Review: 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI – EPA Underrated, Affordable, and Fun Machine

2013 volkswagen beetle tdi denim diesel front
Isn’t that cute!

Call it a “Bug” or “Kafer” – the Volkswagen Beetle is one iconic machine. The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle marks the beginning of the third generation of the car in its 75 year old history. There is no mistaking it for any other car. The Beetle does not even have any badging that states its name. This 2013 TDI model adds a healthy doze of efficiency to this all time classic. How much efficiency? Enough to rival a Toyota Prius on any road trip. And I found it’s much better than the EPA sticker suggests.

STATS Starting Retail Price As Tested Price HP / Lb-Ft
2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI $23,495 $25,460 140/236
EPA Rating MPG As Tested MPG
Rating: BUY IT! 29/39 Combined 32 45.1 Hwy, Combined 36.6

This third generation bug aims to be more masculine than the previous “New Beetle” in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. The lower roof and the big tail lights succeed in this mission, however the baby blue (or Denim Blue, as Volkswagen calls it) color does not win any votes from the guys. I would rather it was sporting a deep “Rising Blue” available on the Golf R. Although, the exterior design has been tweaked, any person world over will instantly recognize it from a mile away.  2013 Beetle’s profile looks a bit big and heavy, but any other angle is spot on and cute as heck.

2013 volkswagen beetle tdi interior diesel vw

Interior is typical Volkswagen. That is to say – it’s elegant, simple, and functional. The exterior color and finish continues on the window sills and the dash. This is a nice touch and is well executed, although no very manly. You would not think so after looking at the spec sheet, but this Beetle has adequate room on the inside. The rear seat is only two person wide, but I was able to install child seat and booster back there with no problems. There is acceptable room back there for kids and even adults under six foot. If you are taller than that, you will find leg room and head room very tight. In the front row, there is still a ton of head room and the seats have plenty of adjustment.  This model also has a three gauge cluster on top of dash.  There you will find temp gauge, lap timer, and turbo boost indicator.  That’s right, a lap timer.  Just in case you planned a day at the race track.

This test car is powered by Volkswagen’s famous TDI power plant. It’s the 2.0 liter turbo diesel that you will also find under the hood of TDI Jettas and Golfs. In this case, it was backed by the 6-speed dual clutch automatic DSG transmission. However, a 6-speed manual is also available and would be my preferred choice.  The manual is a bit lighter, costs less, gets you better MPG, and is generally bullet proof.  Of course, it also adds to the fun of driving.

2013 volkswagen beetle tdi engine diesel motor

Speaking of fun.  The Beetle feels quick on its feet on a twisty road.  The car is well balanced and encourages you to go faster and faster into the corners.  It stays nearly flat through corners and the suspension is able to soak up the bumps (it’s not too harsh).  Overall, I was very impressed with the handling and the ride for a car in this price range.  The steering feel is a little light and the steering wheel itself is not as thick as I would have liked.  However, I imagine it’s just right for a female driver.

The Beetle has the iconic status on par with the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, MINI Cooper, or Jeep Wrangler.  However, it does not have too much competition.  If you are shopping for a Beetle TDI, what else might you consider?  You can take a look at the MINI.  It’s also a fun little car, but it has less interior and cargo space and it cannot match the MPG of the TDI.  You can compare the Beetle to the Toyota Prius C.  The C is a better value and gets better MPG, but it’s slower and not nearly as fun in the corners.  By the way, I managed 45.1 MPG on a highway only trip in the Beetle TDI.  This is 6.1 MPG more that the EPA rating, and I was not hyper-miling.  You can also consider the FIAT 500, but again you would be loosing interior space and MPG.  In the end, your decision will have to come down to personal taste.

On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI a Buy It!

The Beetle TDI coupe is not the best car for a family, since it has just two doors.  And I would have preferred the manual.  Still, I give it a Buy It! rating.  You are getting a very sophisticated DSG transmission, and efficient diesel power plant, in a usable, fun, and stylish package.  All of this can be yours for around $25,000.  I think it represents a very good value.

Please enjoy this TFLcar video 0-60 MPH mile high test of this little diesel:

Andre Smirnov
Andre Smirnov

Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, software engineer, writer, and reporter. He has been writing and reporting at TFLcar since 2011. When not working or spending time with the family – you can find him tinkering in the garage or scouring the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.