Volkswagen Beetle (2011-2019)

By Jonathan Crouch

Models Covered

3drdr Hatch / 2dr Convertible


In 2011, once more, Volkswagen reinvented the Beetle. Bigger and more efficient than its predecessor, the ‘A5’-series third generation version might not have looked quite so extrovert as its predecessors but it was a far better car. More importantly for its target market amongst retro rivals, it was also a more stylish one. Aesthetics matter. Go on. Live a beautiful life. Let’s see how this model stacks up as a used buy.

The History

As you’ll probably already know, the Volkswagen Beetle model line comes with quite a history. If you’re not familiar with that, then we’ll need to turn the clock back for you to the early 1940s. To be quite frank, we don’t have much to thank Adolf Hitler for, but his vision of what he called the KdF-Wagen (‘KdF’ means ‘kraft durch freude’, the old Nazi slogan ‘strength through joy’) – the German ‘Peoples’ Car’ – certainly had something to be said for it. Later generations of buyers were to know that model much better by another name, the Volkswagen Beetle, and over 21 million examples had been sold worldwide by the time, in 1998, the German brand finally got round to bringing us a modern version.

What was known then as the ‘New Beetle’ of course shared nothing apart from its iconic name and curvy shape with the first generation version. And quite right too. The crude, noisy and comfortless rear-engined air-cooled original was the last thing modern buyers were likely to want. Their idea of Beetle motoring was very different from that of the basic, functional transport envisioned by the original’s creator, Dr Ferdinand Porsche. The New Beetle was less of a ‘Peoples’ Car’ and more of a ‘Peoples’ Plaything’, early US buyers including Beverly Hills celebrities, a president’s daughter and exclusive car rental establishments.

A million New Beetles were sold over thirteen years, 68,000 of them in the UK, but the modern take on this iconic design was never quite the success it might have been. The curvy Toytown looks and touches like the flower vase on the dash left it as an exclusively feminine and fashion-centric choice, buyers who quickly forsook its charms when at the turn of the century, the ‘New MINI’ and much later, the reinvented Fiat 500 came along. By 2011, Volkswagen wanted them back and aimed to achieve that with this third generation ‘A5’-series model, a car that aesthetically at least, was much closer to the design of the original. Longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, It was intended to look more sporty, masculine and dynamic. And because the Golf underpinnings remained - this time more modern ones - it could be a more practical choice than its retro rivals. Add very competitive running costs, perky performance and a dash of hi-tech and you’ve a car that ought to have reignited the Beetle cult all over again. Strangely though, it didn’t. A Convertible version was added to the range in 2013. The whole line-up was lightly facelifted in 2015 and a lifestyle-orientated ‘Dune’ version added to the range. Production finished in 2019 and the car was not replaced.

What You Get

Something of a feel of Dr Ferdinand Porsche’s early ‘Peoples’ Car’ somehow made it through to this third generation model, most notably in the large wheels plumply positioned beneath the flared flowing arches and a rear C-pillar that follows the contours of the original design. So there’s something of the past, artfully mixed with a sporty vision of the future. Perhaps the most notably visual change was the lower roof that the larger floorplan enabled to be swept further back. At the front where the big circular headlamps were unique in the Volkswagen range from the period, there was a longer bonnet in front of a more steeply raked windscreen that was shifted further back. Overall, it was a cleaner, more self-confident lower profiled look that even had something of a touch of Porsche 911 about it.

Moving inside this three-door-only body shape, you notice that the frameless doors open wide – but not so wide as to make ingress difficult in tight parking spaces. And at the wheel, you’re seated behind a traditional upright dashboard with a set of three traditional dials visible through a sporty three-spoke thin-rimmed wheel..

Out back in the space where the original Beetle once had its air-cooled engine, this MK3 Beetle has a boot lid that swivels upwards – together with the rear windscreen – when opened, revealing 310-litres of cargo capacity, 50% more than the previous model.

What To Look For

Most owners of this 2011-2019-era ‘A5’-series MK3 Beetle model we surveyed were very happy with their cars. Generally, this particular Beetle seems pretty stoutly built. Parking sensors weren’t standard on entry-level models, so look out for scrapes and dents on cheaper-spec cars. Many variants used light-coloured materials that can look grubby if not looked after. There were three product recalls for this design in its production life. The first was in 2011 for starter motors on diesel models which may overheat. The second related to a potential loss of steering stability due to a deformed rear axle on models produced between 2011 and 2013. Lastly, there is a possible fire risk on models made between April and August 2014 because of a fuel leak. With variants affected, check that the necessary dealer visits have been made.

On The Road

It wasn’t only the look of the original (1997-2010 period) ‘new’ Beetle that put male buyers off. Driving one was a curious experience that seemed to position you and the steering wheel right at the centre of the car. Add feeble engines and copious amounts of body roll and it was hard to imagine a much less sporty experience. To change the buying demographic, all that had to change with this 2011-era ‘A5’-series model. And it did.

This MK3 Beetle drove in a more assured style than its predecessor. As you’d expect it would with underpinnings from a 2009 Golf MKVI rather than a Nineties Golf MKIV. Buyers chose between 1.2, 1.4 and 2.0-litre TSI petrol engines or 1.6 or 2.0 TDI diesels. And there was a choice of either 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG auto transmission. The ride can be a little unsettled over poorer surfaces, one reason why we’d steer very well clear of examples fitted with 19-inch wheels or the sports suspension option.


A model like this remains an unashamed indulgence, both on the part of its maker and those who will buy it. True, the trend modern Beetles once set for High Street chic was quickly copied by a whole clutch of rivals. Yet you can see why loyal owners love this Volkswagen so much. It certainly isn’t a rational choice. But then, if we did everything for rational reasons, the world would be very dull indeed. Just as its original predecessor did over seventy years ago, this car made the automotive landscape just that little bit brighter.