2005 Volkswagen Beetle/Bug Review

I had to briefly take my car to the shop to get the plates, fix a ding that someone put in the car prior to me taking delivery, and a piece of plastic that fell out of the sunroof ( Yes, I’m an idiot for buying a VW, but the car feels damn nice when I’m driving it ). My loaner car was a 2005 VW bug/beetle, and I had about 5 1/2 days with it. The car came in a nice gray color; I’m willing to bet even money it was nearly the same as my current car. Since I’m a bit of a car nut, I’d tabulated all the things I noticed about the car and decided to put out a review. Disclosure: I’m totally in love with my new car, a 2007 VW GLI w/ Package 2, but I’ll try not to be too bias.

Specs:

2005 bug, 2.0 Naturally aspirated, Automatic transmission, leather, sunroof, fog lamps, monsoon stereo – appears stock with a tape deck(!!!).

Exterior:

Not a huge fan of the bug, but the dimensions are pretty pleasing. Lots of round shapes and a totally non-aggressive look. There are some nice breaks in the lines, and the overall appearance is well-proportioned. The gray paint is pretty dark and pleasing – like I said, pretty close to my own car, so I definitely approve of the color. Tires are a bit smallish, but on a car of this class, not our of place. Not sure if they were alloy or not, but certainly not a big issue on this car. Also, I forget to check if the side mirrors are collapsible. No huge loss, since on the Jetta they do collapse, but hardly enough to even make it worth the trouble. Headlamps are standard halogen and illuminate well enough. Never tested the fog lamps, which are slightly ridiculous on most cars anyway, I have yet to use mine on the Jetta.

Interior:

First of all, the seats are terrible. Probably designed for the widest, fattest denominator, but the bottom cushion is almost completely flat and strangely large. The seatback has almost no arch support and has no adjustment. The main seat adjustment is the normal VW ratchet/wheel combo, but I had difficulty finding a comfortable position due to the really flat seat cushion and no arch support. Head restraints are acceptable, but a little wide – they block a bit of visibility during blind-spot checks. The leather appears to be of decent quality. The odometer had around 32,000 miles on it, and the leather didn’t have any obvious cracks or damage. Commendable in a loaner car that people probably don’t take good care of.

Never sat in the back seat, but considering the small compartment space and the coupe design necessitating the seat to be pulled forward, I would say that its probably not a pleasant place to sit.

The trunk is TINY. I had purchased a floor heater for mother’s day, but my mom didn’t want it so I used the car to return it. In order to get it to fit, I had to fold down the rear seats and jam it in. It barely fit crosswise. Additionally, the curved design of the trunk forces you to touch an inordinately large patch of exterior when leaning into the trunk space. Do not wear white when loading this car! The loading level is nice and low however, and the trunk is fairly light for those with weaker arms/shorter arms.

Cockpit wise, the car is a win. Every control is within easy reach, and with the armrest down, its pretty natural to lightly grasp the shifter while steering. Speedometer is centered and gauge cluster includes a tachometer. Its tiny, but there, which is more than the G6’s I rode in (sedan and coupe). The only fumble is placing the clock waaaaaaaay up on the roof controls, right about the sunroof dial. What? I have to take my eyes of the road and totally refocus them to be able to see the clock.

Interior design is a mishmash of different textures. There is a bumpy finish on the front of the dash, and then a large area of flat plastic. The steering wheel was wrapped in leather, but the door panels where a mixture of metal and plastic. Unfortunately, the metal is at the top of the door, next to the window. Tinting is probably mandatory in this vehicle in the hotter states, where I’m sure the metal becomes scalding hot during the summer. Nice touch in the inside is the almost complete lack of hard edges/lines. Almost everything has been rounded off, which does go well with the exterior.

Also, the cupholders have this weird design where the move towards the passenger, but not the driver. I realized the necessity of this when I went to McDonald’s with a colleague. Normal sized cups barely fit because the holder is jammed underneath the center console. Most annoying part of this whole arrangement is my leg constantly bumping against the driver’s cupholder.

Pedals are decently close, but the gas pedal is tiny. Heel/toers in this car, I salute you.

Ride/Handling:

The car definitely displays Germanic tendencies, and the car handles admirably well over rough terrain/roads for a car of this class. Road imperfections and ruts are pretty damped, and don’t upset the composure of the car too much. Suspension is surprisingly stiff, but when loaded into a turn can spring somewhat nastily. Steering however, is fairly numb. Has a nice weight to the steering, but that weight masks road feeling. It is disappointing that certain road imperfections are felt more through the seat than the steering wheel. Not sure how many turns lock-to-lock, but surprisingly large turning radius for such a small car. Jetta feels and is more nimble. Road noise is moderately load, but windnoise can become loud at higher speeds. Overall though, the level of refinement is acceptable.

Engine/Transmission:

Most disappointing aspect of the car. The Too-slow (2.0) engine has decent power, especially at "normal" speeds ( 25+) and cruising on the highway, however, it is REALLY loud during hard acceleration. Additionally inspite of its small displacement and moderate power, returns only middling gas mileage. I was averaging maybe 25-27 miles per gallon with this engine, which I can meet or surpass with the GLI’s turbo-charged 2.0 liter. Huge disappointment. I was hoping to get at least 30 miles per gallon. I believe the main reason for this is the transmission – also a HUGE disappointment. I think it might have had 4 gears, but the real problem is the gearing. At highway speeds ( 65 mph ) the tach was reading around 3,000 rpm. This introduced noticeable transmission drone into the engine compartment during otherwise quiet conditions. This also hurts the gas mileage and makes the car need to shift. The short gearing allows the transmission to burn through its range rapidly, causing lots and lots of shifting to occur during all traffic patterns. The shifter is old school with the side button, but feels nice in the hand. Thankfully has a handbrake, but positioned underneath the armrest in an awkward position.

Stereo/Climate Control:

Lots of speakers and ok sound, but reception was crap, the buttons were tiny, and if there were speakers in the back, I couldn’t see them. Forward sound bias is the watchword for this car, but I don’t think anyone is going to want to sit in the back seat. Oh yeah, the final straw, a tape deck??? 1995 calling VW, they want their tape deck back, otherwise cyberdyne is sending a Terminator to retrieve it. Climate controls were excellent and easy to use. Large dials with lots of feedback allow you to promptly and easily set the temperature.

Overall:

Definite niche car. Appeal is primarily for city dwellers, but the poor gas mileage makes the car a poor choice for commuters. Additionally, the relatively large turning radius is puzzling on a car that is designed primarily for cities. Poor trunk space hurts the practicality of the vehicle, and makes this car a hard one to recommend. If I had a few more dollars, I’d definitely step into a mini, which supposedly handles better, has better service ( BMW owns Mini ), is more practical ( say what??? the mini has a normal shaped boot at least ), and is "cooler" to boot. Who wants to be Herbie when they can evoke Michael Caine?

Not recommended.

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