Volkswagen Beetle


Debut: 2011
Maker: Volkswagen
Predecessor: New Beetle (1997)


 Published on 8 Oct 2011
All rights reserved. 


In 1994, designer Freeman Thomas and J. Mays kickstarted the trend of retro-cars with Volkswagen Concept 1, which eventually became the New Beetle. They not only recreated the classic People's Car with modern mechanicals and packaging, but also redefined the iconic look. The bug-shape profile evolved to be even more cartoonish, thanks to an arc roof line and symmetric profile. The light and airy, cab-forward cabin featured a vase to hold flowers. Naturally, ladies got mad with it. My wife, for example, is a fan of the New Beetle in apple green. Worth noting is she has little passion about any Ferrari, Lamborghini or other performance cars I praised. The New Beetle was that magical. It had a special attraction to women, including those not interested in cars.

The New Beetle was produced exclusively in Mexico and about half of the cars were supplied to the US market. In the 13 years it existed, 1.2 million units were produced, pretty good for a niche model with only one body style and two engines to choose from. Nevertheless, its reception in Europe had never been warm. European motorists required more practicality than image, and they found VW Golf a much better bet. Therefore, in the development of the second generation, the number one job was to improve its global presence. On the one hand, it has to narrow the gap from Golf for practicality. On the other hand, it has to lure not only women but also men.



Judging from the new looks, I would say the second approach is probably overdone. The new Beetle, ridiculously losing the word "New" in its name, might please more male drivers, but at the same time it loses attraction to women, as my wife can testify. Its new profile is not only lower and wider but also far more muscular. The arc roof is replaced with a flatter and longer one. The windscreen gets more upright as the base of the windscreen is pushed back. The front bumper more angular and sophisticated – just like Golf. Interestingly, its side profile looks closer to the classic Beetle than its direct predecessor. Depending on your view, you may say it is back to basics, or you may criticize it for looking older than the old car.

In Turbo trim, the Beetle looks even sportier. 18 or even 19-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels add to the aggression, as is the large tail spoiler. If Porsche create a people-version 911, it just might look like this one. On the flip side, the new design has lost the imagination and romance of the old car. It is more serious than dream.



Quite surprising, although it appears to be much lower than the old car, tape measurement finds its roof stands only 12 mm lower. However, the car does get much longer (+200 mm) and wider (+80 mm) than the 1997 model, while its wheelbase gets a 30 mm boost to 2537 mm. What does this mean? More cabin space, of course. The combination of longer wheelbase and a less sloping rear window translates to a roomier rear seating space. It can finally hold two average size adults for short journeys. In contrast, the old car could seat only children at the back. Behind the cabin, the longer rear overhang significantly enlarged the boot volume by a full 100 liters to 310 liters. This should please European customers.

Apart from more space, the cabin is also thoroughly redesigned. The high-mounted, vertical dashboard is clearly inspired by the original Beetle, particularly the retro glovebox door. Following the fashion set by Mini, you can decorate the dashboard and doors with body-color panels, or even faux carbon-fiber trim on the performance model. Compare with the old car, its materials and build quality are vastly improved. However, judging it by the high standard of Golf and most other Volkswagen products, its build quality could be slightly disappointed. There are less soft-touched plastics employed, and some trims could look cheap. Once again, the Mexican manufacturing fails to deliver the same quality standard as in Europe. Tighter cost control is also a reason.



Once you are on the driver seat, you will find the pushed back A-pillars reward you with a better visibility through corner. The shorter dash top also results in much less reflection to the windscreen. Early impression is promising.

Less promising is the mechanical setup. The Beetle shares a lot of parts with the new Jetta, which is produced in the same Mexican plant. This means it shares the same cost-saving measures. The regular Beetle comes with an outdated 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine with 170 hp output (European version comes with a weak 105hp 1.2 TSI engine instead), torsion-beam rear suspension and hydraulic power steering. This compares unfavourably with Golf's fuel-saving 1.4 TSI engine, multi-link suspension and electromechanical power steering. It does get the more sophisticated suspension and steering, but only on the range-topping Turbo model, which shares the 200 hp 2.0 TFSI engine with Golf GTI. The Turbo also gets DSG twin-clutch gearbox, very aggressive wheels and tires (235/45VR18), and a cool-looking flat-bottomed steering wheel.

Thanks to the wider tracks and tires, the new car delivers better handling than the old, in particular grip and the willingness to turn into corners. Trouble is, it is not up to the standard of Golf. The Beetle Turbo is no match with Golf GTI, no matter steering (less precise and less feel), ride (much stiffer on those aggressive rubbers), high-speed stability (nervous above 100 mph), body control (more roll despite of stiffer suspension setting) and quietness (lots of wind and tire noise). Performance is not as good, too. With a 0.37 coefficient of drag, it tops only 139 mph, 10 mph down on Golf GTI. 0-60 mph claim is 0.2 second slower.



Taking into account the less accommodative rear seats and boot, and the lack of rear doors, I suppose most motorists will continue to find the Beetle a choice by heart rather than by brain. From this view, it is fundamentally the same as the old car. What the new car does bring is a less painful decision to switch from Golf, as it has fewer compromises to live with. Well, my wife probably won't agree. In her eyes, the new look is already a big compromise.
Verdict: 
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Beetle 1.2TSI
2011
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4278 / 1808 / 1486 mm
2537 mm
Inline-4
1197 cc
SOHC 8 valves
Turbo
DI
105 hp
129 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
215/60R16
1274 kg
112 mph (c)
10.2 (est)
-
Beetle 1.4TSI
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4278 / 1808 / 1486 mm
2537 mm
Inline-4
1390 cc
DOHC 16 valves
Turbo + supercharger
DI
160 hp
177 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
215/55VR17
1359 kg
129 mph (c)
7.8 (c)
-
Beetle 2.5
2011
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4278 / 1808 / 1486 mm
2537 mm
Inline-5
2480 cc
DOHC 20 valves
-
-
170 hp
177 lbft
6-speed automatic
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
215/55VR17
1333 kg
-
8.0 (c) / 8.5*
24.7*




Performance tested by: *C&D





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Beetle 2.0TSI
2011
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4278 / 1808 / 1486 mm
2537 mm
Inline-4
1984 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT
Turbo, VIM
DI
200 hp
206 lbft
6-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
235/45VR18
1380 kg
139 mph (c)
6.8 (c) / 6.3*
16.8*


















































Performance tested by: *C&D





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