Thank you from 6 years into the future!! This helped me find my daughters car so thank you 🙏My recommendations are:
2008-2010 New Beetle almost bullet proof 2.5L i5 with 150hp engine best of the automatic transmissions in the New Beetle line.
2006-2007 i5 had an issue with the timing chain tensioners.
2001-2005 New Beetle with a manual gear box and a 2.0L 115hp engine super reliable Requires timing belt and water pump service at regular intervals
1998-2000 Beetles tend to have more electrical gremlins than later models, they are VW so expect some electrical issues.
Stay away from the 150hp 1.8T in the New Beetle model unless you are meticulous with regular maintenance.
I'm not a diesel owner thus I have no experience with the TDI to make an honest recommendation.