2013 Fiat 500 vs. 2014 Volkswagen Beetle 2.5L

The Battle of the Cult Classics By Eve Pickman.

It’s the battle of the European cult classics. More than just cute, these two door budget friendly cars differ wildly in performance, practicality and purpose. Here’s our take on the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle and the 2014 Fiat 500 Lounge.

Let’s start under the hood. The Beetle 2.5L has an inline 20 valve 5-cylider engine, which delivers a very respectable 170 horsepower and 177 lbs.-ft. of torque. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard; the 6-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic and Sport mode will set you back an additional $1,100. With a 0-60 MPH in 8.0 seconds and an EPA -estimated 21 city/31 highway MPG, the Beetle 2.5L does a good job of pairing performance with efficiency.

2014 Fiat 500 Lounge

The Fiat 500 Lounge more than holds its own against the larger Beetle. Powered by a 1.4-liter I4 MultiAir engine that produces 101 horsepower and 98 lb.-ft. of torque, the Fiat 500 Lounge is rated for 31-city/40-highway MPG. Like the Beetle, a 5-speed manual transmission is standard. The optional 6-speed automatic costs an additional $1,250. You can personalize the fun factor in the Fiat 500 Lounge, simply select the Sport mode and the 500 Lounge adjusts the shift points and suspension, spicing up the overall driving experience.

2014 Fiat 500 Lounge

Looks do matter, right down to the smallest detail. There’s no denying the Fiat 500 Lounge is cartoon character cute. The looks of the 2014 Beetle are a little more polarizing, some people see early Porsche 356 in the latest version of Volkswagen’s iconic “People’s Car”, others see a squashed bug. The Beetle 2.5L sports 17-inch alloy wheels, heated power outside mirrors with integrated turn signals and chrome trim on the running boards. The Fiat 500 Lounge features 15-inch alloy wheels, a fixed glass roof and distinctive Italian style. The larger wheels help add to the ride and handling of the Beetle, along with the 99.9-inch wheelbase, compared to the 90.6-inch wheelbase for the Fiat.

The big win for Volkswagen is in utility. Both the Volkswagen Beetle 2.5L and the Fiat 500 Lounge are two-door vehicles with a rear seat, only the Beetle’s rear seat is passenger friendly, with 85.1 cubic feet of passenger volume. Don’t let the roofline fool you; adults can ride comfortably in the back seat of a Beetle. The Fiat 500 Lounge – not so much. The back seat is more of an oversized package shelf; there is no real legroom to speak of. Both cars have 50/50 split folding rear seats, making carrying your gear easier. The Fiat’s trunk has 9.5 cubic feet of space, which expands to 30.1 cubic feet of space with the back seats down, the Beetle’s rear cargo hatch has 15.4 cubic feet of space, and 29.9 cubic feet of space after the back seats are folded down. If you need space for people and stuff, the Beetle is the better pick.

There’s more to small cars that good fuel economy and appealing looks. The interior of the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle 2.5L is clean, clutter free, with excellent fit and finish. There’s customizable ambient lighting, nearly indestructible V-Tex leatherette seating, Bluetooth, an 8 speakers sound system with CD player, AM/FM radio, an aux input and Media Device Interface (MDI) with iPod cable and Volkswagen Car-Net connected features. VW Car-Net syncs your Smartphone to the Beetle, allowing you do things like find restaurant and ATM locations and remotely unlock your car doors.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Coupe

Not to be outdone, the Fiat 500 Lounge features BLUE&ME hands-free communication system with voice recognition, USB connected iPod capability and an Alpine Premium Audio System including one year of satellite radio. The available Beats Audio System with subwoofer adds $700, turning the Lounge into a tiny little dance club. Driver seat memory and automatic temperature control are standard; the optional $1,700 Luxury Leather Package includes heated front seats, Rear Park Assist and auto-dimming rearview mirror.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle

The 2014 Beetle 2.L starts at $19,995 for models equipped with a manual transmission, MSRP for the Beetle 2.5L with 6 –speed automatic transmission is $21,095. The 2013 Fiat 500 Lounge has a base MSRP of $18,500 models equipped with the 6-speed automatic come in at $20,550. Picking purpose over passion, space over MPG, I’d take the Beetle, it’s easier to live with on a daily basis.

(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes. Photos provided by Fiat and Volkswagen.)