Reviewed: 2013 VW Beetle TDI, Having Your Cake And Eating Too

A little over a year ago we had the VW Beetle in for a week of testing, it was the 2.5L 5 cylinder with an automatic. We never published a review on it, because we flat out didn’t like it, though it was for personal reasons more than anything else. It felt like a pure nostalgia play, and it wasn’t enjoyable to drive.

When our VW rep called and asked if we wanted to try the Beetle with the TDI Clean Diesel, we said, “sure, why not”. We wondered if Volkswagen’s terrific TDI engine could be a saving grace. Turns out it absolutely transformed the car!

This TDI Beetle with a manual was not only a hoot to drive, it returned 47-48mpg on the highway at 80mph! Sit back and have a look as Rumblestrip.NET and Ten Minute Test Drive have a go with the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI.

Reviewed 2011 Volkswagen Jetta: Sometimes The Auto Critics Are Wrong

Some times the car critics are wrong.  That should come as no shock, after all, 75% the people who do car reviews are writing it for themselves and for their peers.  What the public in general might be looking for is irrelevant, it’s what THEY decide is important is what really matters, and if you aren’t on board 100%, well then, you can’t play in their sandbox.

If you never had any dealings with the previous generation of the Volkswagen Jetta, then you would have to wonder why there are few good words in the press about the new version of the car.  Even Consumer Reports has called it one of the most disappointing updates to car in recent memory.  Here is the thing, while the previous generation Jetta was a great car, it didn’t sell all that well because, even in lower spec trim, it was often as expensive, if not more expensive then other cars in it’s class when they were fully loaded.

For the 2011 Jetta, Volkswagen took a different tact.  Since most people say they will spend more money for quality, but never do when it’s time to pull out the checkbook, VW called their bluff.  The new Jetta has some materials in it that are not up to the level of the previous generation, it comes with a twist beam rear suspension rather than an independent rear suspension, and it’s driving dynamics have been softened, the level of the materials in the interior aren’t class leading, yet the car is selling in record numbers, mostly because it stickers for $3,000 to $5,000 less than the previous generation.

95% of the people who own and buy the Volkswagen Jetta couldn’t distinguish the difference between an IRS and a twist beam rear suspension if you let them drive them back to back, nor do they care.  While some people still viewed the Jetta as a 3 series BMW at a discount, most viewed it as a mid-sized car that was a bit smaller on the inside then it’s peers.  In increasing the size of the new Jetta, it is now on par or larger then most everything else for interior room.

The interior is pleasant enough.  Again if you were to read a number of reviews you’d think it was all hard plastic from the mid 1990’s, but that’s not the case.  Sure there are cars in this class that might have a slightly higher grade of materials, but there is plenty of soft touch surfaces inside.  Yes, everything could be a bit better, but VW tried that before and it didn’t work. 

If there was something that did frustrate us with the car it was the infotainment system.  It was not very intuitive, and the direction, once you could find them in the owners manual, were as clear as squid ink.  We did figure everything out after a time, but we can’t say there weren’t a few not for prime time words used in the process.

Something else that the critics would have you believe is that the 2.5 liter five cylinder is as smooth as 16 grit sandpaper.  OK, so it’s not silky like a 4.2 liter Jaguar inline 6, but what is?  The five cylinder runs well, has really good torque, paired with the five speed manual transmission we described the performance to to others as “plucky”.  As we said the car has really good low end torque, not V8 level torque, but with the number of small four cylinders we’ve driven of late that have NO power below 4,000 rpms, it was nice.  There was torque steer, but it wasn’t objectionable.  In fact, it was enjoyable to drive.

The styling on the new Jetta has also been very controversial because it is so safe.  Again, Volkswagen took the temperature of the market with this car, it looked at what the best selling cars in the segment are, Civic, Altima and Corolla, and decided that bold styling is not something that people look for.  Ford with the new Focus and Hyundai with the new Elantra are trying to change that, but if you look at the Mazda3, it hasn’t worked  for that model.

Fuel mileage for the Jetta was also good.  It is rated by the EPA at 23 city and 33 highway.  We put 400 miles on the Jetta, and saw 27 combined and 34.5 on a 90 mile highway loop.  As always we did not try to drive for maximum mpg, rather we drove this car as if it were our own.

In the end we came away very surprised with the new Jetta given everything that we had read, and had been told by other colleagues.  It is a very solid car, and very good value.  Our SEL model stickered at $23,065.  It had an upgraded touch screen stereo with SatNav, 17” alloys, sunroof, and electronic limited slip differential.  It is almost the same price as the Hyundai Elantra Limited we tested a couple months back, and while the Hyundai has better styling, and may cost a few dollars less, the Jetta was more fun to drive and returned the same gas mileage, even though the Hyundai is rated MUCH higher.

So, as we said at the top, sometime the critics are wrong, VW took a shot in judging that what the market wanted was good value, and they have been rewarded with sales of the Jetta up 70% over the previous model!  Customers often say they want one thing, but when it comes time to scratch a check actual cost and perceived value end up being  the deciding factor.  Sure the new Jetta could be higher spec, but at what cost to the sticker price and at what cost to total sales?

Go drive a Jetta and decide for yourself, but we think you will come away thinking, “what was all the bashing about from the automotive elite?”  If VW wants to send us another one for review we’d be happy to drive it, just this time can we get the TDI please??!!

Check out our photo gallery to see all the images of the 2011 Jetta.

RoundAboutShow #31 The “Paying Your Dues” Episode


We’ve all done it, or rather, had to do it – and some of us more than others.  We may have started our careers scouring burnt pudding off of nursing home kitchen equipment; we may have even been forced to serve time in a half-way house for a little run-in with Johnny Law, either way we’ve all had to pay our dues in one capacity or another.  This week on RoundAbout we invite you to pay up or shut up with a lineup of stories ranging from absurd to astounding.  An English woman flips her driver’s training car on her second time out on the road motorway.  One unfortunate man gets socked with a $200 fine for being the victim of a rear-end collision.  And a group of youngsters has to serve some time for an innocent car-to-car paintball fight that turns tragic, sort of.  We also go all Battlestar Galactica in our Blind Spot story of the week, plus we chat about what we’ve been driving In The Garage

With RoAb-regular Jeffrey Ross out of action (he’s getting married, finally) we invited muscle-car fanatic and blogger Dave Braddock to take his place.  Also making the rounds is the auto mainstremist himself, Eric Trytko, as well as Miss Motor Mouth, played by Michelle Naranjo.  Autoblog writer Zach Bowman, Producer Ben Sanders and host, Craig Cole are also on hand.

Play RoundAbout Episode 31

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RoAb #29 – The ‘In Hot Water’ Episode

This week our own Zach Bowman goes from the frying pan into the bubbling cauldron as he grabs the reigns from Craig Cole and dutifully attempts to steer RoAb in the right direction. But it turns out that Mr. Bowman isn’t the only one In Hot Water this week. A mysterious driver (or is he?) destroys a Zonda incurring nearly half a million in damage–and it’s still not totaled. Toyota, already feeling the heat over some gas pedal thingy, decides to go scuba diving in the bubbly depths when it decides to cheat in racing. A driver gets absolutely steamed when he sees an Obama bumper sticker and attempts to remove it the hard way. All that and more, plus our Blind Spot brings us a story of crocodile-skinned Bentleys, Zach and Steven Ewing pit VW Golf gasoline and diesel versions head-to-head, and it’s time once again for your favorite game show–this week, the West Coast edition!

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RoundAboutShow #19 NAIAS Post Mortem

Well, the North American International Auto Show–otherwise known as the Detroit Auto Show–has made all the news it’s going to make for this year. It was a rocky year for the Motor City, and in a way, it really showed at Cobo Hall in Detroit. The digs might have been better than last year (Chrysler was a series of unadorned cars on beige carpet in 2009), but the product reveals were notably less exciting. With the patient on the slab, we called in the best team of doctors we know … our … selves. Well, anyway, we’re here with the official RoAb postmortem of NAIAS.

Is the new Cadillac XTS worthy of being the luxury brand’s new flagship? Does the Volkswagen NCC bring anything new and exciting to the German marque? Will the Honda CR-Z finally be a hybrid that’s fun to drive? We debate all these and more. Plus we’ve got another installment of our new Meet Your Roadmates segment, a Stupid Car Trick and the triumphant return of the long lost Psy-car-logy.

Play RoundAbout Episode 19

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Quick Morning Notes From NAIAS

We will have a much more in depth review of the day later tonight, but wanted to give you some quick thoughts so far today.

Ford had a nice production for their Focus intro of which you can see a quick blurb here on the blog below, general reaction form the jaded press corps was good.

GMC brought you the Granite, what they call an “Urban Utility Vehicle”, what also could be know as yet another Xb copy.  1.4 liter turbo motor and suicide doors.  Interior looks good, this is one of those prototype not announced for production cars.

Buick showed off the new Regal and also the GS “Concept”  Look for that to be announced for production shortly.  Some big power numbers announced for the GS Regal, 255HP and 290TQ out of a 2 liter turbo motor.

As a side note GM needs to hire some new writers for Mark and Susan, the fake conversation they had to begin the presser was corny and awkward.

We skipped the Toyota presser and by all accounts it was a good thing, reports are people were falling asleep there, also Toyota needs some new writers as well, the jokes wouldn’t have made it at amateur night at the comedy club.

VW showed off a highbrid coupe which has been tagged as the next Jetta and Mercedes touted it’s highbrids, then showed off a Convertible E Class which has a spoiler that comes out over the windshield header to direct air over the back seat passengers.  Seems like engineering for engineering sake.

We are taking a break, and will post notes later in the day, pictures to come as well.