A new Beetle was launched to much fanfare in 2011, but don't call it the New Beetle. The "New" part of its outgoing name (that everybody forgot about, anyway) was dropped, along with the flower vase and its delicate, ovoid styling. Volkswagen says this new Beetle is more masculine than the model it replaces, and with a more aggressive sloping roofline and a mature, body-colored interior, the automaker may even have a point.
The Beetle still retains its charisma, but is now longer, lower, and wider than the last model. Now there are three engines to choose from: a base 2.5-liter five-cylinder with 170 horsepower, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 200 horsepower, and for 2012, a TDI diesel engine with 140 horsepower and the ability to reach 40 mpg on the highway. A six-speed automatic is standard, but Volkswagen's popular DSG dual-clutch transmission will also be available.
The new Beetle finally becomes less of a styling statement for young-at-heart females and more of an actual vehicle, and its impressive options list reflects this: a navigation system, Fender Premium eight-speaker surround-sound, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity, keyless entry and bi-xenon headlights are all available. 17-inch alloy wheels are standard at the base price of $18,995, which gives Volkswagen a stylish option against the retro goofballs from Mini and Fiat.
Engines: 2.5-liter inline-5, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4, 2.0-liter diesel inline-4
Transmissions: six-speed automatic, six-speed dual-clutch automatic
Almost everything: the new Beetle was only introduced in 2011. Still, there's already a limited-edition model out, the Turbo Black, which offers slick black pearl paint, carbon-fiber-look interior trim, Turbo graphics, and beefy 10-spoke wheels. There will only be 600 examples produced, so if you want one, act fast.
For anybody who has been around for the past 15 years (has it really been that long?), the Beetle will be instantly recognizable from its old model. The Beetle is still cute, but much less so -- its rakish shape recalls the original Beetle even more than the last one did, and with a Heritage sticker package and retro-styled one-piece wheels on the non-Turbo model, the Beetle should bring back lots of memories.
The dashboard is color-matched to the exterior paint, which not only adds visual interest but also avoids looking cheap. The rest of the interior is solid Volkswagen quality: a mixture of soft-touch plastics that feel solidly screwed together, and a classic design element, the "Beetle bin," is integrated to the top of the passenger-side dash. For the first time, the Beetle gets an integrated screen with an available navigation system, and it features an eight-speaker sound system as standard.
Performance & Handling
Based on the same underpinnings as the Volkswagen Golf, the Beetle's suspension promises stability against potholes. The non-turbo five-cylinder is adequate, but the turbo engine is shared by the GTI and pushes the Beetle along nicely. Volkswagen's spate of excellent diesel engines should serve the Beetle just as well when they're introduced later this year.
The Beetle uses a laser-welded high-strength body to wrap its occupants, and features side airbags for all passengers standard. Stability control and front airbags also come on every model.
EPA Fuel Economy
22 mpg city/29 mpg highway, five-cylinder
22 mpg city/30 mpg highway, four-cylinder turbo
29 mpg city/40 mpg highway, TDI diesel
- More macho styling
Reasonable fuel economy for diesel
You Won't Like
- Uninspired five-cylinder engine
Diminished cargo space
- Introverts, this isn't your car
The Beetle grows up, gets hair on its chest
If You Like This Vehicle
- Mini Cooper
- Fiat 500
- Scion tC