2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDi review: Memorable, for all the right reasons

2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDi

2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDi

Driving a lot of cars is what we automotive writers do. Well, somebody has to. But the sorry truth is that when someone asks “What have you driven lately,” we often have to stop and think about it. Some cars are simply not memorable…and don’t ask which because, obviously, we can’t remember. But we know it won’t be the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDi.

The VW Beetle actually has two things going for it in the memory sweepstakes. One is that, well, it’s a VW Beetle, one of the most iconic shapes in automotive history, and it’s the second generation of the second iteration that includes the New Beetle, and now the Beetle. Or, if you prefer, the new Beetle.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDi dash

The instrument panel on the dash of the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDi has a large speedometer in the middle and equally sized tachometer and fuel gauge on either side. (Click to enlarge)

The second element that’s easy to remember is that, as the TDi version of the Beetle, it has a diesel engine. Cars with diesel engines, particularly Volkswagens with diesels, are becoming more common, but gas engines are still the norm.

But combine the two into the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDi and, well, yeah, we’ve driven that lately.

Our test vehicle was loaded, also including Sunroof, Sound and Nav, and our Beetle TDi was equipped with a no-cost option six-speed DSG automatic transmission. A six-speed manual transmission is standard.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDi gauge cluster

The gauge cluster on the dash top of the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDi includes an engine oil temperature gauge, a turbo boost gauge…and a stop watch. (Click to enlarge)

The engine in the Beetle TDi is 2.0-liter diesel, or more appropriately, a turbodiesel, as all automotive diesels are today. Those who remember the VW Rabbit Diesel of the early ‘80s will remember it as the slow bunny. Not so the Beetle TDi. Instead of the original Rabbit Diesel which was rated at 52 horsepower and 71 lb-ft of torque (for the bigger engine), diesel Beetle makes 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque.

Torque is what makes acceleration, or so all the books say, and the VW TDi engine has oodles of torque. The result is a Beetle TDi that’s more entertaining than anything with a diesel should have a right to be. Add to that the distinctive sound of the Volkswagen turbodiesel—like someone hammering on a brass bar through a thick layer of heavy canvas—whether idling or accelerating, the Volkswagen Beetle TDi is hammer and tongs fun. Coming out of the tollbooth it has a good shot at being first to the merge point.

Almost important as acdceleration is fuel economy, and the Beetle TDi is rated at 28 mpg city and 41 mpg highway when equipped with the manual transmission and 29 mpg city and 39 mpg highway with the DSG. We’ll cut to the chase. With predominantly highway driving but some city we recorded 39.7 mpg. And that’s without trying, at least except when we were coming out of the tollbooth. (Note, however, that the torque of the engine will cause the wheels to slip on that metal band and make a rather attention-grabbing chirp when the tires hit the pavement again. Don’t ask how we know).

2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDi badge

The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDi badging on the hatchback door is the best way to spot the diesel Beetle. (click to enlarge)

The new Volkswagen Beetle replaced the Volkswagen New Beetle in 2012 and in the meantime has become something of a known entity. The three-circle profile of the New Beetle was replaced by a profile more closely resembling that of the original Beetle, with a longer—relatively speaking—hood and a flatter roofline. The new Beetle was also given broader shoulders for more masculine appeal.