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Beetle retains the look of a feel-good Volkswagen

Ray of sunshine

A Volkswagen Beetle never ceases to put a smile on my face. The shape and retro vibe bring back a bygone era while maintaining a 21st-century funkiness.

The 2018 version is no exception. The big news is a new engine. Many of the pluses remain the same, starting with a deceptive amount of interior space for front-seat passengers and cargo.

The engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that replaces a 1.8-liter turbo. The rookie produces 174 horsepower. Better yet, EPA mileage ratings increase 3 mpg overall and are now at 26 mpg/city and 34 mpg/highway. The only transmission is a 6-speed automatic, which works well but might not elicit the type of driving experience everyone wants in a subcompact car.

Beetles come in S, new Coast, SE and Dune trims in both two-door coupe or convertible models. Prices start at $20,200 for the S coupe and extend through $32,090 for a Dune convertible. We drove a Dune coupe with a base price of $26,790.

The Dune varies from its stablemates in size as it is a hair longer and taller with more ground clearance, thanks to a raised suspension. This makes for better general road manners, although comparable reports say body lean increases on curvy pavement. The Dune exterior comes with unique bumpers and cladding and the interior has exclusive cloth and leatherette seats as well as an upgraded sound system.

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Drivers get to enjoy a tilt/telescoping steering column with a multi-function wheel. A 6.3-inch touchscreen incorporates variety of media and can be accessed by voice control. Because of the car’s shape, views out the front are excellent but those out the rear are compromised by a small window and thick pillars. The back seat has room for two passengers.

Beetles can pack a decent amount of cargo with 15.4 cubic feet of space in back. The rear seat folds down, expanding cargo area to 29.9 cubic feet.

As it comes together as a total package, the 2018 Volkswagen Beetle may not be one of the most common vehicles on the road but its appearance can still brighten up many a day.

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