Pros: All-around quality "feel", great gas mileage, great fun to drive
Cons: Cup holders are too small and positioned poorly
I've been driving a 2000 New Beetle since last July, and I couldn't be more impressed with it. I tell folks that although the New Beetle is sort of a novelty-type car, it is as reliable and fun to drive as any car in the same price range. My beetle is fully loaded including leather seats, seat warmers, 6 CD changer, power sunroof, sport wheels, A/C, and of course the Volkswagen Diesel engine with a five speed manual transmission. My beetle is silver in colour.
Even though I've had this car for about 8 months, it has retained the "new car smell". I'm not sure why this is, but every time I get into the Beetle the smell adds to the overall quality feeling I get when I step into it. The leather seats are soft and very comfortable. I have a very tall, thin frame and seat comfort is very important to me. The seats in the beetle are not too hard and not too soft, providing comfort even on multiple-hour trips. Since I live in Saskatchewan, Canada, the seat warmers come in EXTREMELY handy on those minus thirty degree mornings.
For those of you who wonder how the New Beetle is as a winter car, I can say it has been pretty good. I'm not a fan of driving the Beetle under very cold or snowy conditions, but I don't have much choice sometimes. The Beetle starts great under cold conditions (I'm talking minus twenty degrees celsius), but anything colder than that and you better have the block heater plugged in. The only other major problem with the Beetle in winter is that it has a pretty low ground clearance and doesn't always make it over snow ridges scot-free.
Under warmer conditions, the Beetle is phenomenally fun. The diesel engine is spry and quite responsive. Acceleration is excellent. On the highway, the Beetle rides very smoothly for such a small car, and the cruise control works flawlessly. One thing I noticed immediately about the Beetle is the quietness while driving. Engine and wind noise are very minimal. You can speak with passengers and hold normal conversations without raising your voice in the slightest.
The sound system in the Beetle is of pretty high quality for a factory system. There is adequate bass at high volumes but there is no equalizer feature on the stereo. The 6 CD changer works great. Other than that, the audio system has all of the basic features like radio presets, AM/FM, bass and treble controls, fader, and balance that are pretty much standard on new cars from what I gather.
Other controls on the dash are placed well and are very user friendly and easy to see. After taking a human factors (ergonomics) engineering course, I have a pretty good understanding of this subject and it seems as though VW has done a decent job with the size, location, and type of controls and displays to create a very comfortable cockpit atmosphere for the person of average size. Even those of irregular size like me (6'5") should have no problem with headroom, legroom, or reaching and operating controls within the Beetle.
Style and design are virtues of the Beetle. Every time I see the Beetle from the outside I am impressed with looks of it, which are surely the work of aesthetics specialists. It just makes me want to get in and drive away.
Despite the small looks of this car, I am amazed at what I can fit into it. The rear seat is removable, and creates a ton of luggage space. Don't count on hauling any lumber, though.
Despite all it's virtues, the New Beetle does have a couple of minor things against it. The biggest one I can think of is the cup holders. If you ever drink anything other than coffee from Starbucks, plan on holding your beverage or having your passenger hold it. The three cup holders that are placed under the dash are tall and wide enough to accomodate only regular sized coffee cups or travel mugs. No room for big gulps here. Since I don't drink much coffee, the cup holders are used as nothing but storage space for coins, bills, etc. Also, there is only one cup holder for the rear passengers, but at least it can hold taller cups.
The glove compartment could also use an increase in size. Not much more than the VW manual and maybe a tire pressure gauge and small notebook could fit in there.
Finally, the key for the New Beetle is the flip out kind with buttons for unlocking, locking and trunk opening that is standard on most new VW's. This key seems prone to breakage as you have to twist the key every time you start the car in the ignition slot. I have noticed that the key is beginning to come apart and I am forced to be gentler with it as a result.
All in all, I am very satisfied with the 2000 New Beetle. The Diesel engine is giving me about 55-60 miles per gallon, and the car is a real head-turner. I would recommend the New Beetle to anyone who enjoys a quality, functional automobile.