The Volkswagen Beetle has been with us since 1938, but this is only its third iteration and, by all accounts, it’s the best one yet.
The two-door car market has evolved quite a bit since then and the modern Beetle is up against some highly accomplished competition such as the nostalgic Fiat 500 and Mini Hatchback, but also the decidedly un-retro DS 3.
The Beetle has been refreshed and got a new range-topping R-line trim along with some interior tech upgrades. The exterior has also been updated, but you have to be an expert in the breed to spot the new fog light surrounds and revised bumpers.
The biggest changes are on the inside, where you’ll find the latest tech available across the VW range including one of the best touchscreen infotainment systems on the market. What remains unchanged is the colourful interior that is built to a much higher standard than in rivals, and the near-perfect driving position. Practicality isn’t spectacular but, for a two-door trendy hatch, it isn’t bad either.
Based on the now obsolete Golf VI platform, the modern Beetle is enjoyable to drive and rides with poise, but it doesn’t blow you away in any criteria – solid and predictable best describes the experience. There is a jacked-up version called the Dune, but it’s not in any way better off-road than the regular Beetle.
At a glance, there is a fairly limited engine range, comprising of four units, but what is available is very hard to fault. The 148hp 1.4-litre petrol is enjoyable to drive more-exuberantly, while the 2.0-litre diesel is relaxed and refined. The optional DSG gearbox is highly recommended because it’s one of the best in the business.
Equipment levels on entry-level models are comparable to rivals, you get a 6.5-inch touchscreen as standard along with air-con and a height-adjustable driver’s seat.
Nostalgia inspiring or not, this is a very capable car
Overall, the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle is an undoubted improvement over its predecessor – not only is it a more fitting tribute to the original than the first ‘New’ Beetle was, but it has a better ride and improved handling characteristics.
The Beetle isn’t brilliant in every area, and there are other cars in this class that are better all-round propositions. That said, the Volkswagen is still a good overall car, and it’s highly likely that a majority of buyers will opt for the Bug purely for the way it looks.
For a more detailed look at the Volkswagen Beetle, look at the interior, practicality, driving and specifications sections of our test on the following pages. Or, to see what sort of offers are available on the Beetle, click through to the deals page.