By on August 25, 2011

“I mean, this car is dead, right? The only people who bought the last one were fifty-year old Sally Schoolteachers, and they’re all sixty years old now. There’s no volume in this car. Can’t be any volume. The buyers are almost dead. And it isn’t fun to drive AT ALL. What would you rather have, this or a MINI?” The fellow shooting the rapid-fire queries at me from the passenger seat as I drove a five-cylinder 2012 Beetle through Northern Virginia was one of those authentic American types: the Straight-Shooting Self-Styled Marketing Expert. I encounter a lot of S-S,S-SME’s on press trips, and most of them are also Self-Deluded Fools. Not this guy. He was smart, he was articulate, and I didn’t have any easy answers to his questions.

The 2012 Beetle is (much) wider and (fractionally) lower. The new styling is intended to appeal to male buyers as well as the aforementioned Sally Schoolteacher. Dynamically and functionally, it’s a massive step past its predecessor. If you liked the old New Beetle, you’ll probably really like this one. The question still remains, however: who’s going to buy one? And why?

If ever there was a company that liked to hold on to its old platforms and/or designs, it’s Volkswagen. Forget the fact that the original Type I was built in one form or another from 1938 to 2003. Forget the Mk 1 Golf that was still being produced in Africa nearly thirty years after its German debut. Forget the Chinese Mk 2 Jettas that are still being sold. The New Beetle itself was sold for over thirteen years. It was the first “A4″ Volkswagen to hit these shores and the last to leave, sold in showrooms side-by-side with the “A6″ Jetta.

As a Mark Four A-platform (VWVortex.com members non-ironically pronounce it “Emm Kay Eye Vee” in conversation) the New Beetle was blessed and cursed by that type’s virtues and shortcomings. The interiors were fabulous but short-lived, the styling was delightful but forced some unfortunate compromises on seating position and interior visibility, and a veritable cavalcade of mechanical parts were likely to commit suicide and/or detach themselves from the car during any ownership experience lasting more than a week. Let’s not forget the optional 1.8t five-valve turbo four-cylinder, which was originally designed to have just over three quarts of oil in the pan. Owners of that particular model soon learned that it was necessary to walk back into their VW dealer’s service bay and personally supervise the oil change, because the dealers couldn’t be bothered to remember how much oil any of their cars took. Otherwise, the engines wouldn’t even make it to their first unexpected ignition coil pack failure.

The Mk IV Volkswagens were the Amy Winehouses of German-brand whips: sassy, sweet, devastatingly competent at times, occasionally sexy, and ultimately self-destructive. VW knows that an entire generation of buyers were burned out of their socks by those cars, and as a result your humble author was forced to sit and listen to an hour-long harangue by the company’s bigwigs regarding all the wonderful things that have been done to make Volkswagens the highest-quality cars money can buy. At one point, somebody had the nerve to mention AutoPacific ratings.

It was a relief to escape the briefing and meet the Beetle in the metal. For the record, I like the new styling from the front and sides, but the back somehow manages to look generic, particularly at a distance. The optional “heritage” alloy wheels, which have a massive polished cap and evoke the original VW dog-dish upgrade hubcaps, are splendid. The various Beetles I drove didn’t attract much attention on the road from anyone besides the occasional guy in a lowered Emm Kay Ivv. Even current Beetle owners didn’t look twice. This may be a good thing; it certainly hasn’t hurt MINI to have the second-generation “new” car look almost identical to its predecessor.

Inside, it’s a different story. As you can see in the photos, the painted plastic-pretending-to-be-metal panels are extremely convincing. I would have liked to see the steering-wheel spokes be real metal, because fingers, like Shakira’s hips, don’t lie when it comes to distinguishing metal from plastic. It calls the rest of the illusion into doubt. Regardless, this is an extremely pleasant interior. With the big sunroof shade rolled back, the sun literally pours into the car, the cheerful colored trim “pops”, and the sense of well-being is almost overwhelming.

The seating position itself is enough of a reason for New Beetle owners to trade in their current cars. The original “Concept 1″, which became the New Beetle, was draped over the Polo platform. Stretching it over a Golf created a rather odd seat/dashboard/windshield relationship. Driving the original New Beetle is a lot like driving a GM “dustbuster” minivan. The dash stretches to the horizon in a horrifying monotony of slowly degrading soft-touch plastics. It’s very far from optimal, to put it mildly, and it’s completely fixed in the New New Beetle That Is Just Called Beetle Now. A steeper windshield, shorter dash, and repositioned seat make the Beetle completely normal to drive. There’s no mental adjustment required when moving from a Golf to a Beetle or vice versa.

Our test 2.5 has the six-speed automatic, which is a torque-converter conventional transmission and NOT a DSG. That’s a good thing in my book; if Volkswagen has a proven driveline in its current inventory, it is probably this rather prosaic 170-horse five-cylinder and the slushbox. Shift points have been lowered for improved EPA ratings, so it’s not uncommon to look down and find the Beetle loafing along at 1100 rpm on the road. This is not a car for people in a hurry.

Nor is the suspension a willing accomplice for back-road stupidity. The Beetle Turbo, which will be the subject of a separate review later in the week, ain’t bad when it’s time to hustle. The plain Beetle has no such ability. It is pleasant to drive and no more. Only Corolla drivers will find it “sporty”. MINI drivers, as my friend suggested, will think they’ve gotten into a Town Car.

VW’s announced pricing is reasonable, starting at $18,995. The base MINI is fractionally more expensive, but the price gap widens as the order form gains checked boxes. Some of the fun Beetle options: a “Kaferbach” double glovebox as seen above, bi-Xenons with a cute rounded LED strip, and a big sunroof which should be considered mandatory for anyone really looking to enjoy their Beetle experience.

Who’s going to buy this car? I couldn’t tell you. It seems unlikely that men will flock to the Beetle. The original New Beetle customers, as previously alluded, are not going to provide a lot of volume. The nostalgic appeal has probably been more or less burned out by thirteen years of an occasionally troublesome predecessor. It’s a shame, really, because this is the car the New Beetle should have been years ago. It’s competent, enjoyable, pleasant, cute. It hits all the targets. You may not see a lot of them on the road, but I won’t quibble with anybody who decides to put one in her — excuse me, his or her — driveway.

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105 Comments on “Review: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle 2.5...”


  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    “I mean, this car is dead, right? The only people who bought the last one were fifty-year old Sally Schoolteachers, and they’re all sixty years old now. There’s no volume in this car. Can’t be any volume. The buyers are almost dead. And it isn’t fun to drive AT ALL. What would you rather have, this or a MINI?”

    People were saying the same thing about the Panther over 20 years ago… it remains to be seen if those experts will yet be proven right…

  • avatar
    friedclams

    I don’t exactly know why but I like this a lot more than I thought I would. I hated the first “New” Beetle. But I learned to drive on an original 60s-era Beetle and this car (in pictures, anyway) reminds me of it. To my eyes, this one is like a tall first-gen Audi TT.

    That huge hatchback opening is pretty sweet too.

  • avatar
    mike978

    This car is being compared to a MINI which is understandable from a retro perspective but isn`t the Bettle somewhat larger inside than the MINI and hence more usable for people who have friends?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The last one was not bigger inside than a Mini Cooper, the cost of styling a FWD car to look like a rear engined car. I don’t see any comments on the rear seat room in this review, but the trunk of the Beetle looks to be paying the price of neo-classic replicar silliness again.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        It would be a dull world if we all drove around in boxes on wheels. Lighten up Francis.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        That’s nuts. I cross-shopped the MINI and NB specifically on trunk size, since I was to use the car in a mobile photography business. Two medium shoulder bags were the limit in the MINI’s mini-trunk, and the tripod would have had to go on top. The NB fits six of those cases, plus a ‘pod safely on the floor. Rear seat space is tight in both, but everything in the Beetle feels bigger, because of the domed roof and the wide-open windows.

        The new model looks just right, giving my teenager some needed room.

      • 0 avatar
        jplew138

        The Beetle’s trunk is just fine. Much better than a Cooper’s, which can barely hold one full-sized suitcase.

    • 0 avatar

      Not much. the New Beetle’s problem is that the original was built to be practical, ignoring the stylistic tropes of its era. The New Beetle is all fashion statement and no substance. It’s quite ***im***practical.
      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/review-used-car-classic-vw-beetle/

  • avatar
    ajla

    Could’ve given us the Scirocco instead of the Beetle Turbo.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      Sure – at the risk of cannibalizing sales of GTI and/or Golf R. I love the way the Scirocco looks and would seriously consider buying one if it were sold here, but considering VW’s current lineup and for a number of other reasons I can understand why they don’t introduce the ‘Roc in the US…right now.

  • avatar
    Marko

    Ford circa 1984 called. They want their Tempo hubcaps back!

    Oh wait…those are alloys?!?

    Are the nice five-spoke alloy wheels that the car was unveiled with available? What do the standard wheels look like?

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      Chrome has some durability issues if you try to run them in winter, but it’s such an easy material to clean and keep looking good. The waterless wash & wax spray products are now so good I don’t even bother with detailing spray, chrome polish, bug & tar remover, or wheel cleaner anymore.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    When the new Beetle came out I wondered to myself how could VW get out of the corner they painted themselves into. How can they remain faithful to the legacy but design something distinctive when they go to change the sheetmetal.

    I like what they’ve done. Won’t go out and buy one. Won’t cheer if I’m offered one at the rental counter. I like the new look however, and I really like the interior (well not a fan of the double glovebox).

    I think the price point forces you to pay for the Beetle name in part. Bang for the buck if the ride is soft and the handling squishy, appears the Kia Soul is more practical and has a funky aura to it.

    • 0 avatar
      cfclark

      The Beetle problem (with painting oneself into a design corner) is the same as the PT Cruiser problem, the retro Thunderbird problem, and now the Challenger problem, the Camaro problem and to some extent the Mustang problem–once you’ve gone “retro”, you’re committed to abandoning the retro design just as you may have abandoned the original design (unless maybe we see a restyle of the new Camaro that emulates the beautiful 2nd-gen Camaro), or to giving up on the model altogether once the novelty wears off.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    You can’t rationalize love and cute appeal. Can’t tell you how many of these I’ve sold to people who know the dash is going to get scratched up, the glovebox will break, the switchgear is always loose, the door pulls will shatter, and the automatic transmission give out. Yet they buy and buy and buy.

    The last one we had I sold the day it came in from auction. Missing both the passenger seat tilt lever for rear entry and the power mirror switch. Guy said, “Yeah. My other two had the same problems. I have extras in my garage. How much…?”

    Love is irrational.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    But what I REALLY want to know, JB, is….am I going to still be able to wear my top hat while driving the new, new Beetle?

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    It is $3000 too expensive.
    If they could get it out of the door at the same price as the Soul, this could work.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      The Soul is a great car and very well priced. Unrealistic to expect the Beetle to start at $14K like the Soul. The base Beetle engine is bigger and the plastics are of a higher quality. So unavoidably it is higher.

  • avatar
    NotFast

    Round these parts, I see a fair number of New Beetles driven by men.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    I was a fan of the old New Beetle but it has definitely worn out it’s welcome. I really like what VW did with this new New Beetle. It has baby Porsche lines IMHO. I look forward to the review of the turbo model.

    I will take mine in “Toffe Brown” with the “Circle White” wheels please.

  • avatar
    snoproblem

    I liked the look of the new deal right away. It looks like an actual, serious car.

    The old model… looked like a plaything, a novelty. More to the point, the old car looked like it would spill out a dozen circus clowns at any moment, without warning. That especially goes for the yellow models.

    Then there’s the new guy. It looks like the old car evicted the clown troupe for good, burned the flower and holder both, spent a lot of hours in the gym assisted by plenty of, uhh, protein drinks, did a little tanning at the beach – and emerged a whole new beast.

    But alas, the old deal-breaker rears its head – it’s frikkin’ Volkswagen, with all that entails. Pity.

    • 0 avatar
      Someone

      It looks like the New Beetle’s sarcastic little brother. I like the original Beetle design, but I don’t care for these rehashes.

      Form and function should coalesce. Purposefully retro designs generally fail. The Fiat 500 is a close call. If not for the awkward wedge-shaped rear, it’s a nice design — especially in the Sardinia edition.

  • avatar

    “Otherwise, the engines wouldn’t even make it to their first unexpected ignition coil pack failure”

    Excellent!

  • avatar
    Vipul Singh

    Hello, everyone. First post on TTAC!

    “…I like the new styling from the front and sides, but the back somehow manages to look generic”

    Disagree with the comment, actually. After a long time (since the original Beetle, probably) the shape of the car is back to two curves, if you know what I mean, unlike the current Beetle which is three curves. It captures the essence of the original car perfectly.

    And the chrome alloys idea is fab as well.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Perhaps I missed it, but what’t the mileage like? I know I was very surprised to see that my mom’s friend’s 04 Beetle Convertible with I believe the base engine, but I don’t know since I wasn’t there when she bought it and I don’t know the engine choice and trimlines – especially on the convertibles, has a mileage estimate that could be beaten my some rather large 6’s. I think I read 21/27 or something similar when I looked it up.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Glad the heritage wheels made it to the states…I mean, what’s the point of retro styling if you don’t have the wheels to complement it?

    Whither the TDI?

  • avatar
    Quentin

    “The Mk IV Volkswagens were the Amy Winehouses of German-brand whips: sassy, sweet, devastatingly competent at times, occasionally sexy, and ultimately self-destructive.”

    I’ll have to remember that line for my friend. I’m helping him work on his emm kay eye vee tonight.

    I do occasionally miss my MKV GTI. That thing drove brilliantly. The winehouse issues were pretty true with it, too, though.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I… …don’t hate this.

    Now, hear me out. Despite being a fashion-unconscious** heterosexual male, I’ve always like the New Beetle, and have had a thing the triple-white convertible. I thought the exterior detailing was spot-on and appreciated that, like the Mini and PT, but unlike the Mustang and Camaro, people who aren’t midgets can drive it.

    I worried that the new one was going to be long/low/aggressive in an attempt to win over Manly Men who would buy GTIs (or Mustangs) no matter how butched up the Beetle was. And they did butch it up a little, but not too much. I’d like to see it in a colour that isn’t arrest-me-red to say for sure, but it’s nice that they didn’t go overboard with masculinity as the concept implied.

    I’m seeing “budget first-gen TT”, to be honest. Not bad at all.

    ** Yeah, ok, I do own a few pairs of square-toe shoes. And I do enjoy a latte from time to time.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      I’m right with you (fashion conscious but by no means a metro-sexual) and I really like this car. I have been lusting after the Mustang, but I just can’t see myself in one as the image is just a little too redneck and old mid life crisis mobile, at least in my part of the country.

      I could definitely see myself in this as a turbo model:
      http://tinyurl.com/3mstjp5

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      …people who aren’t midgets can drive it.

      Yea, yea, yea. How’s the weather up there, Paul Bunyan?

    • 0 avatar
      jplew138

      It doesn’t take a midget to drive a Mustang. I’m 6’3 1/2″ tall, and I fit in a ‘Stang just fine. The Camaro…it takes a midget with X-ray vision to drive one, seeing as the windows are only about a foot high.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Why this? Why not! The road is a far, far better place when we have cars like this in it (or the MINI, or the 500, or the Mustang, etc, etc, etc…). Sure, MOST folks will buy a Camry/Fusion/Accord…whatever, but I am glad for some fun diversity (especially in a smaller car). And I agree that it has a certain “budget TT” in it, which isn’t all bad. I’d probably rather the Abarth 500, but will be happy to see these out on the road.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    This car is a perfect tribute… to 1950s Porsches. Cut the roof off and put James Dean’s wax statue behind the wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      But hey, it’s got a hatch – isn’t that worth something?

      Oh yeah – I forgot – the rear side windows don’t pop open like the option on the original!

  • avatar
    megaphone

    to compete with the Mini VW should bring back an updated Kharman Ghia, now that could be fun.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I’m no marketing expert. Who’s gonna’ buy this car? A person who wants something a little different, who isn’t totally focused on functionality. I didn’t really have an issue with the exterior of the original New Beetle (although it very transparently appeared to be what it was: a styling exercise in trying to ape the appearance of a rear engined car with the engine in the front). The interior and the ridiculous dashboard was another matter.

    This car looks nice in the pictures, especially the interior. If — unlike the MINI — the back seats are actually usable for adults then this might be a fine second car. AFAIC, for a car like this, I’d willingly give up trunk space in order to have a usuable second row of seats, especially if there’s a way to fold those seats down to maximize cargo capacity when you need to. This is not a “family car” that is going to get taken on the family vacation with mom, dad, 2 kids and their stuff. This is a two-person car that can carry 4 for short trips and can carry enough stuff to take those two persons and a car vacation (unlike most dedicated sports cars, which can not).

    I have a feeling that a lot of folks get mighty tired of the MINI’s punishing ride . . . unless they are big-time throttle jockeys.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I almost bought the New Beetle due to its headroom, but it was about an inch too short in kneeroom for me. So I bought an 02 Passat instead, and regretted it due to its now-storied unreliability.

    This car seems somewhat better, but I wouldn’t touch the tractor I-5 engine. Another engine choice inevitably makes the car more expensive, putting it in stiff competition with other competent vehicles.

    Jack, this was another great article.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      What do we mean by “tractor engine”?

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        Five cylinders are inherently rough; I’ve never liked them. I much prefer a 4 (or 6). It’s not really possible to damp the vibrations or exhaust note of a 5-cylinder engine.

        Some people like their raspy sound; I’m not one of them. So as a Beetle customer, I’d end up paying more for a different engine. Oh well.

      • 0 avatar
        friedclams

        I had an ’84 Audi with an I-5, that engine was not rough. In fact it was delightful. (But the mileage was not great.)

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        gslippy,
        My car has the VW 2.5, and it certainly sounds and feels, um, unique. Kind of a gravelly, sonorous tone, and a bit of vibration through the clutch (not through the wheel or seats). But I’ve driven a lot of the four-bangers in the same price range and they didn’t feel any smoother and were certainly much louder and buzzier. And they didn’t have anywhere near the low end power. If you’re someone who loves to rev their VTEC, then yeah, you won’t like the 2.5. It’s certainly a polarizing engine.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        Have you driven a Vigor with a 2.5L inline 5? It seems very smooth to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Robbie

      It’s really time VW phases out the tractor 2.5. On a daily basis I drive my divorcemobile, a manual 2006 VW Rabbit, with this 2.5 thing in it and I cannot believe that six years down the road they still sell that 2.5.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Wow my divorcemobile is a 2004 F150 Heritage that gets 13mpg city. The only reasons she didn’t want it was cause it wasn’t paid for yet when we split. I can’t tell if you got the better deal or me. At least the 4.6V8 is smooooth and decently torque-y.

  • avatar
    spyked

    This car will be perfect for many people. People that want cute/styled 2 door hatches for cheap have three choices, two of which are very small and rough riding (MINI and FIAT). I don’t count the Asian brands as they are never cross shopped against VW and they don’t have anything “premium” feeling anyway. A KIA Soul? HA! Drive a Beetle at 80mph and a Scion TC at 80 and see which feels planted and stable. It’s the VW, everytime. VW’s reliability has improved so much that CR recommends even the 2.0T with DSG, and rates the powertrain excellent. This 2.5 and 6 speed auto is a simple. The transmission is shared by Toyota too, by the MILLIONS.

    I’d drive the Beetle, easy. Of course, I love and drive Miatas and every other stereotyped car too as I have a brain and good taste :)

  • avatar

    This is a nice car. I don’t think whether it sells has much of anything to do with it being a Beetle. It’s decent, distinctive and in at least one way all-new, and it’s another car available to buy (that is a VW) (that is not another Golf variant), and that’s that. I think it’d be dumb to think it won’t do well, for the first few years at least.

    Decent, distinctive review also.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I’m still waiting on an AWD (dare I say TDI? powered) homage to the Thing based on this. As for the New New Beetle? Not my cup of tea.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    This car looks like a hardtop version of the PT Cruiser convertible, inside and out.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      That’s a bit of a stretch. Other than them both having flared fenders there is no resemblance.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Stance, proportions, shape of the taillights and how they’re integrated in the rear fenders, body colored dash and the shape of vents; put a JC Whitney hood on the VW and use body colored tape to alter the shape of the headlights and you could fool Chrysler dealers.
        http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/76/Chrysler_PT_Cruiser_Convertible_001.JPG

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        So in other words…completely alter it’s looks with aftermarket parts and it will look exactly like a PT Cruiser. Gotcha.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        No, but it explains your inability to grasp the obvious.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I like this new New Beetle better than the old new Beetle. It has a lot more cargo room, so it seems more practical like a normal hatchback.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I like it. Period.

    This looks more like a Beetle that the new beetle.

    Question: Is it available in that rare, classy two-tone paint scheme popular back in the day with the originals? That scheme had a chrome strip of trim that ran just below the beltline and the area between the fenders and below that trim strip was painted a contrasting color. Quite classy! Ironically, most of those I have seen were in the Bay Area.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    Jack – Where’s the gratuitous sex and violence that we’ve come to expect in your reviews?

    I’m starting to wonder if V. McBB is mixing saltpeter in your food.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Spit out my scotch through ny nose onto my laptop!
      Damn!!!

      Pretty funny….

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Austin,

      I behaved perfectly at this press event. Didn’t pinch a single ass or wink sideways at a single girljourno. I did run into the triple digits a few times in the most inappropriate places possible, and that will be covered in next week’s reviews :)

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    I like it. A TDI with a manual would make a nice car to run up and down the road in.

    But I’d never buy one. The wife has a 01′ Jetta, 2.0, with 230,000 miles on it. The car has actually faired ok with no major failures. On the other hand, what has broke is due to the cabundance of cheap plastic parts littered all over that engine.

    Ignition coil cracking and going out when it rains; Yes
    Plastic water pump; oh yeah
    Some coolant junction block/sensor holder on the back on the engine; uh-huh, that one too.
    Glove box, yep. Oil dip stick, yes.

    So we went out and bought a 12′ Mustang V6. Plenty of room under the engine to work around (I’m a mechanic, so that was a requirement) 305hp, 31mpg. Pretty damn nice car, and the big kicker; cost as much as this New Beetle would with a few option boxes checked off.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Keeping the Beetle image alive – even if sales are just peripheral, is important to VW. Its so much a part of the VW icon.

  • avatar
    Dave W

    I have a friend who is the proverbial sally school teacher. She’s on her 3rd new beetle (each quickly dumped as the warranty is just about to expire). She is in a quandary about replacing the current one as the new one isn’t as cute. I suspect that if it comes in yellow she’ll get used to it, but if not, who knows.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      She ought to lease, rather than take a bath every time she trades the car.

      All the bad experiences I had with my one-and-only VW occurred under warranty, but were sufficient to make me not buy one since. I can’t imagine doing that 3 times in a row.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    I know what you mean, Michael. Every criticism ever leveled against the New beetle is true, more or less, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s one of kind. Thus if you want that kind, it’s indispensable.

    My New Beetle came along late in its lifespan, three years ago. As a Golf driver, I’d shunned the New Beetle as an impractical “chick’s car” until two things happened. It became more gender-acceptable when an college buddy told me he drives one. It became roomy enough after I test-drove a MINI. Suddenly the NB was big enough, strong enough, and, darn it, I liked it!

    With 70K miles down the road now, I appreciate the NB’s quirks more than ever. The front seat is simply a swell place to be, a big domed room with panoramic views that makes the average car seem like a gunnery bunker. I’ve even discovered hidden benefits of the faraway windshield: it places the A-pillars far away so they appear smaller and less obstructive. There’s another subtle effect: sand and rock pits on the windshield seem less bothersome when they’re an extra foot away. My best guess is that the eye is stressed as it focuses back and forth from the pitted windshield surface to the distant road. The Beetle’s windshield-forward shape somehow lessens that optical work, so I’m more tolerant of glass damage than in any other car.

    That said, driving a New Beetle does remind me of recurring dreams that I’m driving a car from the back seat…

    Strikingly, the new Beetle has taken a styling step that’s as contrary as any aspect of the original shape. They’ve steepened the windshield and bent the A-pillar, restoring an fourth corner to the door. That’s remarkable, since every modern car of the past 20 years — correct me if I’m wrong — has brought a flatter windshield and a steeper A-pillar than its predecessors. Bravo, VW! I need a car that gives me that choice.

    I’d like to think the Beetle will start a trend towards more upright rooflines and better visibility, like you appreciated in the ’55 Chevy profile, but I doubt it. Modern cars are ensnared in a web of wind tunnels, facing stiffening economy and safety regs that punish any deviation from the fishlike form. And so we wind up with cars that test better on paper, but are uncomfortable and isolating on the road.

    I’m very excited about this new car! I haven’t said that in a long, long time….

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    That’s a cool car. If I didn’t need four doors and a bit more cargo room in back, I would look seriously at it for a daily driver, even in non-turbo trim. The interior is cohesive and looks great, the wheels are really unique, and it has lost most of the chick-car stigma. And $19K ain’t bad.

  • avatar
    slow-rion

    I actually once had a leased “new beetle” with the diesel engine. Gotta say, it was a ball on many levels and dirt cheap to lease at that time. Reiduals on a 39 month lesse in 99 was something nuts like 63%. Diesel was fun. That has to be one of most unusual cars in the us at the time. I believe this makes me one of 6 heterosexual males in America to own a beetle. It really was a pretty good car.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      As you may know, the VW diesel has a steadfast cult following, which contributes to their high residual value. I think part of this reputation has been earned, and part is folklore/clatter.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    When I first started seeing leaked or spied pictures awhile ago, I thought it was going to be a more Porsche look.
    The 1950(ish) look that Porsche had when it was borrowing more parts from the early people’s car.

    This look ALMOST has it. It could have used this more sloped top to trunk/rear and more Porsche headlights.

    THEN it would have really touched my buying bone.
    Right now, it will have to work hard at impressing me with the turbo.
    Hope Jack has some good stuff on that later…

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I’m with you on the interior, Jack. Quite nice, but that steering wheel has to go.

    Putting on my Defender of the MINI hat, I do have to take issue with your value comparison. According to VW’s website, the Beetle starts at $19,795, just a couple whiskers shy of the base MINI. Add the sunroof and it’s $22,295 vs $21,850 for the MINI. Both add other options with the roof, so I’ll let Karesh figure out which is the better value, but I don’t see how “the gap widens”. Heck, MINI throws in the dual glove boxes standard, not to mention discs in the rear.

    Disclaimer: VW doesn’t seem to have their configurator working yet, so maybe I’m not getting the straight dope from their website.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I have to say, I actually like this car much better than I at first thought when I first saw some of the earlier concepts of this new iteration.

    They have done a remarkable job of toning down the fem aspects of the car and yet, staying true to the original in its shape.

    Nice review as always Jack.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    FWIW, I like the Panamera-esque tail.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    Not a car I would ever consider buying, but they managed to “dechick” the new new Beetle quite a bit. I wouldn’t be mortified if I had to drive one for a couple of days, like I was when I had to drive my ex-GF’s Cabriolet. People should have known Ted Bundy was “off”, just because he liked them.

  • avatar
    niky

    65 comments and nobody has called Jack to task for recklessly doing interior photography at speed with one hand on the wheel? For shame.

    Excellent write-up, as always… I was laughing and moaning at the same time when you brought up the 1.8T!

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    You don’t know that! I could have had an assistant!

    But for the record, I was actually using both hands to steady the camera and steering with my knee.

  • avatar
    dwight

    The new new beetle looks good. I’d actually buy one. Of course with a diesel or a 2.0 turbo version only. I can’t be bothered with their 2.5 5-cyl engine. I’d rather them put the old 2.0 8-valve 4-cyl engine in the thing (the one they have plenty of stock for in the base Jetta — in Canada at least). VW needs a new smaller, 16-valve, direct inject, VVTi highly efficient engine. If Hyundai can offer one, so can VW.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Another tempting VW (at least in Turbo form) to add to my “Maybe I’ll lease one…” list.

    The de-feminization was successful, IMHO, putting it in the “class” of the 500 and the Mini (making it a “quirky-cool” rather than a “chick car”).

    But the tractor-engined “squsihy” model will still be for “Sally”, and those wanting a more “manly” ride will have to pony up >$27k.

  • avatar
    murphysamber

    living and working so close to VW’s former HQ in Auburn Hills, I’ve seen a ton of these on the road. The engineers have already brought a 2.5 like this one, AND a turbo by for the techs to play with at my store. I think we’ll sell the piss out of them based on how many people have shown an interest. But suprisingly, about 40% are guys this time. I just wish they would have released this thing in August. It would have cleaned house as a “going back to school” present for all the cute girls in Rochester, MI who inevitabley also attend UofM.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    I have to raise the BS flag on this:
    “So we went out and bought a 12′ Mustang V6. Plenty of room under the engine to work around (I’m a mechanic, so that was a requirement) 305hp, 31mpg. Pretty damn nice car, and the big kicker; cost as much as this New Beetle would with a few option boxes checked off.”

    Where did you get a 2012 Mustang V6 for 20K (Beetle) – more like 26-28 with a few options, and when I looked – my Mustang would have costs 30K. That’s why I don’t have a Ford.

    Now, back on track, I had a 2005.5 Jetta with the 2.5, little car got 27mpg on the first tank, and went to 29 after the first oil change. I wish I had kept it. But I foolishly had to have a SUV. Now, I have a 2008 GTI, it has the FSI 2.0 turbo and despite being the motor with issues, mine has been fine.

    VW’s 2.5 is a good engine, timimg CHAIN instead of belt and has nice low end torque. The 2.0 TSI motor has a timing chain and they fixed the other issues from the FSI motor so that should be good to go as well. If I were to trade my GTI on this Beetle, it would be the 2.5 with regular automatic. Why, well the 2.5 runs fine on regular gas, gets good mpg, and has all the power I want. The DSG – while a fun transmission, requires 40K fluid changes ($375.00 at dealer) so you save on maintenance.

    I think VW has solid base hit on their hands, I can’t wait to see one in person.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Junebug,
      Agreed on the 2.5L. Our 2010 Jetta runs this engine and I don’t understand the level of abuse heaped on it. Particularly with a manual tranny, it has nice grunt from just over 2000rpm, which is great when you’re trying to move through holes in traffic. And it gets 30-34mpg in a 3200lb car.

      Just the other day a brand new Elantra was weaving through traffic and ended up in the lane directly to my left. He wanted the same hole in traffic that I did. Judging from the sudden engine racket, he downshifted a full two gears to go for it. I just kept mine in third and pushed the pedal. The Elantra didn’t stand a chance. I think I’m OK with the VW 2.5

  • avatar
    bigmiles70

    This is the bastard child of a Porsche and Vw union! Actually, it looks pretty good. I haven’t followed the VW bug in a long time. When did they move the engine to the front?..lol

  • avatar
    olivehead

    IMO it is very evocative of the original beetle, more so than the first “new beetle,” especially in 3/4 shot from the rear — up until you get to the tail lights. they should have made them more of an update of the original.

  • avatar
    probert

    Ick

  • avatar
    probert

    As long as the increasingly banal retro thing is being milked , how about a riff on the 914?

    Heck – I’d take a Nissan Versa over this sludge- a modern “peoples’ car” in the true sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      A Versa won’t be even remotely as fun to drive as the Beetle. If you don’t like retro VW has a Golf, GTI, or Jetta that might interst you more. Isn’t variety and choice a wonderful thing?

  • avatar
    dingram01

    “the Straight-Shooting Self-Styled Marketing Expert”

    …not unlike the majority of the commentariat on this here site….

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I like it. I would get the 2.0T over a GTI for sure… just a much more interesting looking car. Something like a combo of the practicality of a GTI combined with the shape + character of a TT. I like it.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      Agreed. If it were to be my only car then I would get the GTI 4-door. This car oozes character without looking toy like or cartoonish like a lot of retro styled cars.

  • avatar
    CRConrad

    Can’t wait for some modern-day Günter Artz to repeat the Golf-928 concept by slipping the underpinnings of a Panamera under this one. (I’d do it myself; just have to win the lottery first…)

  • avatar
    AnUnidentifiedMale

    I’m a gay male, I know lots of gay males, and not one of those gay males owns a Beetle – “new”, “new new”, or old. I’m not sure where the idea comes from that it’s a gay guy’s car – except from, perhaps, the usual insecurities that young heterosexual males deal with in trying to look sufficiently masculine.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      And as a straight New Beetle owner, I think obsessing about one’s visible masculinity is about the gayest thing a guy can do.

      I do make up some man-points, though, when I rattle up to the truck stop pumps in my bright green TDI.

      • 0 avatar
        AnUnidentifiedMale

        I agree, Wheat. And if anything, I’ve noticed that gay guys are more attracted to vehicles that communicate high socio-economic status (such as a Range Rover or BMW) or masculinity, such as a Hummer or Jeep Wrangler – at least here in and around Palm Springs, California.

      • 0 avatar
        Someone

        “such as a Hummer or Jeep Wrangler”

        A Hummer? Even the New Beetle would be preferable.

    • 0 avatar
      drylbrg

      It sounds like you know exactly where the idea comes from.

    • 0 avatar
      CRConrad

      All that talk about the first-generation Audi TT being a “hairdresser’s car”, that was code-speak for “gay guy’s car” too, wasn’t it?

      • 0 avatar
        AnUnidentifiedMale

        I think nearly every car gets labeled as a “gay car” or a “chick car” at one point or another. I guess it’s either a sign of male hetero insecurity or a sign that male heteros don’t want to be perceived as weak. Being gay, feminine, or female is a sign of weakness.

      • 0 avatar
        Someone

        “Being gay, feminine, or female is a sign of weakness.”

        When a hetero man goes through labor without painkillers then perhaps we’ll talk about who’s strong and who’s weak.

        Plus, look at how many women throughout history have put up with the insecurities of heterosexual men!

        That’s a tough job.

  • avatar
    nearprairie

    My test drive of the 2012 Beetle provided very mixed results.

    Positive: A sharp looking whip, especially with the moon dish wheels. The 5-cylinder moves it around quite well. Driver seating position is pretty good; was able to achieve a good balance between seat height and steering wheel reach. Good sound isolation.

    Negative: The rear view mirror was so small seeing anything aft was akin to looking through a port hole on a ship. Side mirrors didn’t provide a comforting view, either. The shift boot pulled off. On an automatic! The roof/headliner overhang blocked my view at stoplights; had to slump and lean forward at every intersection.

    Concerns: Interior parts quality was a mixed bag.
    Even though the door windows automatically recede a bit when entering/leaving the car to relieve pressure, the amount of door noise and window shake when closing made me wonder how long it would be before the glass separated from the seals.

    Verdict: No sale.


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