carwow was invited to test the new Volkswagen Beetle at a recent event, so we got behind the wheel to bring you the verdict on the latest reinvention of one of the worlds most recognisable cars.
The Beetle will live and die by its shape, and early impressions on the new car are positive. Its a huge improvement on the previous car (known as the New Beetle - the new car is simply known as the Beetle) with a shape thats closer in spirit to the original - an example of which we also tried.
Indeed, in Design trim, with Denim Blue paint and the standard Orbit alloy wheels, its easy to mistake for the classic car at a glance, something that could never have been said about the previous model.
On looks alone, we reckon this is the combination to go for - though the Sport trim, with its larger 18-inch Twister alloy wheels, boot spoiler, and bi-xenon headlamps certainly looked the part, and offers a more modern take on the theme.
The retro theme continues inside, though not as overtly as youd find in a MINI or Fiat 500. Neat touches carried over from the classic include the drop-down glovebox on the upright dashboard, and the grab-handles hanging down from the B-pillar. You also get a large central speedometer in the instrument cluster, and one of the largest analogue fuel dials weve ever seen.
Design models get eye-catching body-colour dashboard trim, also reflected on the steering wheel inserts. The sport model had figure-hugging leather seats, but the interior was comfortable and refined whatever the spec - we tried two Design cars, and one Sport. It wasn't difficult to find the ideal driving position, and there was no faulting the ergonomics. A touchscreen display finished off the dash in each car.
The Beetle isnt dissimilar to the Golf underneath, and thats pretty much how it drives. It feels planted on the road, the steering is accurate and well-weighted but not as feelsome or as quick as youd find in a MINI, and the ride is composed. Sport models ride on larger wheels, making the ride a little firmer.
Once again, we preferred Design trim in this respect - outright levels of grip may be lower, but it tackled the bumpy test roads a little better than Sport models and we expect youd only really notice the benefits of the Sport setup on a track - a place where few Beetles will venture. Ride quality you can appreciate every day, and youll still benefit from the same grown-up drive in any specification.
There were two engine and transmission combinations available to try. The Denim Blue Design-spec car used a distinctly non-retro 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol with a twin-clutch gearbox, and we also tried the 160 PS 1.4 turbo and supercharged engine in Design and Sport trim.
Refinement was excellent with each car. At lower revs the engines are near-silent on the move, with a sporty rasp when you accelerate harder. The 1.4 was noticeably quicker than the 105 PS 1.2, but the 1.2 still impressed with its torque. We found the smooth 7-speed DSG transmission preferable to the slightly clunky manual - a gearbox that didnt really encourage the quick gearchanges demanded by the 1.4 engines impressive acceleration.
If there was one odd omission from the cars we drove, its the lack of a stop-start system for saving fuel in traffic. Even on our half-hour test route in each car, there were a couple of occasions where it would have come in handy - and if you live in any big city, youd see even greater benefits.
Value for money
Viewed next to retro rivals like the MINI and Fiat 500, the Beetle looks expensive - though its worth remembering that the Beetle is a class size bigger, based on the Golf.
As is typical with press vehicles, the cars were loaded with plenty of options, a few of which weve listed below.
Fender Premium Soundpack (495) - We didnt have any CDs handy to truly test the soundsystem, but 495 doesnt seem bad for an 8-speaker upgraded system, with subwoofer and fancy ambient illumination from the guitar and amplifier company.
Front and rear parking sensors (335) - Probably worth the money. The Beetles unusual shape isnt the easiest in which to judge the cars extremities. If you want to keep it looking groovy, parking sensors are a good idea!
17 Rotor alloy wheels (0) - A free upgrade on Design trim, wed probably still give them a miss - the standard Orbit retro-style wheels look absolutely brilliant.
Vienna leather upholstery (1,995) - Includes heated front sports seats and electric lumbar adjustment. Bit of a scary pricetag. Lifts the interior, feels great, but really starts turning the Beetle into a properly expensive car...
With the DSG transmission as standard and in basic trim, the Beetle 1.2 starts from 16,490 on the road. In Design trim that rises to 18,895 and the 1.4 TSI Sport starts at 21,220.
That sounds a lot, until you realise that an equivalent specification Golf with the 1.2 and DSG costs over 2,000 more, and a 1.4 TSI 160 Golf is about the same price as the Beetle equivalent. The Golf is more practical, the Beetle more eye-catching - so take your pick.
VW also offers a 3-year/30,000 mile service plan for the Beetle, at 329. The 1.2 starts in 115 per year tax band E, and gets 47.9 mpg combined. Our drive returned fuel economy in the mid 40s in the 1.2 despite having some fun with the DSGs manual mode, so we expect the official figures could be achieved in real-world driving.
The Beetle is the sort of car you either like or you dont, and these words may not sway you either way. However, its also the sort of car you can buy on merit, as it offers good performance and economy, and has great standards of build and refinement.
The 1.4 Sport will likely appeal to more masculine tastes than the Beetle has in the past so should help chase those extra male sales VW is after.
However, the 1.2 TSI in Design trim is the sweet spot in the range for us - the retro looks won us over and the engine and gearbox combination worked very well. And you shouldnt overlook the basic Beetle 1.2 which offers great value compared to the more practical - but less interesting - Golf.
What the press think
Reception for the new Beetle has been pretty positive, though some question what the car offers over the Golf. Its certainly not as practical and isnt quite as refined, but we cant help feeling that Beetle buyers wont really care
Check out our full guide to the new Beetle. With reviews, videos, photos, stats and more!