Starting at $24,995, the Beetle TDI comes in a pretty well equipped trim level at the outset. There is plenty of chrome trim down low on the rockers, across the front fascia grille and the lower window belt line.
Looking the TDI over there are a few details that differentiate it from the other Beetles. Notably the TDI comes with exclusive 17” Rotor design ten-spoke alloy wheels. Out on the rear hatch is a subtle TDI badge, the only one on the car.
The TDI even gets a dual exhaust pipe outlet at the rear bumper, something that was never emphasized in years past. The current Beetle is definitely more businesslike it its presentation than the last generation New Beetle overall.
Our Beetle TDI was a fully outfitted Sunroof, Sound and Navigation model priced at $28,315 including destination. The full power sunroof appears much like panoramic ones all the rage. It only opens half the way however and the sun shade is made of a mesh which is not entirely opaque.
Front seats are heated and manually adjusted in multiple ways. Seating surfaces even on the full tilt model are leatherette only. Still nice though, they have a carbon-fiber look to the side trims and are exceptionally comfortable both front and rear.
While the roof-line appears lower, there is plenty of leg and head room for the driver. I am 5′-10” and had to keep the seat forward more than in some cars, and no clearance issues for my hat. Back seat passengers will enjoy more head room than in the last generation Beetle.
The dash offers up a playful design with body color panels and a simple layout of switch-gear. While it’s a bit retro it still has German bred ergonomics. There’s a lot of storage too with two glove boxes, one upper and one lower.
Steering wheel mounted controls for audio and trip computer functions follow the Volkswagen standard, working very well. The center stack is laid out simply with all pertinent switch-gear right where you expect it. The start button in recent Volkswagen fashion is on the console.
Equipped in our Beetle is the touch-screen Fender Audio system with navigation. Missing from the system is the now almost expected back-up camera. HVAC controls remain of the simple to use variety with knobs for temperature, fan speed, and vent locations.
I particularly like the gauge pod on the dash which is a nice touch for the TDI. It even has a turbo boost gauge which is very rare for a diesel car. The touch-screen infotainment system on the other hand really could use some improvements in usability and menu layout.
The rear cargo hold is larger than on the previous-generation Beetle, with the rear seats offering a split folding expansion for larger items. The Fender audio system has a large sub-woofer back here taking up some space, but it’s sound is well worth the tradeoff.
Under the hood is what makes this car a Godsend for some or a bizarre science experiment for others. The 140 horsepower 2.0 liter turbo-diesel engine has a strong following of buyers yet still many see it as a quirk of autodom.
One of the smoothest and quietest diesels in the business today, it doesn’t smoke. It doesn’t pollute any more than most gasoline engines and offers up excellent fuel economy to go with much improved drivability over even the more recent 1.9 liter TDI engines of the last decade.
The engine with its 236 lb-ft of torque offers a nice kick in the back around town. Accelerating onto the freeway is also a bit of fun. While it’s not as fast as the 2.0 turbo gas model, the TDI won’t be unfun by any means.
The EPA rates the Beetle TDI with our 6-speed manual at 28 mpg city, 41 mpg highway with a 32 mpg combined rating. We achieved 36.5 mpg combined in our week with the TDI with a near 50/50 balance of city and highway driving.
Drivability with the 6-speed manual is pretty good, though getting used to shifting at lower rpm than with a gasoline engine may take getting used to for some. I usually prefer manuals and while this one works well, I’d probably option the DSG automatic.
On the road, the Beetle TDI has that solid German car feel. It rides like it weighs quite a bit and well, it does, coming in at about 3100 lbs. Steering is electronically assisted and gives a better than average feel while the brakes offer up adequate power for the base grade hardware.
For 2014 the Beetle TDI received the same multi-link rear suspension which used to be reserved only for the high-performance 2.0 turbo gas model. This new suspension offers less unsprung weight, more refinement, and precision for more aggressive driving.
Overall the chassis and body structure are remarkably solid and tight, with little in the way of rattles, clunks, or jitters over rougher surfaces. While the Beetle is actually built in Volkswagen’s Mexico factory, it still feels every bit a German car from behind the wheel. For more news and test drives of diesel cars, SUV’s and trucks see our partner channel DieselDig.com.