Volkswagen Beetle Design – First Drive

It’s official. The New Volkswagen Beetle is no more. The new-for-2012 model is known simply as ‘The Beetle’ and is quietly trying to side-step away from its predecessor like a teenager whose Dad has just started dancing.

The ‘New Beetle’, which arrived in 1998, had developed a bit of an image problem. The dash-mounted vase may have appealed to women of a certain age who had fond memories of the original Beetle but to many others it seemed like a cynical attempt to cash in on the flower-powered 60′s hipster image of the old car.

2012 Volkswagen Beetle Design TDI

2012 Volkswagen Beetle Design TDI

Things are different now. The 21st century Beetle is trying to target a much more youthful audience than its predecessor. It is lower, longer and wider than before and, subtle as the changes are, immediately loses the overt cuteness of the old model.

There are some enticing options that go even further to removing the Beetle’s girly image. The 200bhp 2.0-litre TSI engine is just 10bhp short of a Golf GTI and immediately elevates the Beetle into hot hatch territory. It even comes with ‘Turbo’ stickers down the sides, a rear spoiler, wheel-arch filling 19-inch alloys and bright red brake callipers.

Don’t worry, the Beetle hasn’t gone completely power mad and does have a softer, more environmentally aware side. With a choice of 1.6 and 2.0-litre turbodiesel engines it ticks the boxes marked ‘Economy’ and ‘Low CO2′. The 1.6-litre TDI is the greenest choice and offers the promise of 65mpg and cheap road tax (113g/km puts it in Band B) but it’s not the most exciting of engines.

2012 Volkswagen Beetle Design TDI Rear

Sloping roofline doesn’t affect rear room as much as you might think

The 2.0 TDI offers a more promising blend of economy and performance. In 140PS form with a six-speed manual gearbox (DSG auto is an option) it can propel the Beetle to 60mph in under 10 seconds and return an average of 57mpg. It’s also rated at 129 g/km for a Band C tax disc.

It was difficult to get a feel for the Beetle’s handling thanks to the deluge affecting Lincolnshire’s roads but at a steady pace it drives much like the Golf on which it is based. It feels solid and secure and can be hustled along at a reasonable pace thanks to decent body control.

Volkswagen Beetle Design Dashboard

Dashboard mixes retro design with modern gadgets

The cabin is a mixture of retro styling with a modern twist. The upright dash looks like the original, even sharing the same twin glovebox design, and is painted in the same colour as the body. At the same time you’ve got a modern touch-screen multimedia system with sat-nav and rear parking sensor display.

There’s plenty of room up front and the rear seats are also surprisingly accommodating. With the Beetle’s sloping roofline I expected headroom to be restricted but that’s not the case and there’s enough legroom back there for my averagely proportioned frame. Boot space is less impressive but if you really want practicality you’d pick a Golf.

With lots of choice for customisation, including the retro-themed alloys with chrome hub caps fitted to this car, buyers can modify their Beetle in many different ways. Of course, that will pump up the price from the £20,085 of this 2.0 TDI.

If your head says you should buy a Golf but you yearn for something a bit more extrovert then you should give ‘The Beetle’ a chance. It’s not the car it used to be.

Volkswagen Beetle Design 2.0 TDI Specifiations

Engine: 1,968cc 4-cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 138 bhp
Torque: 236 lb/ft
0-62 mph: 9.4 seconds
Top Speed: 123 mph
Kerb Weight: 1,395 kg
CO2 Emissions: 129 g/km (Band D)
Official Economy: 57.6 mpg
Insurance Group: 17
Price (OTR): £20,085*

*Prices taken from Volkswagen website, November 2012


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Author: Chris Auty

Voted the Breakthrough Blogger of 2013 by SEAT and the Guild of Motoring Writers , Chris has lived and breathed cars since he was old enough to say 'faster'. With a penchant for hot hatches and an allergy to public transport, he would much prefer to drive a bad car than never drive at all. Fortunately his family has learned to put up with this obsession and the internet has provided a channel for his ramblings.

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