refined. Disappointed, because we wish this latest iteration of the Beetle had the more spirited dynamics of VW's GTI, one of our all-time favorites." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Ride, acceleration and handling: It gets very good marks in all three. Normal drivers, those of us who don’t imagine public roads as race tracks, will have no problems with this one." -- The Washington Post (2012)

Acceleration and Power

The 2013 VW Beetle offers three engines and four transmissions. The base Beetle has a 170-horsepower, five-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. There’s also a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 200 horsepower and a turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that makes 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual, a six-speed automatic and a dual-clutch automated manual transmission are optional, depending on which engine you select. With the base engine, the Beetle averages 22/29 mpg city/highway with the automatic transmission, which is low for the class. Models with the diesel engine average up to 28/41 mpg, according to the EPA. The diesel’s ratings are excellent for an affordable small car.

Reviewers like all three of the Beetle’s available engines, but for different reasons. The base engine is plenty powerful for the class, and auto writers think the Beetle has good acceleration with this engine, though they say it sometimes struggles to pass other cars on the interstate. Although the turbocharged diesel engine has the lowest horsepower rating in the model line, it has the highest torque rating. Reviewers like the Beetle TDI’s off-the-line acceleration and high fuel economy ratings. Auto critics think the 200-horsepower engine is powerful, and they say that it slots just below the Volkswagen GTI in terms of performance, which is a big compliment. Test drivers have few complaints about the Beetle’s transmissions. They say the six-speed automatic is smooth and responsive and think the six-speed manual is very easy to operate.

  • "So the TDI isn't a sprinter, but it does get across intersections with vigor, thanks to its ample torque." -- Car and Driver 
  • "Our Beetle TDI test car was equipped with the manual gearbox, and frankly, this is the only option for enthusiasts. Throw the shifter into 1st gear and step on the throttle. The front-drive car launches like a rocket from a standstill, with the torque coming on almost instantly, and the acceleration continues even into high revs." -- Road and Track
  • "The 2013 Beetle's base 2.5-liter 5-cylinder is completely satisfactory, but the 2.0-liter turbo-4 is a real stormer throughout its rev range, and our preference." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The six-speed manual is quite possibly the most easily shifted do-it-yourself transmission around, while the sophisticated DSG gearbox is a nice compromise for those who want the simplicity of an automatic with the performance and control of a manual. However, throttle response with the DSG can be frustratingly slow when left in the normal drive mode." -- Edmunds
  • "On a sliding scale of sportiness, the Beetle Turbo rises a few rungs above the standard Golf, but a rung or two below the GTI. … Still, bend the Beetle Turbo into a series of curves and it is certainly fun." -- Popular Mechanics (2012)
  • "The 5-cylinder engine provides good low-speed acceleration but only adequate highway-passing power. Its 6-speed automatic shifts smoothly and downshifts promptly." -- Consumer Guide (2012)

Handling and Braking

Of the base, TDI and Turbo models, the automotive press agrees that the Beetle Turbo has the sportiest handling. Generally, cars with sport suspensions, like the Beetle Turbo, have a harsh ride, but auto critics think that the Beetle’s ride isn’t too bumpy. One test driver says that the base suspension is just right. It’s not too stiff and it isn’t too soft. The same reviewer also mentions that the base model quickly reacts to the driver’s steering inputs. Few reviewers comment on the Beetle’s braking abilities, but one who does says they are responsive.

  • "What this yields is handling response that's far from sluggish and ride quality that shades toward firm. But the TDI isn't as athletic as the Turbo, and the torsion-beam rear isn't quite as supple as the multilink setup, even though the Turbo has better roll stiffness." -- Car and Driver
  • "Even the Turbo's optional sport suspension shrugs off bumps and ruts in the road. You can still feel every imperfection, but there's no harshness to speak of." -- Edmunds
  • "The suspension is a good blend. Not stiff, but sporting enough to let you motor briskly through corners. Not soggy, but compliant enough to handle drainage channels and potholes with only modest disruption. Steering and brakes are quick to answer the driver's call. …" -- USA Today (2012)
  • "The sport suspension - and perhaps the rear spoiler - helped keep things very stable and trustworthy, with little susceptibility to crosswinds." -- Autoblog (Turbo, 2012)

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