A history lesson…
Everyone loved a Beetle. Around 22 million of the originals were sold up until the mid 90s. The bug even became a film star. It's no wonder then that Volkswagen marketing types were soon showing off a new concept Beetle and reception was such that the car went into production in 1999. Once on the road though, the VW Beetle got mixed reviews with some considering it nothing more than a Golf in a fancy frock. Prices seemed high and that retro look was soon copied by the new Mini and later the Fiat 500. The used VW Beetle didn't really do anything particularly well, but that was to miss the point of the car. It was a style accessory, a fun thing and it did that with ease.
Bang for your buck
The Beetle was based on the Mark IV Golf, so underneath the goofy exterior it's a pretty solid car. This mundane heritage is pretty well hidden in the car's cabin, where the designers have created a bespoke Beetle environment rather than rehash bits of old Golf. The oversized circular instrument cluster with built-in rev counter has large numbers which glow blue at night and there is even a nod to flower power days with a fascia mounted vase for flowers. Yes, really. The bulbous roof line gives plenty of headroom in the front but pushes the windscreen into the far distance and arcs down steeply in the rear, presenting anyone taller than a child with real problems. Those exterior curves mean the boot is pretty tiny too and it can be difficult to judge where the car ends. Equipment levels are fair though and the range of engines will accommodate most buyers.
What you'll pay
The VW Beetle for sale was perceived as overpriced on launch and Volkswagen responded by dropping the average model price by around £700 when right hand drive versions arrived in the UK in 2000. This can make those very early left hookers a considerable bargain if you don't mind being on the wrong side of the cabin. The 1.6-litre model is a good value used Beetle and £2,000 will get you a 2000 W plate motor. The bug also comes in more powerful 1.8T and V5 variants but pace was never what the Beetle was about and they were slow sellers. If you can find one, a 1.8T 2001 Y plate will set you back £3,100. Insurance for the Beetle varies from Group 8 for the more sensible bugs and Group 15 for those Beetles which have consumed more horses.
What to check
Underneath the posh threads a used VW Beetle is pure Golf, so you're not going to get too many unpleasant surprises. That said the bug suffers the same Golf glitches so look out for a clutch that can wear out after 40,000 miles. Check it operates smoothly and isn't too stiff. There have been two recalls on the Beetle, one of which concerned water getting into the anti-lock braking unit and the other corrected a faulty passenger side airbag. Check that these were carried out. Finally, a lot of these cars were imported and have inferior specs. This can also cause much more serious insurance problems so check it's a common or garden British Beetle and not some foreign imposter.
Again, under the flower power camouflage it's all standard VW, so the prices aren't exotic. Based on a 1999 2.0, a clutch assembly is £170 and exhaust system with catalyst is £700. Front brake pads are £100, rears £27 a pair and a radiator is £140.
How it drives
It ought to drive like a Golf of course but it doesn't really. It feels bigger and clumsier and the huge windscreen pillars can obscure the view. The smaller engines are underpowered and generally engines across the range offer poorer returns than their Golf counterparts, with the 2.0-litre petrol for example pootling to 60mph in 11.5 seconds before the comedy aerodynamic profile stops it at 112mph. Handling overall is good though and there is less body roll than that inflated roofline would suggest. The ride is stable and surprisingly refined for such a quirky looking car. There is a fiery 3.2-litre V6 RS, but that isn't really what this Volkswagen Beetle digs. Best of the bunch is perhaps the 1.6, which combines decent economy with the ability to pose around town.