Currently reading: James Ruppert: why you need a Volkswagen Beetle
A born-again, now died-again, Volkswagen Beetle can be a cheap buy

Motorshows. Not as exciting for me as they once were. I can handle the new technology and promises that we will be hover-boarding to the shops.

What I can’t quite abide is that a lot of models are now not exactly updated but deliberately uglified. I am sure that the new BMW 3 Series is a wonderful thing – Autocar said so and the changes make it better – but it is certainly no prettier than the high standard set by an E46-era 3 Series.

Listen, I know why changes are regularly made: Vance Packard explained built-in obsolescence back in 1957 in his seminal work, The Waste Makers. It is all about marketing and snobbery, so everyone knows you drive the very latest. However, the car-buying public love something retro, don’t they? That’s how the new Mini really got started and the Fiat 500 looks pretty good. Meanwhile, any short-run, road-legal or not Aston Martin, Jaguar or, right now, Porsche sell out before they are announced.

Then there is the Volkswagen Beetle, the new one with the plant pot. Back from the dead in 1998, it has passed away again. Clearly, that reboot didn’t go at all well. That was a retro wrong move, but Beetles remain an interesting used buy. In the ‘part-exchanges to clear’ section of some online classified ads, you can pick up a 2003 1.6 with almost 140k miles and enough MOT to get you into 2019 for £375. If you want more poke, then a 2000 2.0 with 120k miles is £470, with the private seller rather desperate to move it on.

Find a used Volkswagen Beetle on PistonHeads

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More poke still? How about a 2.3 V5? A 77k-mile 2004 one with leather is £1995. It looks a lot more purposeful in darker colours and is as quick as a contemporary Golf; sure, not as practical, but blobby cool. The nicer ones are around £2750.

For many, the whole point of the attention-seeking Beetle was the cabriolet and, at just under a grand, you can pick up a 2004 1.4 with 80k miles and a half-decent history. The nicer ones with recently changed cambelts are £1500 and, as we head into winter, they’ll get cheaper.


Read our review

Car review

The Volkswagen Beetle is only the third all-new model since the original launched in 1938. It is based on the Mk6 Golf, but the base car is far better

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The newer, more squashed models can be bought for around £6995, which will get you a 2013 1.2 TSI with 57k miles, which is fashionably white. A 2017 2.0 TDI 110 with BlueMotion tech with a year’s worth of mileage – say 12,000 miles – is £19,000, which seems a lot when there are prettier alternatives around.

In the used retro game, the Beetle is something of a mixed bag. But it does make sense as it hovers in a limbo between a banger and ironic classic.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage: 

Mini Cooper - mileage, 102,441: You might remember I showed you a fairly horrific picture of the radiator. Clearly, something was up and I suggested it was probably a blown head gasket. Some experts said it might just be some sort of radiator anomaly and maybe just needed a flush.

I decided to pop into my local garage and they diagnosed the worst. It has never overheated and I’ve treated it like a Princess. Oil has been changed loads of times. One theory is that rebuilt engines can contain bits that eventually break up the gasket. Dunno if that’s true. Booked in.

Rupperts garage 24 october

Reader’s ride: 

Vauxhall Vectra: Sean McFarlane enjoyed the £200 Nissan Micra story recently (‘How low can you go?’, 19 September) and has a £200 Vauxhall Vectra of his own. “I’ve been running it for just over a year now,” he says. “It’s a silver 1.8-litre petrol Design spec. Very basic. Bodywork is very clean apart from a small rust spot on the bottom of the driver’s door, and the interior is immaculate. It came with three months’ MOT and a decent service history. Over a year and 20k miles, it has cost me about £1200, which, in terms of usage, I think is a real bargain.”

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Readers’ questions: 

Q. Should I buy a new Vauxhall Corsa GSi or a Ford Fiesta ST-1? Rod Hall, Ripley

A. Okay, a tough one, this. We’ll just feed your enquiry into our supercomputer... Oh, that’s a surprise: the Ford Fiesta ST. All-new, quicker, heaps better to drive, only a little more to insure and the same price. Who’d have believed it? JE

Fiesta st readers q

Q. I have £7000 to spend on a roomy and reliable hatchback. What do you recommend? J Shriver, via email 

A. Easy: a Suzuki Swift 1.2. It’s reliable, roomy (you can stand up in it, the roof’s so high) and fun to drive. Go for SZ-L trim (sat-nav, digital radio, alloy wheels). Your money will get a 2016/16-reg car with 20,000 miles. JE

Q. Is there any point me checking for rust when buying a modern, used car? Jane McClean, Poole

A. We see you live by the sea. Salt air is corrosive but your biggest worry is muck and water getting trapped behind plastic underbody, sill and wheel-arch covers. And, yes, even aluminium corrodes, in isolation and where it contacts steel. JE

What we almost bought this week: 

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Jeep Wrangler - This time next year, we’ll be trying out the new Wrangler for size, but why wait when you could be in a 2003 4.0 Sport with 80,000 miles for £8990? The one we’re thinking of has a full service history and all the toys and appears to be in tip-top shape. Best of all, these old Wranglers don’t look too different from the new one.

Read more 

Volkswagen Beetle review

Jeep Wrangler review 

Used car buying guide: Volkswagen Touareg

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abkq 30 October 2018

In defense of the new Beetle

In defense of the new Beetle (both generations) -

The original Beetle was never a design masterpiece. But the retro ones are very good indeed. Both generations took different aspects of the original Beetle and successfully developed on them in terms of form and geometry. Not practical but very impressive as styling exercises.

ianp55 30 October 2018

Volkswagen Beetle

How the new Beetle lasted so long is a mystery,overpriced, cramped and with dubious build quality why would anyone over the age of 21 want one? the stupidist feature that flower vase on the fascia don;t get me started

Bob Cholmondeley 30 October 2018

"why you need a Volkswagen Beetle"

I don't.