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2006 Volkswagen New Beetle

by Martha Hindes

Volkswagen New Beetle
Volkswagen Beetle Interior

Volkswagen, the company that gave us the original bare-bones Beetle that thrived for years during hippie-dom decades, must have had its imagination in high gear when it came out with a new vision of the classic after a long absence. The model, naturally dubbed the "New Beetle," had a ready made following and tantalized the curiosity of others when it burst on the scene in 1998.

Fast forward to 2006. The New Beetle has become a new classic, a love-em-or-hate-em staple in a compact segment that, without it, would have been a little more ho-hum. Now the latest "bug" has gotten a freshening meant to keep it new and inviting, but a carefully executed one that doesn't tamper with its longtime character.

Bumper lines now flow from hood and trunk into the fender sides. Head and tail lamps are trendier. Noticeably arched wheel wells highlight a more masculinely aggressive appearance overall for what VW calls a dynamic presence. (Did anyone doubt that would happen after the original New Beetle of eight years ago sported a tiny bud vase on it's IP?)

Lest you doubt the New Beetle is a serious road contender, the always cutesy instrument cluster sports a 140-MPH speedometer pod (top speed is 127), with smaller tachometer and fuel gauges riding sidesaddle. Cup holders now hold real American-sized drinks.

Power for the redesigned '06 model comes from a new 2.5-liter, 150-HP inline five cylinder gasoline engine and a 1.9-liter, inline four diesel. The 2.5-liter gas engine is geared toward North American drivers who want enough low-end torque to blast smartly away from a stop light. There's a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic with manual Tiptronic mode available on the 2.5-liter version. In manual, it gets an average 22/31 miles to the gallon.

But the fuel efficient Beetle champ is the 1.9-liter turbo diesel that can squeeze out 44 miles on the highway, and 37 when in town. The base five-speed gas-powred Beetle launches at $17,180. Factory accessories such as power sunroof, leather seating, rain sensing wipers and XM or Sirius satellite radio can hike prices. But skip the bud vase. It's not an option.