What is it
The all-new Volkswagen Beetle – as first revealed in simultaneous presentations at the Shanghai and New York motor shows back in April.
The three door hatchback is planned to arrive in the UK in early 2012 as a replacement for today’s outdated 14 year old model. Pricing is yet to be announced, but expect a moderate increase to accompany increased levels of standard equipment.
With a bold new exterior design, larger dimensions, extensively reworked interior, greater space, more contemporary underpinnings and a range of more powerful engines – including a top-of-the-line 197bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre, Volkswagen hopes to attract a greater number of male buyers – at least that’s the message it is spreading ahead of the start of sales.
What’s it like?
From an exterior design standpoint the new Beetle impresses. From the very first glance, you’re aware more time and thought has gone into perfecting its appearance than with its predecessor.
Step inside and you’re confronted by an unusually high dashboard that has been styled to replicate that of the original Beetle – complete with an old fashioned glovebox compartment in the facia.
We drove the 197bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol model, equipped with an optional six-speed DSG (dual shift) gearbox. It’s essentially the same driveline used by the sixth-generation Golf GTi. Not a bad basis, then.
With 206lb ft arriving at just 1700rpm, the new top-of-the-line Beetle is quick off the line and satisfyingly flexible across a wide range of revs. The engine is eager in nature, spinning to its 7000rpm redline smoothly, determinedly and without any undue harshness up high.
Despite a gain in kerb weight of 96kg over the old 148bhp turbocharged 1.8-litre model it replaces in the line-up at 1364kg, in gear performance is solid, if not outstanding. Volkswagen claims 0-62mph in 7.5sec or 0.6sec slower than the 44kg lighter Golf GTi. Top speed is put at 139mph.
Ride quality is not up to Volkswagen’s usual high standards. The new Beetle fails to deliver the overall composure of the Golf over a wide range of surfaces. The steering, a new electro-mechanical arrangement, also lacks for the precision off centre.
The new Beetle does, however, hang on well in corners. Grip is vastly improved over the old model, a result that can be attributed not only to the widened tracks but a decision to provide the new model with larger wheels and tyres boasting greater contact area. In this respect, Volkswagen’s claims of added sportiness are warranted.
Should I buy one?
Like its direct predecessor, the new Beetle will be bought more on the statement made by throwback styling than any other single factor. Seen up close, it is a much more confident looking car than before – something that is not only a reflection of the actual design of the exterior but the more surefooted stance brought on by its wider tracks. It also imparts a higher quality feel, even if some of its interior trims look cheap.
But whether looks and a feeling of added quality are enough to draw in greater number of male buyers as Volkswagen claims it will remains to be seen. Dynamically, it is a vast improvement on the old Beetle. But if first impressions are anything to go by it continues to lack the polish of the Golf, which in pure driving terms is superior in many ways.