2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Review

Ken Glassman
by Ken Glassman

Like reluctant tweens at a 6th grade slow dance watching as the couples form up and options grow thin, hesitant drivers are starting to warm up to dancing with the formerly ugly option that is diesel.


1. Beetle TDI models make 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque from a turbo-diesel 2.0L 4-cylinder.
2. Fuel economy is 28/41 mpg (city/hwy) for the manual or 29/39 for the automatic.
3. Pricing starts at $23,495 plus $795 destination, roughly $3,500 more than a gasoline model.

And those wise enough to take the plunge will be pleasantly surprised to find the 2013 Beetle TDI, like a kid fresh out of braces, is a lot better than you might remember.

Diesel cars may still carry a stigma and while the engine is a little noisier than the 2.5-liter gasoline alternative, it’s not intolerable. Besides, the trade-off is an EPA-estimated estimated 28 mpg in the city and 41 on the highway; a significant increase from the gas engine’s 22/31 rating. And the published numbers don’t tell the whole story either as we easily achieved the official ratings and then some.


With its more masculine styling for 2013 the TDI feels manly too thanks to a healthy 236 lb-ft of torque – something you don’t expect in a vehicle this efficient.

Power is rated at just 140 ponies and it’s not really any fun to wind out with an 8.0 second 0-60 time. Instead, the TDI gives great responsiveness around town and thanks to all that torque coming on at just 1750 rpm, it makes driving with a manual all the more accessible, even for novice drivers.

A dual-clutch six-speed automatic is available for an extra $1,100 and is impeccably responsive. It does, however, hurt fuel economy slightly, down to 29/39 mpg.


Apart from the TDI badging, there aren’t any physical characteristics to tell the Beetle TDI apart. That’s not a bad thing either, considering how much better it looks than the previous generation.

Longer proportions than the now awkwardly named New Beetle lend an almost Porsche-like style to the car that make it look fast.

Unfortunately, choosing the TDI restricts your wheel choices down to the stock 17-inch rims. They don’t look bad, but choices are key in an era where low-profile tires and big wheels are in vogue.

Volkswagen won’t let you deck the car out in cool-looking trim bits like the 2.0 Turbo gasoline model wears, but that’s probably a good thing. How would you feel knowing you were sitting in a throne of lies?


Instead, it’s all about honesty, plain and simple – just like the interior. Soft touch materials line the center console and the car’s cabin controls are easy and readily accessible. There isn’t much space to stash knickknacks, though, with minimal room in the center console.

But the largest singular complaint about the interior is how uncomfortable the hard plastic armrest on the door is.

Conversely, the seats are comfortable and well bolstered. The cabin feels airy and spacious, which is surprising given how cramped the space looks from the outside.

Accessing the rear seats was also another pleasant surprise. Lean the front buckets forward and they roll in the track to offer a porthole that’s wider than you’d expect.

Rear seat legroom is 31.4 inches, which is 3.5-inches more than a MINI Cooper, though that’s not saying much… if anything.

A full 12 cubic feet of trunk space puts the Beetle right in line with the compact coupe market, which ranges from roughly 11 to 14 for cars like the Honda Civic or Hyundai Elantra coupes.


Discuss this story at NewBeetle.org

A strong answer to anyone asking for which fuel-efficient economy coupe to buy, it also benefits from dropping its cutesy looks to appeal to a more male-inclusive customer base. And the TDI’s torque is sure to engage more drivers.

Starting at $24,090 including a $795 destination fee, AutoGuide.com’s test car came loaded with a sunroof, premium sound system and navigation that ratchets the price up to $26,990, or a little over $2,000 more than a comparably equipped 2.5-liter gas model.


Passing on option packages might make it seem more attractive on paper, but that doesn’t change the fact that you really want them. True the diesel option will likely pay for itself over time, but even given that, this car creeps past the point where it makes much sense to buy.


  • Excellent gas mileage
  • Strong torque
  • Solid handling
  • Stand-out style


  • Costs more to buy and run
  • Noisy engine
  • Interior quirks
  • Chick car stigma still too strong
Join the conversation
  • Nonymous Nonymous on Mar 18, 2013

    "as the couples form up and options grow thin, hesitant drivers are starting to warm up to dancing with the formerly ugly option that is diesel" the TDI certainly is an impressive bit of 'German engineering', it makes very solid numbers in terms of economy and performance and I suppose there aren't many competitive options... to beat that, I think I'll need something special, certainly no conventional gasoline four-banger how about a normally aspirated gasoline V6 with a normal (no dual-clutch) automatic? but let's be objective: Power: 268 hp VS 140 Torque: 248 lb-ft VS 236 Fuel econ (MPG): 29 city / 44 highway VS 28 / 41 --official ratings for the 2013 Toyota Camry, engineered in Japan VS the Beetle as quoted from this article there is no lack of options

  • Gregory Sertic Gregory Sertic on May 22, 2013

    Saying the "chick stigma still too strong" is a pathetic excuse to not like a car. Are you so insecure we really judge mechanics on if someone says, "is that man driving a manlier version of a girl car?" The flower pedal break light covers are optional.