If you’ve been swept up in the moment and must have the latest new thing that looks like an old thing. This Beetle is certainly generations ahead of the previous one...
Base price: $46,500
Powertrain and performance: 1.4-litre turbocharged and supercharged petrol four, 118kW/240Nm, 7-speed automated dual-clutch manual, front-drive, 0-100km/h 8.3 seconds, Combined economy 6.2 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4278mm long, 1486mm high, 2537mm wheelbase, kerb weight 1373kg, fuel tank 55 litres.
We like: More masculine style, much more dynamic than previous model
We don’t like: New car on an old platform, some cabin trim seems fragile
How it rates: 6/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
The Beetle is back! Er, again. You couldn’t argue that the previous Beetle enjoyed a good run, lasting an incredible 13 years. It was an influential car too, sparking a trend for retro-styled cars like the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Fiat 500.
It was more about style than substance and that’s also true of the new model. Like the last, the latest Beetle employs platform technology that’s served its purpose in other models already: it’s built on the underpinnnings of the Golf VI, even though the all-new Golf VII is set for launch in New Zealand this month. Not that a Golf VI isn’t a good car; it’s just not the very latest.
In the way that German carmakers sometimes do, Volkswagen insists that this Beetle be called a very specific thing in a very specific way. So the original, iconic model is simply ‘Beetle’ (although it was never officially called that by the factory at the time). The just-discontinued model is the ‘New Beetle’. This latest version is ‘The Beetle’.
That’s all a bit silly, so let’s ignore them.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Now that you’ve had the bad news about the new Beetle (that’s ‘new Beetle’, not ‘New Beetle’) being a bit old-tech, here’s some good news: it’s rather good to drive.
The car has been launched here in just one specification for now, with the excellent 1.4-litre turbo/supercharged engine from the top petrol-powered Golf. It’s fitted as standard with a seven-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), the slick twin-clutch unit used in so many VW Group cars.
Put it this way: with that crisp engine, click-of-the-fingers gearchanges and 18-inch alloy wheels, this Beetle is a lot more sporty than the short-lived Beetle turbo of the previous generation (remember that one, with its pop-up rear spoiler?).
There’s still a bit of a chassis wriggle in bumpy corners – just like the previous car – which could probably be solved by the $750 sports suspension option. But if you’re going that far or driving that hard, you might have the wrong car.
For a fashion statement, this Beetle is very impressive on the road.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?
Beetle is a three-door car that unashamedly sells on the way it looks above all else. That said, it’s reasonably practical because the styling is conducive to large glass areas and short overhangs. You can see out of the cabin really well and there’s parking radar provided front and rear, which makes a lot of sense for something that’s probably going to be used primarily as a city car.
This Beetle is well-specified, with VW’s top-line touch-screen audio system, dual-zone climate air conditioning and so on. There are also some nice retro touches around the cabin, such as body-colour trim inserts in the dashboard. Design-wise it’s beautifully executed, although the quality of fit and finish is not up to the standards of VW’s other products. Whether that’s to do with the way the car has been configured or the way it is assembled at the plant in Mexico is hard to say, but our Beetle had some ill-fitting parts (the glovebox handle felt flimsy, for example) and rattles that I don’t think you’d find in a new Golf.
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
Perhaps, if you’ve been swept up in the moment and must have the latest new thing that looks like an old thing. This Beetle is certainly generations ahead of the previous one in terms of performance and handling; it certainly doesn’t feel compromised in the way that the old one did.
But the fact remains that you’re going to buy one because you love the look and/or image above all else, because the new Golf is a significantly more modern car in every possible way.
Air conditioning: Climate dual-zone
Audio: Touch-screen with CD changer, media plug with iPod adapter
Automatic lights/wipers: No/yes
Cruise control: Yes
Parking radar: Front and rear
Satellite navigation: No
Seat height adjustment: Yes
Split/folding rear seats: 50/50
Steering reach adjustment: Yes