Volkswagen Beetle, 2013: New Turbo diesel has sports car tendencies

James Raia

The slogan for the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle is “Still turns heads. Just Faster.” Automaker slogans often don’t mean much. But in the instance of the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI, which debuted this year, the words work.

The Beetle TDI’s 2.0-liter turbodiesel delivers 140 horsepower, 236 lb-ft of torque and is offered with either a six-speed manual or Tiptronic automatic transmission. Those are foreign numbers when compared to the specs of the original introduced in 1938, and they should be. And yet, after 75 years, the VW Beetle in many ways is still a Bug.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

As arguably the most easily recognized car in the world, and particularly in my week with a bright yellow turbo diesel edition, the efficient little machine was stared at repeatedly. And comments were nearly as frequent.

2013 Volkswagen TDI Diesel
2013 Volkswagen TDI Diesel

I drove the VW on a frequent test route, the 400-mile round trip trek from Sacramento to the Monterey Peninsula. My Beetle TDI featured the six-speed manual transmission, and I’m glad it did.

The new VW Beetle TDI, with its new sleek exterior design and responsive acceleration, is as near to a sports cars as any stock Bug in the iconic car’s history.

Volkswagen completely redesigned the car in 2012 to attract more male buyers. I haven’t seen the statistics for 2012 sales, but the addition of the Turbo Direction Injection (TDI) can only help in 2013.

The six-speed manual transmission tester had a smooth, short shift and acceleration was swift, a particularly unique trait since the Beetle TDI also has sedan overtones as a two-door hatchback. Open the trunk via the push/pull VW insignia opener, push down the split rear seats (nearly flat) and there’s a cavernous area — a first time description for a VW Bug. Never before have the words spaciousness and VW Bug been used in the same sentence.

The 2013 VW Beetle features a substantial list of standard equipment, including: traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes and front side and side curtain airbags.

And the interior, while modern and offering intuitive dials and buttons, also has pays homage to yesteryear’s model. The trim across the dash and doors can be painted the same color as the exterior — just like the cool concept from Bugs decades ago.


Sleek exterior styling.

Comfortable, easily adjustable seats.

VW insignia hatchback opener.

Short-shifting, six-speed manual transmission.

Retro-style painted glovebox with push lever opening.

Movable, Velcro luggage/cargo area braces.


Back seat headrests obscure small rear window view.

Awkward side view mirror adjustment switches.

Facts & Figures: 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, unavailable.
Airbags (4).
First aid kit: Yes ($35 charge).
Fuel economy: 28 mpg (city), 41 mpg (highway).
Government Safety Ratings: NHTSA, Frontal crash (Driver, passenger, not rated); Side crash (front, rear seat), five stars; Rollover, four stars.
Horsepower: 140.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $23,295.00
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.vw.com
Price As tested: $24,360.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 12 years/unlimited miles; Roadside Assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles.

What Others Say:

“It’s quite the balancing act to create a new car that pays homage to an iconic model while still staying modern enough to be relevant in today’s market. Yet the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle manages to confidently walk that tightrope without so much as a wobble, appealing to old hippies and young hipsters alike, not to mention plenty of folks in between.” — Edmunds.

“Driving the 2013 Beetle, we are both entertained and disappointed. Entertained, because it does everything well: All controls feel direct and responsive, and the behavior is stable and refined. Disappointed, because we wish this latest iteration of the Beetle had the more spirited dynamics of VW’s GTI, one of our all-time favorites.” — Kelley Blue Book.

“Our Beetle TDI test car was equipped with the manual gearbox, and frankly, this is the only option for enthusiasts. Throw the shifter into 1st gear and step on the throttle. The front-drive car launches like a rocket from a standstill, with the torque coming on almost instantly, and the acceleration continues even into high revs.” — Road and Track.

What The Wife Says:

“It’s not my mother’s car. Growing up, I used to sit in the back the very back behind the backseat. Those were the days before seat belts and child safety protection laws.”

“This bug has way more room in the back. I like the fact the seats fold down to carry even more. Of course, it doesn’t drive like my mother’s car, either. This one purrs along the freeway instead of rattling with vibrations and air noise. It does remind me of my mom’s car when I first start the engine.”

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“The new Beetle manages to combine the traditions of iconic Bugs of yesteryear while coming of age with a sleek new design, modernized features and a snappy turbo diesel engine that adds a good chunk of performance. What’s not to like? It’s sheer fun.”

Article Last Updated: August 22, 2021.

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