Volkswagen’s new Beetle will have significantly more exciting styling than this heavily disguised prototype suggests, according to inside sources.
Due on sale in the UK late next year, the new Beetle sits on a longer wheelbase than today’s car to free up more rear cabin space.
It also gets new styling that’s less cartoon-like than the late 1990s remake. The car scooped here is six months from production and the upper half of the body is undisguised. Giving it a sportier look are a more swept-back windscreen and flatter roofline, plus a more curvaceous rear window and hatch. The key front and rear shape and details, however, are hidden under disguise mouldings taken from today’s car.
Although the nose of the new car takes its inspiration from the original, the execution of the headlights, grille and detailing are in much higher-quality materials and with a higher standard of workmanship than the cute and simple look penned by J Mays, then at VW’s California studio, and now Ford design chief.
The same goes for the rear end, which makes a closer genetic link to the original, in a similar way that the new Mini links with the old Mini.
This Beetle will also break new technical ground for VW in offering a choice of two rear suspensions. The top-end 197bhp 2.0-litre Beetle will have a multi-link axle borrowed from the Jetta, whereas diesel and less powerful petrol units will employ a cheaper twist beam.
VW can offer this choice because the Beetle will be built in Mexico on the same production line as the new Jetta, which is also engineered with both cheap and expensive suspension systems.
VW is hoping that a more maturely styled and engineered Beetle will appeal to more male buyers and reinvigorate sales in the UK, which have dropped from a peak of 9000 in 2001 to around 2200 last year.
The cabriolet, expected in the UK in late 2012, will boost sales. Currently, it contributes to around half of all Beetle sales.