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First Drive: 2014 Volkswagen Beetle TDI (Manual)

2014 Volkswagen Beetle TDI

These days, Volkswagen isn’t known for its robust designs and as they continue to offer up conservative schemes amongst their line-up, it’s good to see that the designers at VW got to have a little fun when it came to the latest installment of the Beetle. To be honest, we didn’t care for the last-gen Bug; we thought it was more of a teenagers California cruiser, for girls with Daddy’s credit card. And it seems VW thought the same, as this newer, mature, masculine Beetle is now aimed toward the male influence and driving enthusiast.

However, we are not here to discuss its new design, we are here to check out the new TDI engine. To the Beetle aficionado it’s easy to distinguish a TDI Beetle, the standard, handsome 17” rotor alloy wheels, the twin tip exhaust, and small TDI badging on the back trunk. These little touches really bring out the Beetle’s retro characteristics as well as our Tornado Red paint job. That’s about where the TDI signature ends; because from the moment you start the engine there is no indication that this is a diesel. There is no smell and it doesn’t sound like those barn yard tractors, anymore.

Volkswagen had to play their cards right with the new Turbo Diesel. They needed to maintain the sporty driving dynamics while maintaining efficiency for those that still want to do their part for the environment. As soon as we started to analyze our spec sheet, the numbers didn’t quite add up to a “sporty” combination; a 2.0L TDI 4-cylinder with 140 horsepower being transferred to the front wheels. But that’s just half the story, the number we’re most interested in is the 236 lb-ft of torque – now that’s a lot! Throw in the six-speed manual transmission and the total output exceeded our expectations.

Now, don’t be fooled by the stop clock on the dash, this TDI Beetle will be lucky enough to crank out 0-60 in 8 seconds – depending on how quick you can shift. But thanks to its ample torque, and the turbo boosts, which kicks in roughly at 28 psi, it’s then the TDI Beetle becomes a vigorous little bug to drive. At 40 mph in 3rd gear, foot down, let the turbo kick in and the torque do the work; 70 mph will arrive in licitly split. Where the fun factor arrives is how the Beetle handles. The Beetle feels solid; toss it into a corner and it will do as asked from the responsive, tight, flat bottom steering wheel.

We should however cater to the people that will most likely buy the TDI, someone who thinks Tofu is a food group. EPA rates the TDI at 28 city and 41 highway – VW was being modest. During our week we did slightly better than that, a lot better – 35 mpg city and 54 mpg highway. That provided us with an astonishing 480 miles on a 14 gallon tank. On top of that, the Beetle is smooth and easy to drive. The suspension is forgiving over nasty bumps. The clutch has a sport feel, but is light and smooth, as well as the gear changes; which make driving enjoyable.

From inside the cabin things only get better. The interior is nicely appointed in a Titan Black Leatherette which has carbon fiber fabric fillers on the seats. There is room for 4 full size adults – comfortably. The front seats are even heated for when it starts to get cold. But most of all check out our color coordinated dash! The Beetle’s spunk value just sky rocketed.

As we showed off the Beetles retro design, several passer byers noted that the color coordinated interior might be hard to live with. Our response to that is quite the opposite. Even with our bright red dash, the good use of silver and piano black trim is a nice contrast. And everything is well laid out for excellent functionality – the large instrument cluster is groovy, the Kaferfach split glove box is reminiscent of the 60’s era, and our leather wrapped flat bottom steering wheel adds sportiness to the driving dynamics.

Our sampled Beetle arrived as a top trim spec containing a Panoramic Sunroof, a fantastic “Fender” Audio System, and a subpar Navigation system. While Sunroof and Audio system are awesome features, the Navigation is one we could live without. The system feels a bit cumbersome; it is not very user friendly as others on the market and the quality isn’t that great. Not to mention there isn’t a back-up camera. We also found a dislike to the location of the pedals – they were slightly over to the right which meant your legs were at a slight angle and the large C-Pillar design posed a blind spot issue.

Nonetheless, we will not let these minor details ruin our opinion. We quite like the TDI Beetle – we like the funkiness and charisma. We like the styling, the carbon fiber seats, the 3-pod mounted gauge cluster, it’s comfortable, has room in the trunk for things, it’s economical and fun to drive. It’s also very well equipped; Push Button Start, Touch Screen Radio, Trip Computer, Leatherette Interior, Heated Seats, Multi-Function Steering Wheel, and Bluetooth. If it was up to us, we would spring for the base TDI Beetle which starts at $24,595 and save the $4,000 on the extras.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Manual (Sunroof, Sound & Nav) $27,495
Destination: $820
Notable Standard Features:
2.0L 140 HP & 236 lb-ft Torque
17″ Alloy Wheels
Proximity Key w/ Push Button Start
Leatherette Interior w/ Heated Front Seats
Panoramic Sunroof
Fender Audio System
Grand Total: $28,315


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