2016 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line review: Fun, but not quite a GTI

Before driving the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line, I struggled with the fact that the Volkswagen Golf GTI, costing about the same, is roomier (holds three in the back), is more utilitarian, has more torque (258 lb-ft) and is always on TFLcar’s list as one of the best hot-hatches for the money. How could the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line compete with that? Surprisingly, it proved itself to be a playful little car with just enough masculinity to make it endearing to me.

Setting itself apart from the Beetle with the 1.8-liter turbo, the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line tester I drove came with Bi-Xenon headlights, R-Line front and rear bumpers (with an opening on top of the front bumper for an air-scoop), Panoramic sunroof and 19″ Tornado wheels. The overall look is purposeful and more athletic than the regular Beetle. It sits low, on top of a sports-tuned suspension and the dual exhaust tips hint at the power without looking obnoxious.

Speaking of power: the award-winning 210 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes 207 lb-ft of torque. The sweet spot for the turbocharger to spool up and give you great power is around 2,200 rpm. Leading up to 2,000 rpm, there is a bit of turbo-lag. My tester was fitted with a six-speed manual transmission. The clutch is a bit soft, but the throws are just-right giving it a very sporty feel and it’s a breeze to shift in traffic.

Beetle Int 16 R line
Although well put-together, the interior is one of the places where Volkswagen should have been more creative. Given the variety of ways a Mini Cooper’s interior can be configured and livened up, the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line is a bit of a let-down. Still, the front seat feel is an ideal compromise between sport and comfort. The back seats are tight and best-suited for people under 5’6″.

The hard plastics look nice, especially the door trim. Unfortunately, sound deadening material is thin as road noise was prodigious. Fortunately, the 8-speaker, 400-watt Fender Premium Audio System fixes all external noises. It is one of the best sounding systems in this price range. Another cool touch is the flat-bottom steering wheel. Looks nifty, but it needs more padding.

Acceleration and braking are not quite as impressive as the Volkswagen GTI, but the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line surprised a lot of drivers on various on-ramps and red lights. It has no problem hitting 60 mph in (just) under seven seconds and, once you let the power spool-up, hard launches turn into a fun mix of tire spin and a bit of torque-steer.

I averaged a mediocre 25 mpg, but that was combined with a lot of spirited driving.

Performance, real-world performance is where the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line shines. It scurries around corners, feeling light and easily controllable. Traction is an issue, but even when the inside wheel is clawing for grip, it never seems to upset the chassis. I always felt in control and throwing a hard corner at the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line never worried me. This is one of those rare cars that’s fun to drive on an errand.


While the overall package would never suit me, (the GTI is still a better vehicle) I think the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line is silly fun, attempting to be serious while truly having a fun soul. It’s not a real hot-hatch, but it is the best interpretation of Volkswagen’s current Beetle that I’ve driven.

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