The VW Beetle drives off into the sunset.
The Volkswagen Beetle is easily one of the most recognized and enduring model names on the planet. It brought new car ownership to the masses and has endeared itself through countless cultural references, including the “The Love Bug” movie franchise. Alas, after seven decades of production, the final Beetles rolled out in July 2019.
For its last year, the VW Beetle once again comes in two-door coupe and convertible body styles. A pair of “Final Edition” trims highlight the changes for 2019. Volkswagen prices the coupe from $20,895 and the Beetle Convertible from $25,995. The priciest model costs about $30,000, plus the destination fee.
There is no getting around it that the Beetle’s heritage is traced to a very distressing time in human history: Nazi Germany. In 1933 der Führer, Adolph Hitler, wanted a low-cost “people’s car” to advance mobility and in 1938 the Type 1 (Beetle) was born.
It wasn’t until after World War II, when an ally-controlled government allowed production to resume, eventually reaching a level ideal for worldwide distribution. By 1949 the first Volkswagens arrived in America, effectively paving the way for many foreign manufacturers to follow.
Three Generations of Beetles
The beloved first-generation Beetle featured a rear engine and rear-wheel drive and remained in production until 2003. Americans, however, saw the last one in 1980 as the aged vehicle could no longer meet stringent U.S. emissions guidelines. The VW Rabbit (Golf) had already replaced the Beetle, itself a thoroughly modern front-engine, front-wheel-drive vehicle.
In 1997 Volkswagen released the New Beetle, a compact model that drew heavy inspiration from the design of the original. Underneath, though, the New Beetle shared the same architecture supporting the Golf and Jetta.
Beginning in 2011, Volkswagen released a new Beetle, dropping the “New” nomenclature for the third and final-generation model. Design cues from the original continued, but the look was more aggressive and sportier than before.
The Final Volkswagen Beetle
Quite easily, the final Beetle is much more comfortable than the original, but like the first model, it’s ideal for two adults up front and two children in the rear. The interior is smaller than the Golf with the sloping roofline restricting the rear-seat headroom.
We like the simple look, although the design is more spartan than before. Gone is the once available flower vase, a nod to the peace, love, and freedom movement of the 1960s. it does retain a secondary storage bin, located directly above the glovebox. The cabin trim has a retro look and is painted to match the exterior.
The trunk is bigger than most, measuring 15.4 cubic feet (just 7.1 cubic feet in the convertible, however). Unlike the original, you can fold down the rear seat, nearly doubling the storage capacity.
Modern tech features include a display screen, audio package, USB ports, and smartphone connectivity. The available Fender audio system is an upgrade worth taking.
The last of the Beetles is reasonably powerful as it’s motivated by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 174 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. This engine works with a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s an efficient vehicle too, as it makes an EPA-estimated 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.
Although it’s much faster than the 53-horsepower original, this Beetle is designed more for comfort than for driving acumen. Even so, direct steering and a balanced chassis make for solid handling on long, winding roads. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and has a manual mode for a more engaging driving experience.
The Curtain Drops
The Volkswagen Beetle rides off into the sunset with little chance we’ll see a new one again. The convertible may be the winner here, especially for drivers looking for top-down fun at a budget price. The remaining inventories are small and are skewed toward the convertible.
Photos copyright Stumpwater Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved.