Volkswagen Beetle 2012 - car review
It was the 'bud vase' bolted the dash of the last Volkswagen Beetle that surely proved to be the breaking point for many a potential male buyer.What, besides a dainty flower could you put in to the narrow test tube shaped glass receptacle? A pencil? Dust?
That vase was just one of the features that made the second generation Beetle a little too feminine for many a bloke to consider buying, which was a shame, as sitting on the VW Golf chassis, the Beetle was a bloody good car to drive.A look at the universal success of both BMW's MINI and Fiat's 500 has shown the bigwigs at VW that revitalising a classic should be a road paved with gold. And, they've taken this on board with the latest take on the 'People's Car', which now ticks the boxes for boys as well as girls in a way the former car never could.
The vase has gone for a start, as is the bloated dash arrangement with single clock ahead of the driver and grab rail ahead of the front-seat passenger.
Now, the dash is modelled on early Beetles with a near vertical dash colour-matched to the exterior. Straps replace the roof-mounted grab handles and even the glove box is styled to mirror models from a former age. It is a mix of old and new that works very well.And these classic elements continue on the exterior too.
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White wheels with chrome trim, a narrow windscreen and sweeping roofline whose rush toward the rear number plate is only curtailed by safety regulations that demand modern bumpers are robust in stature.That, sadly applies to the nose as well. Where once the bonnet finished in an elegant point, the modern Beetle's nose is somewhat stumpy in comparison. The extravagant wheelarches go someway to saving the image, but not completely.
As with the model that preceded it the Beetle is an entertaining drive. The driving position is well considered with an extensive range of seat adjustment available to the driver. The steering wheel is small and thin in comparison to many and it too benefits from a touch of exterior colour.
Surprisingly, it feels a much bigger, more stately car than expected when driving at motorway speeds, There's the inevitable wind noise, but the 2.0-litre diesel is refined and tyre roar is minimal. This allows an appreciation of the DAB radio, which powers the eight Fender speakers, an optional extra (£500). Developed in conjunction with the legendary electric guitar firm of the same name, this audiophile's delight offers a 400 W output and a subwoofer - much better than a vase.Take to the country lanes though and that stately feeling is replaced by a car that feels light and easy to drive with some vigour.
Three versions are available starting at £16,600 for the 'Beetle' 1.2-litre TSI with DSG (semi-automatic transmission), through to the £23,445 'Sport' 2.0 TDI with the same auto box.Our test car with the mid-range 'Design' model. Priced between £20,000 and £22,000 depending on the transmission this model seems the best mix of performance and comfort and should you be covering plenty of miles the 2.0-litre diesel will not paste the wallet too much, offering claimed returns of around 57mpg in varying conditions. The reality of a couple of hours behind the wheel then figure was nearer 40mpg, still not to be sniffed at.Outright performance for both the DSG and the six-speed manual are according to the books are near enough identical, but there's a certain urgency with the manual transmission, that just isn't there in the DSG.
Since its original creation in 1938 more than 22.5 million Beetles have been sold globally, taking into the top three best sellers of all time. Those figures may have taken a hit in 1998 with the launch of the former Beetle, but it's back with a bang for 2012 with a car that should restore a little of its former glory.