On paper the Dune looks like another Beetle that relies on nostalgia. Thankfully, it turns out that this 'bug' is more than just style over substance

What is it?

Nothing helps sell vehicles like a good dollop of nostalgia. It’s the reason the previous-generation Volkswagen Beetle sold more than a million units before being discontinued back in 2010. So it comes as no surprise that VW would delve back into its eclectic history to seek inspiration for a new model of Beetle.

With a toughened-up exterior, the Dune pays homage to the iconic Type 1 Baja Bugs; highly modified machines that were designed to take on long-distance desert races back in the late 1960s. But don’t be fooled into thinking that this 2016 Bug is a hardcore off-roader.

There’s no four-wheel-drive system, VW opting for a front-wheel-drive layout in the interest of weight saving. However, with raised suspension (by 10mm), a wider track, and front and rear wheel arch extensions, the Dune certainly has an air of off-road ruggedness.

Aesthetically, the Dune also receives a plethora of changes including redesigned bumpers, smart LED taillights, a whale tail-esque spoiler and whopping 18in ‘Mythos’ alloy wheels. Combined with the striking optional Sandstorm Yellow paint, the Dune, to these eyes at least, is a cohesive and rather handsome looking package. 

What's it like?

On the road the Dune is surprisingly well polished. Any worries that the added ride height might corrupt the handling are quashed within the first few miles of country road. Body roll is minimal, the steering is well weighted (if a little vague off-centre) and, thanks to a widened track, there are impressive levels of grip.

Unfortunately, ride quality isn't as good as that of a comparable Golf; a problem no doubt exacerbated by the 18-inch wheels. However, once up to speed the Dune settles down nicely and the damping is just about spot on for British B-roads.  

In the UK, Dune buyers get the choice of two engines: a 1.2-litre 104bhp petrol or a more powerful 2.0-litre 148bhp diesel. We had the former and were impressed with its gutsy nature and appetite for revs. Disappointingly, throttle response was rather poor around town, but that’s to be expected from such a small-capacity turbocharged engine.

Interior wise, the cabin is fairly similar to the standard car, with some nice touches to set it apart as a premium model. The bold paint scheme is carried over into the cabin thanks to wrap around inserts, the seats receive attractive contrast stitching and the multifunction leather-trimmed steering wheel gets a decorative 'Dune' insert - just in case you forget where you are. Ultimately, this is a far more characterful interior than you’ll find in the Golf or Scirocco.

Ergonomically, the car is typical Beetle: plenty of space up front, good visibility and a decent driving position. The boot is also plenty big enough for the odd trip to the beach, at 310 litres. However, rear space is limited, with only two seats and not much leg room.

Should I buy one?

On paper the Dune doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s £2395 more than the similarly equipped Beetle Design and offers no extra practicality. But you don’t buy this car for its off-road prowess or sporting credentials, you buy it because you want something a bit different. Something to stand out in. 

Ultimately, the choice for most will come down to personal circumstance. If you have a family and want some (very) light off-road ability you’d be better off with a Fiat 500X or Mini Countryman. But if that’s not a factor, we'd pick the Dune. It’s better to drive, looks infinitely more distinctive and in 1.2 TSI guise manages to be impressively frugal.

Back to top

Neil Winn

Volkswagen Beetle 1.2 TSI 105 Dune

Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £18,330; Engine 4 cyls, 1197cc, petrol; Power 106bhp at 5000-5500; Torque 129lb ft at 1400-4000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1486kg; 0-62mph 10.9sec; Top speed 110mph; Economy 54.3mpg (combined); CO2 rating/BIK tax band 122g/km, 21%

Join the debate

Add a comment…
hedgehopper 17 July 2016

Why not?

The variation on the theme that would be of interest would be to remove the front engine and fit the new Porsche turbo flat four in the rear where the back seat is with 4WD !!!
bowsersheepdog 17 July 2016

hedgehopper wrote:

hedgehopper wrote:

The variation on the theme that would be of interest would be to remove the front engine and fit the new Porsche turbo flat four in the rear where the back seat is with 4WD !!!

Good shout. And if they kept it in this colour and upholstered the seats with denim they could call it the Ripped Jeans Beetle. Back in the seventies a workmate and myself, teenagers at the time, used to go for weekends in the Lake District in his mum's green 1500. His dream was to put a Porsche engine in the back of it. I don't know if he ever managed to do it as we lost touch after both changing jobs. We had enormous fun in that Beetle.

Andy1960 14 July 2016

Just wondering when....

the VW Beetle Juice edition is released, or has that ship already sailed
abkq 14 July 2016

I think this New Beetle 2 is

I think this New Beetle 2 is a very successful design because it emphasizes different aspects of the original Beetle from the New Beetle 1. While New Beetle 1 is an exercise in pure geometry (dome roof, circles & arcs) the geometry of New Beetle 2 is much more modulated. The dashboard design as a reference to the original beetle looks great. The two generations of New Beetle each having a different range of references to the original car is the way to go, rather than Mini's three generations of tired repetitions and variations.