From £15,885
With such competent and desirable cars available at this price, the Beetle can't compete
10 February 2012

What is it?

It’s the new Volkswagen Beetle. And despite substantial design modifications (it’s wider, longer and lower as well as distinctly sleeker) it’s still easily identified as a modern incarnation of the classic air-cooled model.

Sitting beneath the sharper looks is a platform made up of an amalgamation of current VW parts, mostly from the Golf. All Beetles get multilink suspension up front, but if you want the sophisticated multilink rear suspension that the Golf benefits from you’ll have to buy the range-topping 197bhp 2.0-litre TSI model, which is unlikely to be here until 2013.

Every other Beetle model, including the 158bhp 1.4 TSI Sport tested here, gets torsion beam at the rear. Other engines will include a 1.2 TSI, as well as a 1.6- and 2.0-litre diesel.

What’s it like?

It’s better than the previous generation, but then with today’s VAG parts as good as they are that’s like being asked to make roast beef taste better than gruel; not hard.

Sit in the new Beetle and the piano black inserts (mid-level Design cars get body-coloured panels), simple switchgear, slim-rimmed steering wheel and twin glovebox make this a more distinct and interesting interior than you’ll find in the Golf or Scirocco.

Look in the boot and you’ll find a square-shaped, 310-litre boot, and a 50/50 split rear bench that can be folded. But you can only seat two on that bench, and they’ll find space something of a squeeze if they’re anything over average height.

The dynamics are equally hit-and-miss. The steering is quite heavy by normal hatchback standards, but this adds no real sense of connection. Rather it makes the Beetle feel artificially ‘sporty’, and that disappointing sensation continues through most aspects of the car.

The ride quality on our Sport model, which gets 18-inch wheels as standard, was bizarrely schizophrenic. Gentle undulations and general B-road or motorway surfaces are handled well, with the damping keeping the car composed. But then around town the Beetle is noticeably firm and fidgety over a lot of urban roads.


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Refinement is acceptable if not exceptional, with noticeable tyre and wind noise intruding on the motorway (the optional £945 sunroof fitted to our test car doesn't help).

The supercharged and turbocharged motor is hard to fault. It’s economical and revs freely and progressively to its post-6000rpm redline. It doesn’t feel particularly punchy, but then with an 8.3sec 0-62mph time, few would expect it to be.

Should I buy one?

Ideally not. The only reasonable argument in favour of the Beetle is its style, which is in its own way quite appealing. And for the driver the interior is a nice place to be. So if these elements grab you then you are unlikely to be put off by the niggling flaws that make this - objectively, at least - a mediocre car in a class of outstanding rivals.

It’s not a terribly bad car. It’s just one that feels in every way as if it is an exercise in marketing rather than engineering. And with such competent and desirable cars available at this price (ironically the VW Scirocco would still be our pick of them) that is fairly unforgivable.

Volkswagen Beetle 1.4 TSI Sport

Price: £21,220; Top speed: 129mph; 0-62mph: 8.3sec; Economy: 42.8mpg; Co2: 153g/km; Kerb weight: 1359kg; Engine type: 1390cc, 4cyl, twin-charged; Power: 158bhp at 5800rpm; Torque: 177lb ft at 4500rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

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10 February 2012

I thought the Beetle was supposed to be one of those "desirable" cars....

10 February 2012

I think the author of this article on the new Beetle missed the whole pint of this car. It is not here to compete with the Golf etc, it's dynamics, seating for only four matter not a jot it is all about style.

Although so far I must admit I prefer the previous model in a pastel colour with a soft top.

10 February 2012

This just brings to mind those children's books where if you turn the pages you can end up with figures which have the head of a footballer, the body of a baker and the legs of a guardsman.

10 February 2012

I'd prefer the Beetle with the 1.2 TSI 105 engine instead. But I don't think I'd get a Beetle in the first place. This may be an improvement, but it's still very far from perfect.


10 February 2012

I'm genuinely surprised that any one who isn't female, gay, vegetarian or an estate agent would fail to die of embarrassment if forced to use one of these. Hand on my heart, I'd feel less embarrassed in a Maybach. I can't even see a hairdresser in one of these. A car for Sex and the City fans. Not my intention to offend any of these groups (apart from Sex and the City fans), I just can't believe VW said they made this more appealing to men.

10 February 2012

It looks huge to me. Perhaps Vicky is quite short, but she looks lost in the cabin. I think VW missed a trick with the Beetle; they should have made it Polo size. They have the Golf and the Scirroco which complement each other, why not a Polo and a sporty Beetle counterpart.

11 February 2012

Business as usual then for the Beetle.

I fail to see who is going to buy this car, unless they are a die hard beetle fan.

Since the last generation, arguably the first car to start the retro revolution, we have seen some far cuter and far better dynamically recreations which appeal far more than this car.

I know there is the argument this car is more about the style (for the customer) and profit (for VW) than it is about being a great drive but considering, as Vicky said, VW parts bin, I think it is a shame it has turned out so poor.

11 February 2012

[quote Will86]have the Golf and the Scirroco which complement each other, why not a Polo and a sporty Beetle counterpart[/quote]

That's not a bad idea actually.

11 February 2012

[quote catnip] I thought the Beetle was supposed to be one of those "desirable" cars....[/quote] Me too! But funnily enough Autocar seems to like the 911 Beetle.

11 February 2012

[quote Will86] I think VW missed a trick with the Beetle; they should have made it Polo size. They have the Golf and the Scirroco which complement each other, why not a Polo and a sporty Beetle counterpart.[/quote]

My thoughts exactly - each time I see someone driving the previous "New" Beetle, I always think that VW would probably attract their target market far more easily if the car was Polo-sized.

Seeing as the Polo is a very competent but perhaps slightly dull car, a Beetle-shaped counterpart would surely have offered (design-wise at least) an interesting alternative - just like Fiat, with the Panda and 500 being so closely related.

As with the previous version, with the Golf Hatch, Golf Cabrio, Scirocco and other VAG stablemates (such as the A1, A3, TT, Leon etc) to contend with, not to mention other competitors such as the MINI (which genreally seems to be a better drive) and the Fiat 500 (doing the modern retro design arguably better, and certainly cheaper), I'm not sure how successful this Beetle will be.

Certainly, VW will shift a fair few to customers who appreciate the design aspect, but you can't help but think how many more they could sell if it was Polo-sized and (accordingly) at a cheaper price point...


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