COAL: 2014 VW Beetle – Again With The Red Beetle

On a whim, after four uneventful years of ownership, I traded my appliance white 2012 Jetta for a red 2014 Beetle. I was on the downward glide of a 40 year career, working towards retirement in just a couple of years and I was looking to make a tiny statement before heading out the door. A couple of months earlier I had gotten a tattoo and I had taken to wearing skinny jeans to work, pretty wild stuff, I know. I bought the Jetta instead of a VW CC because we already owned a 4 seater Volvo C30. So what was I doing with this little 2+2?

My second ever car was a red 1969 Beetle. As I moved toward retirement, I started to think about a new ride to take me into the sunset. I was feeling fairly nostalgic about Beetles since my ’69 was the car I was driving when I started my first real job.

I had briefly considered getting one of the new Beetles when they came out around 1999 or so, but I thought they were trying too hard to be cute. That new Beetle, based on the PQ34 (or A4  if you prefer) platform, really had nothing in common with the original Beetle unless you count the shape. The windshield was especially problematic for me considering the original Beetle had a flat windshield.

My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, took advantage of the media blitz that coincided with that car’s release and bought me this book.

Later, when our oldest daughter was getting married, she gave me this model as a gift. My family was really pulling for another red Beetle.

A little more than a decade after the new Beetle’s release, VW designers sort of smushed the old new Beetle to create the new-new Beetle and I kind of liked the result. It was much less cute, almost sullen now. Upsized to the PQ35 (A5) platform, just like my Jetta, interior accommodations were slightly improved and they fixed that GM dustbuster minivan style windshield issue. This design seemed to better capture the original Beetle look, without actually trying to copy it and I think they did a good job of it. The dash was a nice piece of work, hinting at the original while providing a functional layout for all of the modern controls and whatnot. The leather wrapped, flat bottom wheel provided nice driver feedback and looked way cool with the red trim. Over on the right was one small concession to silliness, the upper glove box lid with the recessed handle. Supposedly this mimicked the old Beetle glove box, but I remember mine as having just a simple round knob.

Here’s that rear seat issue, 2 chairs were all you got. But I had a hatchback again and my wife approved. She really didn’t like cars with trunks. As you can see here though, with that steeply sloped rear window, narrow opening, and seats that didn’t fold flat; this wasn’t a great cargo hauler.

Outside, they used a funky two part wheel cover consisting of an outer turbine thing with a small diameter chrome hub cap. You could remove that outer turbine thingy and retain just the hub cap, giving you a kind of old Beetle look. You could also order up chrome trim rings if you wanted to dress it up just a bit.

Underneath the wheel covers, the wheels were slotted, just like those old Beetle wheels. Other than the wheels and the chrome strip meant to mimic the line of the running boards on the original, VW didn’t do much with the exterior aside from those rounded fenders.

They didn’t even try with the taillights. In trying less hard to look like the old Beetle, I think VW actually did a better job of evoking it than they did with the new Beetle. In the US, the base engine was the 1.8 L turbo making 170 HP, replacing the previously offered 2.5 L. The base transmission was a 5 speed manual or you could get the 6 speed Tiptronic auto. Upgrading to the 2.0 L turbo or the TDI would get you a 6 speed manual or you could upgrade that to the DSG 6 speed auto. While making the same power as the previous 2.5 L, power peaked a bit sooner with the 1.8 and efficiency was somewhat improved. The Beetle did feel just a little more responsive than my Jetta, but it might just have been the red paint.

I ended up buying a 2014 lease return in 2016 with about 20,000 miles on it. Interior was black vinyl of decent quality. Mine had the stubby little outward opening sun roof they fitted to these things along with the blacked out roof, giving the impression that it was one of those panoramic jobs. I got the 1.8 L turbo with 5 speed manual, well suited for my kind of driving. The car was okay fun to drive, not unlike my Jetta which is no surprise, they shared a lot in common. Like my Jetta, I had no issues at all with this car.

But as I’m getting close to finishing this COAL series, I find myself stumped about what to say about these newer cars. There just isn’t much to write about. Nothing seems to break and if it does, I’m not likely to be able to repair it. And I find fewer people interested in cars, so they aren’t much of a conversation starter anymore, at least among my crowd. Mostly my new-new red Beetle puttered around town, no real road trips of any significance. We ended up trading this AND our Volvo C30 for a new Ford C-Max in 2018. It was a hard decision to let it go, but we decided if we were going to have just one car it should have more than two doors.