Is there a more distinctive car on the road than the Volkswagen Beetle? Even the redesigned 2012 Beetle is every bit as identifiable as the iconic Beetles of the ’60s and ’70s.
This time around, designers set out to give the third-generation model a more masculine look in an attempt to overcome the ‘chick car’ reputation that the New Beetle had developed during its run from 1998 to 2010.
It appears they succeeded, based on the number of positive comments I got from both men and women during a recent week with a very attractive 2012 Reef Blue Metallic Sportline Beetle.
Though not the volume leader that the original Bug was for Volkswagen, when it sold more than 21 million copies between 1938 and 2003, the Beetle continues to sell in solid numbers here in Canada with 1,230 units delivered through the first six months of the calendar year.
As my Metroland colleague Jim Robinson noted during his First Drive story on the 2012 VW Beetle, ≥updated versions of iconic cars not only have to look similar to the original, but the spirit of the car has to be there, too. So, in bringing out the 2012 Beetle, two major issues had to be addressed ã the look and the image.≤
This new Beetle looks more planted to the ground and is longer, wider and shorter than the previous model. Comfort and stowage issues have been addressed so that now the back seat is much more user-friendly with a decent amount of headroom. Ingress and egress is still a bit difficult, however, due to the coupe design. Meanwhile, the trunk now has cargo space of 426 litres, jumping to 850 litres with the 50/50 split/fold rear seats down.
As far as image is concerned, the exterior design has a more masculine look and the little vase and plastic flower affixed to the dash in the previous generation is now part of Volkswagen history.
My Sportline-trim tester came with 200 hp 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, linked to a six-speed dual clutch (DSG) automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. The Comfortline and Highline models get a 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder engine (170 hp, 177 lb/ft of torque).
Standard on the Comfortline and Highline is a five-speed manual transmission with a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic and Sport Mode optional.
Prices start at $21,975 for the Comfortline manual and $24,225 for the Highline manual ($25,625 for the Highline automatic). The Sportline is $29,025 for the manual and $30,425 for the DSG automatic. Freight and PDI add $1,365.
Limited edition Premiere and Premiere+ models are also available during the 2012 launch year. A total of 600 of these will be offered, priced at $24,475 and $26,575 respectively. The Premiere models come only with the automatic transmission.
My tester also had the $1,290 Technology Package, which includes a 400-watt Fender premium audio system and a touch screen navigation system. The $675 Connectivity Package features a media device interface with iPad and BlueTooth mobile phone connectivity. All in, the car priced out at $32,390 plus taxes.
The Sportline, as the name suggests, has a sporty look with 18-inch alloy wheels covering bright red brake calipers. This model also boasts a sport suspension, eight-way driver and six-way passenger manual sport seats, leather seats (heated up front), dual exhaust, leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear spoiler and alloy sport pedals.
With the same engine that powers the VW GTI, the Turbo Beetle is a hotter performer than ever before thanks in part to the race-inspired DSG transmission, which does its job well.
The 207 lb/ft of torque reaches its peak at just 1,750 rpm, meaning the Beetle jumps to life in a big hurry.
As with most front-drive, turbocharged vehicles, a bit of turbo lag and torque steer is evident, but the added performance of the turbocharger makes it all worthwhile for the driving enthusiast.
Using the paddle shifters also adds a touch of sportiness one wouldn’t expect in a Beetle, although the body roll felt on hard cornering lets you know you’re in a Beetle rather than a GTI. Nevertheless, this is a level of handling never before seen on a Beetle.
In the driver’s seat, you’re greeted with an easy-to-grip, sporty, leather-wrapped steering wheel with a flat bottom and well-bolstered seats that keep you firmly planted on tight corners. My Sportline tester had a carbon fibre look on the front of the dash, while other models get body-coloured faceplates, similar to current Fiat 500s.
So while the new-generation Beetle stays true to its roots with much the same iconic design, it is a thoroughly modern version that still makes you smile but provides driving dynamics the originals couldn’t come close to matching.
Volkswagen Beetle Sportline 2012
Body Style: three-door hatchback.
Drive Method: front-engine, front-wheel drive.
Engine: 2.5-litre, inline five-cylinder (170 hp, 177 lb/ft); 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder (200 hp, 207 lb/ft).
Fuel Economy: 2.5-litre manual 9.9/6.4 L/100 km city/hwy; six-speed auto 9.5/7.1 L/100 km; 2.0-litre turbo manual 10.3/6.7 L /100 km city/hwy; automatic 126.96.36.199 L/100 km).
Cargo Capacity: 426 litres, 850 litres with 50/50 split rear seats folded.
Price: $21,975 to $30,425, as tested $32,390 plus $1,365 freight & PDI.