Now here’s a car with a long history. Most cars I’ve tested have roots that stretch only till the 1960s. The Volkswagen Beetle started penning itself into the history books long before the Second World War was known as such. It was a simple car that could accommodate a family of four up to the Swiss Alps for a nice picnic. Much has changed since then.
The engine is now in front, the boot is at rear and the car is a stag beetle compared to the first generation’s lady bug. But unless you’re fortunate enough to have the first Beetle parked beside the third, you’ll never know. The round shell makes the car look smaller than its 4,278mm by 1,808mm by 1,468mm space the new Beetle occupies. Nevertheless, the general shape, which is still achievable with three circles, is still here. It is part of what made the Beetle instantly recognisable even without its nameplate.
That said, the new Beetle is not as round as the second generation New Beetle. Volkswagen has made the effort to delete all feminine connotations and replace that void with a good dose of sportiness. The bonnet of the third Bug is longer while the rear tapers off with less curves and the overhangs remain short, which are many nods to the first Beetle. The seats and the Beetle box are the other tributes paid to the Beetle the First. Continue the exterior tour and you’ll realise the door panels has similar characteristics to a wall, which result in the windows looking like it is being pinched.
No matter, once you’re in, you won’t feel the small windows or how large the door really is. You don’t so much as sit as you do perched on the driver’s seat. From here, the view afforded to you is adequate to judge where the Beetle’s snout is pointing at. Proximity sensors – front and rear – help plenty with tight manoeuvres, like navigating though a seemingly tight toll booth and haphazardly-planned parking lots.
The lack of floral embellishment is a welcome change. Do you really want flower power to make a come back? But other than the Beetle box and retro-looking seats, this is a modern Beetle and the interior possesses the arrangement of the current Volkswagen decor. However, the interior is plain and there isn’t much going on. The materials look and feel of the dashboard panels and door cards are suspiciously cut-price even if it is well-fixed in place. I have no beef with the leather seats.
Nope, no beef with the small engine also. In the Beetle’s range, the 1.2 TSI powerplant is the runt of the litter; the other sizes offered are the 1.4 TSI and 2.0 TSI. It’s light on fuel consumption and excretes small amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Underpowered, the runty engine isn’t but if you’re looking to win traffic light drag races, you’d better get used to losing. A lot.
Not that it takes off like a snail, Turbo notwithstanding, a little squirt of juice from the pedal and the Beetle will take off. Speed accumulates gradually and 10.9 seconds later reaches 100kph. The Beetle will max out at 180kph, which it has slight difficulty getting used to. Still, it will scamper away from corners or overtakes without breaking sweat.
Lightness helps with the car’s dynamics plenty. At 1,297kg, the 1.2 TSI Beetle is about 170kg lighter than the 2.0-litre full-blown Bug, which is plenty. So it doesn’t take much effort for the car to move around. It even feels better around the corners than the more athletic Beetle. There’s less tendency of understeering when you hit a corner at full chat and the steering is a dab more responsive. Quicker too, except that the feedback can get muddy at times.
In any case, this isn’t a car you take to carve corners because the suspension is a little soft, setup more for the everyday commute rather than the weekend races. Except it to lean more if you attack corners with it. But drive it with calm composure and the car will make sense. Comfort is the selling point here, which will suit the daily driver nicely.
With all things considered, this is a really nice car to get in an drive. Pay no mind to its small engine. And let me tell you that the 104hp and 175Nm the 1.2-litre engine makes is enough to eke out plenty of enjoyment from the usual city driving. Charming, this car.
Volkswagen didn’t do the Beetle wrong by letting it have a smaller but no less enthusiastic engine. In fact, this Beetle may be more fun to drive than its sportier stablemate.