By on December 21, 2011

I never was a New Beetle kind of guy. But then I am a guy. Unless a cute car handles like a Miata, I’m not interested. For 2012 Volkswagen has redesigned the New Beetle, dropping the “New” and the bud vase (every review must mention this) in the process of attempting to broaden the car’s appeal. And?

The new (not New) Beetle’s body is less far-out styling exercise, more faithful yet also better resolved and altogether more attractive update of the form-follows-function original. Except dimensionally, where a page has been ripped from Harley Earl’s decidedly contra-Bauhaus “longer, lower, wider” car design philosophy, with changes of +7.3 (to 168.4), -0.5 (to 58.5), and +2.3 (to 71.2) inches, respectively. Most notable among the now bent curves, the Beetle’s roof no longer traces a continuous arch from fender to fender. There’s enough of a flat roof surface for a much larger glass panel, but not enough for this panel to open even halfway. Disregard the brochure: “panoramic” it’s not. Paint the bug “autobahn appliance silver” and shoe it with wide, low profile treads (235/45HR18s, to be precise), and only men least sure of their manliness should feel uncomfortable driving this car.

The interior is similarly less style for its own sake and more a blend of the original’s minimalist aesthetic and today’s standard VW issue. Though the herringbone pattern in some of the off-black leatherette and the audio display graphics are kind of nifty, those seeking cheery, bubbly fun are much less likely to find it here. The potential for whimsy largely departed with the bud vase. Fans of functionality will adore the extra glove box and three-dial HVAC controls, though.

When I spoke of men being comfortable in this car, I was speaking figuratively. The hard, flat front seat put my seat to sleep, while the hard flat door-mounted armrest made my elbow wish for the same. The view forward is more confidence inspiring than that in the previous car, since the 2012’s windshield is much more upright and you no longer have to gaze across a vast expanse of instrument panel to see through it. But unless you’re especially long of torso it’s first necessary to crank the seat way up to avoid feeling trapped, Kafka-style, in the big bug body. Only the windows seem small. The new car arguably comes by its high belt and small windows honestly, as postwar Beetles weren’t exactly fishbowls. But the large feel from the driver’s seat? That’s new. No such novelty in back—it’s still a tight fit for adults, though the rear glass thankfully isn’t overhead. Cargo volume similarly remains in modest supply, though the hatch opening, no longer a fashion victim, is usefully larger.

I’m oddly fond of the much-maligned low-revving 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine in its latest 170 horsepower, 177 pound-feet iteration. Very torquey, it pulls strongly up to 40 miles-per-hour or so, and then more than adequately up to highway speeds, while sounding more substantial than a four (if not remotely like an air-cooled boxer) in the process. Too bad the six-speed automatic transmission, in a not terribly successful attempt to earn good EPA numbers (22 city / 29 highway MPG), is more than capable of lugging even this engine. Want to shift for yourself? You’ll save $1,100 with the five-speed manual. Or spend more and get the 200-horsepower 2.0T / six-speed stick combo.

Hopefully the steering and suspension are tuned differently with the turbo. The 2.5’s hydraulic power steering (vs. electric-assist with the 2.0T) communicates well as loads build, but feels sluggish and a touch sloppy on-center. Little happens during the initial quarter turn. The chassis feels stable but not at all agile. As with the second-gen Scion xB, the oversized feel of the 2012 Beetle really takes a toll. Frisky personality like that of a MINI or 500? Not at all. You could be behind the wheel of any 3,000-plus-pound German driving appliance. The car is all business.

Aesthetically, the 18-inch wheels are perfect for the car. Since those big shiny discs are hubcaps, the rims probably aren’t as hefty as they look. But they do feel as hefty as they look, pounding across all but the most minor road imperfections. Though the suspension tuning is hardly GTI athletic, the ride is jittery more often than not. Chassis refinement is uncharacteristically lacking for a VW. What were the engineers aiming for? To put a positive spin on it, those seeking sharp handling and those seeking a smooth ride will be equally satisfied.

The price of the bespoke body? Easy to figure, since the new Beetle is essentially the latest North American Jetta underneath. Okay, maybe not so easy, as the Jetta 2.5 isn’t offered with the 400-watt Fender audio system or 18-inch rims. The tested Beetle, loaded up with automatic, sunroof, and nav, lists for $25,965. A Jetta without the aforementioned bits but with enough other things to be worth a $680 feature-based price adjustment (according to TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool): $25,065. So figure about $1,580 for the bug body, larger rims, and rocking audio system. Not bad if the rest was good. A similarly equipped (but 121 horsepower) MINI Cooper costs nearly the same as the tested Beetle after adjusting for feature differences.

German coachbuilder Gunter Artz once highly modified a few Golf bodies to fit over Porsche 928 mechanicals. Driving the result must have affected severe cognitive dissonance. The same is the case, if in a less desirable direction, with the 2012 Beetle. Even butched up, it looks like it should be fun, or at least feel somehow special. Perhaps like a less mini MINI. Instead the latest Beetle drives like an American-spec Jetta with gangsta windows, sloppier steering, and less polished suspension. I actually enjoyed driving the Jetta mit 2.5 more. The Germans have never understood our American fondness for the car that, for them, can only have painful association with their immediate postwar condition. This might explain why, after masterfully crafting a more functional, more attractive, and more broadly appealing update of the iconic exterior, they phoned the rest in. The result certainly isn’t a bad car, but also isn’t the distinctive experience it could have been. The abandoned better idea: Think Small.

Volkswagen provided the car with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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69 Comments on “2012 Volkswagen Beetle 2.5...”


  • avatar
    segfault

    Only 29 MPG highway and is that a prop rod for the hood? How the mighty have fallen.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      That kind of caught my eye too. Is this car substantially heavier than the Jetta with, I’m assuming, the same powertrain? What kind of ratings does the manual come with in terms of mileage?

      My friend’s Jetta 2.5 SE, sorry it’s my only frame of reference, is rated 33 on the highway. The only thing about his car that confuses me is the vibrating clutch. I’ve tried figuring out what this is, but can’t. I’m still learning how to drive a manual well, I’ve put just shy of 11k on mine since new (this is also my first manual that I’ve driven full time), but I don’t think my n00bness and botched technique would necessarily have that much to do with a vibrating clutch. When I say the clutch vibrates I mean that it kind of feels like an ABS equipped car’s brake pedal does, when stopping on slick/traction-poor roads, while launching.

      • 0 avatar

        Sounds like a warped clutch disc, though I’ve only read about “clutch chatter” and have never personally experienced it.

        The Jetta with the same powertrain is rated 24/31. Their curb weight isn’t much different, but perhaps by just enough for different test weight classes. The Jetta probably also has a better drag coefficient. Haven’t checked if they’re geared much differently, but the 2.5 certainly wasn’t doing a lot of revs in the Beetle.

      • 0 avatar
        LeMansteve

        With just the right combination of clutch and gas, you can get some chatter when starting off in 1st gear. For sure it shouldn’t be happening every time, even if you are still a n00b.

    • 0 avatar
      baggins

      I’ve had cars with springs and cars with prop rods. When the springs wear out its a pain in the ass, far more than setting the prop is. Also, its often pretty windy where I live, which is another reason to prefer the prop. Finally, prop rod is lighter and simpler.

      Moreover, how often do you open the hood? 4 times a year, 12 times a year? Why do you care? Its not like a power mirror or seat, that gets changed every time you switch drivers

      Strange, strange fixation.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Agreed. Hoods with hydraulic struts have a certain premium feel and convenience to them. Until they fail. Then you wish for the prop rod. Needless complexity.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Yeah, 29 mpg is a bit low. But a 3000lb+ vehicle with 177lb-ft should be expected to get what, 33 or so? If the car is peppy and I liked the rest of it, I don’t know if 4 mpg would be a deal breaker.

      This kind of mileage won’t cut it for much longer, though, considering the 2.5 is being surpassed in both power and efficiency by other new engines this size. The significant difference in acceleration between the new Camry 2.5 and Passat 2.5 illustrate this pretty well.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Not bad. If it wasn’t for VWs wonderful reliability/dealership experience reputation, I’d even consider test driving one. (With the stick.)

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      dealership experience? One of the reasons I’m a VW customer is the fact that Toyota dealers (at least in my area) are so sleazy and just generally awful.

    • 0 avatar
      robdaemon

      I just bought a 2012 Golf TDI today, and the dealership experience was awesome. Granted, this is my first Volkswagen, so I have no experience with service, but I think this is definitely a YMMV.

      I’ve dealt with horrible Toyota dealerships (Frontier Toyota in Valencia, CA) and good Toyota dealerships (Toyota of Santa Monica). Same with BMW and Nissan. Just take it somewhere else, assuming you live in an area with multiple choices.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    A lumpy 5-cylinder will soak the fun out of any car.

    $26k for this car?! That’s pretty hot territory. My guess is that given the competition in this price range, this Beetle will attract exactly the same kind of customers the old New Beetle did – those dedicated to the quirky retro theme it offers. It will, therefore, remain a niche product and not meaningfully contribute to VW’s plans for world domination.

  • avatar
    nearprairie

    My test drive in a 5 cyl/auto tranny resulted in a mixed bag of impressions:

    1. The restyled body looks pretty decent.
    2. The 5 cyl. pulled the Beetle around well enough.
    3. The interior had uneven and questionable parts quality, especially the boot around the auto shifter, which popped out when placed into gear.
    4. The rear view mirror is a little too retro, being so small that trying to see anything in it was akin to looking through a porthole in a ships cabin.
    5. The roof overhang jutted far enough forward to cause me to have to stoop to see stoplights.
    6. Even though both door windows drop about an inch before opening/closing the doors — air pressure relief — the way the glass rattled when closing the doors made me wonder how many openings/closings before the glass unseats from the rubber surrounds and the owner hears a Honda/Acura-like whistle.
    7. The rear hatch opening is well designed and cargo room is abundant.
    8. The bucket seats have good orthopedic support.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      the way the glass rattled when closing the doors made me wonder how many openings/closings before the glass unseats from the rubber surrounds

      If its anything like other VW products the plastic window clips will fail causing the glass to fall into the door.

      I do agree it looks better… and I bet with the 2.0 turbo / 6 sp combo it moves quickly and gets better mileage as well. At $22K this vehicle makes sense, but at $26K VW is pushing the limits. Of course after our Passat experience no VeeDud will grace our driveway again according to my wife. Personally I’d gamble on another VW, but not past the warranty period.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Seriously? The window dropping issue was resolved by VW 10 YEARS AGO! They started using the metal window clips in 2002 model year cars.

        Ultimately, there is a market for “cute” cnon-vanilla cars, even when they cost more. I am sure VW has no intention of selling 250K of these a year in the US. They will probably sell 25K of them at a nice fat profit each. With thier modular architecture this car cost bupkis to develop, and sells for a nice premium over the Jetta. Pure profit.

        For me, the disconnect between the old and new worlds on VW quality baffles me. They are considered the Gold Standard for quality in Europe – and they can’t be all THAT bad as they are the #2 selling automaker on the planet these days. I certainly have no complaints as to any of the five of them that I have owned, and I probably personally know 20+ other satisfied owners.

      • 0 avatar

        The window clip and ignition coil issues were fixed a few model years back. Most VWs these days are better than average for the first year or two of ownership, and about average after that, based on responses to TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey:

        http://www.truedelta.com/car-reliability.php

        I did have a writer for a German magazine call me recently, wondering about the difference in perceptions of VW quality between the U.S. and Germany. She was interested in speaking with some American VW owners. Have something good to say about VW quality, good or bad? Send me your contact info and I’ll forward it to her:

        http://www.truedelta.com/contact.php

      • 0 avatar
        Number6

        The window clip problem was not fixed “ten years ago”, and the metal clip fix didn’t work either, at least on my 03 GLI. Might have had something to do with the windows freezing into the sills in winter, and the mysterious inability of the window lifts to recognize they can’t move the windows. I think there is a gizmo called a “clutch” that would remedy the issue.

        But at least you could reseat the dropped window by raising it into position, holding it, then powering up the window lift.

        The car spent 12 of its first 18 days in the shop for a mysterious issue with the cooling system, consumed three sets of struts (and needed a 4th) by the 92k it was sent on to the auction.Two radios, a leaky valve cover gasket (10 hours labor on a VR6!!) that still leaked, four batteries, failed trunk pistons (twice) and a complimentary dealer oil change that was both the wrong weight and not the synthetic VW mandated for the VR6, and an absolutely schizophrenic emissions fault that caused the stationary car to lock itself while running.. While the car was in the shop for the emissions fault, I rented a car. It was a 2011 Jetta, which is an even bigger POS than the ’03 GLI was. I adore how the seat-foam freezes solid at 10F.

        The difference with the ’11 Jetta was that you knew it sucks up front instead of a year or so with the 2003. I would love to see a study on repeat customers for VW.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        consumed three sets of struts (and needed a 4th) by the 92k it was sent on to the auction

        My ’98 Passat needed new a arms every 40k miles (paid for by VW even at 120k) but that’s certainly not enough to get me into a flimsy, tinny,loud Accord.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        number6,
        If I recall my CR bubble graphs, your 03 was in the middle of the Dark Ages for Jetta reliability. CR and I believe True Delta both show a pretty significant uptick in reliability starting in the first year of the MKV. I’m hoping your car was in no way representative of current VWs, and it appears the available data supports this, so far.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        krhodes1: They are considered the Gold Standard for quality in Europe – and they can’t be all THAT bad as they are the #2 selling automaker on the planet these days. I certainly have no complaints as to any of the five of them that I have owned, and I probably personally know 20+ other satisfied owners.

        There are a few reasons for this:

        1. Europeans drive less, as their much denser population makes mass transit more feasible (the United States has less than 1/6 the population density of Germany, for example, which is a big reason why mass transit is simply not feasible in large areas of this country). Here, if the VW is in the shop again, it’s a major inconvenience. Over there, it’s a minor annoyance. Plus, if you are putting fewer miles on your vehicle per year, there is less chance that it will develop a major problem.

        2. To get around high income taxes, European employers often provide a company car as a perk. This is especially true in Great Britain and Germany. The employee gets to use it as his or her own, but the employer actually owns it and, from what I’ve seen, is responsible for major repairs. In Top Gear, for example, testers regularly talk about how desirable a car is as a perk for management-level employees. Here, most Americans buy or lease their own cars, and have to pay for out-of-warranty repairs themselves.

        3. In Europe, VW is compared to Fiat, Citroen, Peugeot and Renault, which regularly bring up the bottom of reliability surveys and make a VW look like…a Toyota…in the reliability department. Those cars are not yet sold here (except for the Fiat 500, and its sales are minimal in this country as of now).

        If you look at many European quality surveys, however, Toyota and Honda score at or near the top of them, too. But if you don’t drive as much, and your employer is providing you with a car, there is less incentive to make reliability a major factor in your choice of a new vehicle.

        If those conditions existed in the United States, I’m sure that many more people would choose VWs over Toyotas and Hondas, or BMWs over Lexuses, for style alone. But, they don’t, so Americans don’t.

        As for your personal experience – unfortunately, for every happy VW owner, I know of at least two FORMER VW owners who initially loved their cars, but quickly soured on them as the miles added up on the odometer. One former Passat owner I know, for example, just bought a brand-new Hyundai Sonata. He didn’t even consider another VW. And the service from the local VW dealer ranged from bad to awful. Fortunately, it was recently bought by a chain that also owns the largest Chevrolet dealer in the region, and is housed at a new location (the former Saturn dealership!), so perhaps that has changed.

      • 0 avatar
        Patrickj

        @Geeber
        For the most part, I agree with you on VW. But the low population density in the U.S. is something of a red herring. If you believe the web commentariat, most Americans have to drive a 150 mile round trip, including both snowy mountain passes and 130 degree deserts on the same trip, to buy a pizza.

        60 million of us Americans live in an area of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic the size (and population) of Britain. Another 20 million live tightly packed in a few valleys and a stretch of coast smaller than the Netherlands in Southern California.

        The difference is national personality, not geography. As a country with a high level of daily violence, and without a common culture or ethnicity, most Americans don’t like each other very much and don’t want to be physically close to others. Whether it be public transit, railroads, apartment living, or airlines, none of them suit Americans very well.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @geeber

        These are the same old arguments that are always trotted out. I don’t entirely buy them.

        1. Many Europeans drive less, sure. But the driving all of them do is under more stressful conditions than in the US. Either murdurous congestion or MUCH faster highways speeds, with not much in between. There is nothing easier for a car than rolling along on a wide American highway in the middle of nowhere at 65mph. As Patrickj pointed out – MANY Americans do live in conditions of distance and population density very similar to Europe. I am one of them certainly. Maine is so much like Sweden that it astonished me. No wonder Saabs and Volvos rule here.

        2. Do you seriously think that the company fleet managers do not care about reliability? Even if they are not paying for repairs directly, they still have the issue of lost productivity if the company car is constantly in the shop. And then, once these company cars are sold on – where do you think they go? They are not company cars from birth to the crusher, they get sold on to private buyers, where VW STILL has a reputation as the best used cars you can buy. If Japanese cars were so wonderful, and soo much better, don’t you think European bean counters would insist on loading the company car ranks with Toyotas and Hondas? Yet the Japanese just can’t seem to get any traction in Europe at all.

        3. I think, and Micheal Karesh’s surveys show, that there is just not that much difference in the real world. The bell curve is actually pretty flat these days. VWs are average, Toyota et al are a bit better than average. I agree, a Camry is probably a more reliable car than a Passat. I would rather walk than drive something as dull as a Camry every day. Not that the current US spec Passat is THAT much better, but at least you can get it with interesting engine and transmission choices. Toyota does not even sell anything in the US to compete with the Golf or the Jetta Wagon, which would be my two picks out of the VW lineup.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        patrickj: 60 million of us Americans live in an area of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic the size (and population) of Britain. Another 20 million live tightly packed in a few valleys and a stretch of coast smaller than the Netherlands in Southern California.

        The United States population, as of July 2009, was roughly 307,000,000. If 60 million live in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic area, and another 20 million live in Southern California, then the majority of Americans live in less dense areas (although we would have to count the number of people who live in the Chicago-Cleveland-Detroit region, too).

        The Northeast/Mid-Atlantic area encompasses my state – Pennsylvania. Once you get beyond the eastern triangle of the state roughly bounded by Philadelphia, Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton and York-Harrisburg, the state becomes very rural and the population density is low, aside from the Pittsburgh region.

        My wife is from an area roughly one hour north of Pittsburgh, and, up until 3-4 years ago, there were still areas along our drive from Harrisburg where we couldn’t get cell phone reception.

        Within a 20-minute drive from my house in suburban Harrisburg are areas where there are more cows than people.

        It’s the same with New York. Get beyond New York City and its suburbs, and the northern part of the state is actually very rural, except for the Buffalo region.

        Even the more densely populated regions of the United States still have plenty of rural areas.

        khrodes1: Many Europeans drive less, sure. But the driving all of them do is under more stressful conditions than in the US. Either murdurous congestion or MUCH faster highways speeds, with not much in between. There is nothing easier for a car than rolling along on a wide American highway in the middle of nowhere at 65mph.

        Much more rigid inspection systems get clunkers off the road quicker in many European nations than in the United States. When I was in Germany and Great Britain in 2006, what struck me was the lack of beat-up vehicles in daily use.

        Thus, many cars are scrapped before they require major repairs, which hinders a true comparison of long-term reliability. Here in the United States, those cars are kept running until they become too expensive to repair or simply break too often. Thus, most old clunkers are either Japanese (don’t break that often) or certain American ones (may break more than a Japanese car, but are relatively easy and inexpensive to fix).

        I also cannot buy the ideas that there are dramatic differences between European driving conditions and American driving conditions, and that that cars are used harder in Europe than they are here.

        Many areas of the German Autobahn are not limited for speed, but the rest of Europe is, and the speed limits in Great Britain, for example, are more strictly enforced (more photo radar) than they are in the United States.

        Here in the United States, Utah has an 80 mph speed limit, and certain roads in Texas are also capped at that amount. There are 14 states with a 75 mph speed limit (along with the certain roads in Texas), and another 19 states with a 70 mph speed limit (and the remainder of Texas). The rest, except for Hawaii, have a speed limit set at 65 mph (it’s set at 60 mph in Hawaii).

        In Europe, once you get out of Germany, most of the speed limits are between 75 mph and 80 mph.

        Also note that the posted speed limit in the United States isn’t really a reflection of the ACTUAL speeds at which people travel, because in many states, enforcement is very lax.

        Here in Pennsylvania, the speed limit is posted at 65 mph for limited access highways. The minimum speed people drive, meanwhile, is really 70 mph, and most people drive 75-80 mph. Out West, the average speed is about 80 mph, and it’s not uncommon to see people cruising along at 85-90 mph. And not in BMWs and Mustang GTs, either.

        Having driven in Europe, once you get out of Germany, speeds are not faster on limited access highways than they are in the United States.

        Also note that most European nations do not have the climate extremes that are experienced by the United States. I remember when we visited Great Britain in 2006. People were complaining about the heat, because the temperature was a whopping…75 degrees (F). Here in Pennsylvania, that is considered a pleasant day. It regularly hits 90 degrees in August here, with 99 percent humidity, and it’s even worse down South. Not to mention the searing heat of Texas, Arizona (106 degrees when we visited in 2008) or Nevada (113 degrees in August 2008, just before we left). This is hard on a car.

        patrickj: As Patrickj pointed out – MANY Americans do live in conditions of distance and population density very similar to Europe. I am one of them certainly. Maine is so much like Sweden that it astonished me. No wonder Saabs and Volvos rule here.

        But, the majority of Americans don’t in those more densely populated areas, and it’s perhaps no surprise that those areas aren’t known for the popularity of European imports.

        krhodes1: Do you seriously think that the company fleet managers do not care about reliability? Even if they are not paying for repairs directly, they still have the issue of lost productivity if the company car is constantly in the shop.

        If they are turning over the cars regularly, it’s not as much of an issue. Plus, the “buy from the home team” mentality is stronger over there than it is here. If the employees prefer European cars, then the employer may simply do what it is necessary to keep them happy, particularly if the car will be sold before it racks up very high mileage.

        Remember, I’m not saying that there aren’t rational reasons to prefer a VW over a Toyota or a Honda. I’m simply saying that other factors drive Americans to place more emphasis on reliability than their European counterparts, and that there are valid reasons for VW scoring well in European reliability surveys while it hasn’t done so well on similar surveys conducted in this country.

        krhodes1: And then, once these company cars are sold on – where do you think they go? They are not company cars from birth to the crusher, they get sold on to private buyers, where VW STILL has a reputation as the best used cars you can buy.

        VWs have had good resale value over here, even when the repair records were awful. That doesn’t necessarily prove that they are more reliable or better engineered than Toyotas or Hondas. It is more likely a reflection of their style, along with the fact that VWs are the cheapest European car you could buy. If you don’t want a domestic or a Japanese car, and can’t afford a BMW, Audi or Mercedes, then your choices were pretty much limited to VW.

        Generally, European cars are more prestigious than comparable American and Japanese cars. A Toyota and a Honda (or a Ford, for that matter), are considered to be more “common” than a VW.

        For a certain segment of the population, that outweighs reliability considerations. There are enough of them to support VW resale values in this country.

        krhodes1: If Japanese cars were so wonderful, and soo much better, don’t you think European bean counters would insist on loading the company car ranks with Toyotas and Hondas? Yet the Japanese just can’t seem to get any traction in Europe at all.

        Europeans simply don’t value reliability as much, for the reasons I’ve mentioned. It’s undisputed that the Toyotas and Hondas are more reliable than VWs. This is borne out in surveys conducted among both Europeans and Americans.

        Europeans are also more likely to support the “home team” than Americans are. Fiat is the best-seller in Italy, and the French automakers outsell Toyota and Honda in France. I would hope that no one is going to argue that the greater sales of Fiat, Renault, Peugeot and Citroen in their respective native countries prove that they are more reliable than a Toyota or a Honda.

        khrodes1: I think, and Micheal Karesh’s surveys show, that there is just not that much difference in the real world. The bell curve is actually pretty flat these days. VWs are average, Toyota et al are a bit better than average. I agree, a Camry is probably a more reliable car than a Passat.

        For many people it does matter, and, at any rate, VWs WERE considerably more unreliable just a few years ago, so that colors the perception of buyers today.

        khrodes1: I would rather walk than drive something as dull as a Camry every day. Not that the current US spec Passat is THAT much better, but at least you can get it with interesting engine and transmission choices. Toyota does not even sell anything in the US to compete with the Golf or the Jetta Wagon, which would be my two picks out of the VW lineup.

        But that is a personal preference. The majority of buyers obviously have different priorities, as there is nothing stopping anyone from choosing a VW over a comparable Toyota. But more Americans decide otherwise, even though I agree with you that VWs are better looking both inside and out.

      • 0 avatar
        Disaster

        A friend of mine owned one VW Jetta. Her other cars were Honda Civics. She spent more money fixing that car in the few years she owned it than she paid for it. She went back to Honda and never looked back. Not sure about initial surveys of current VW’s but from the people I talked to, you don’t want to buy a used VW, out of warranty, anymore than you want to buy a used BMW.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    With all the competitors around today, it won’t make a dent in sales figures.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    VW should have used this body style to sneak the Polo into the US. At least they were honest enough to not pretend that three people can fit in the second row.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    What’s Wrong With This Picture: the fuel gauge is ticked off at every 0.042gal and is the same size as the tach. Sorry VW, you’ve lost this fickle enthusiast’s interest.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    A modern-day Beetle should be cute, iconic, efficient and quirky (but in a way that can suit a particular kind of buyer).

    This car seems to be none of those things. They seem to have lost the plot.

    Here’s a suggestion to VAG corporate: Make up your minds and decide what you want. If you want it to be cute, then make it an unabashed chick car, with the looks to match. If you want it to be sporting, then call it a Karmann Ghia, go retro with that not-quite-iconic icon as the basis for your design language and design it with tuners in mind. But don’t try to please both crowds with the same car, because you will end up pleasing no one.

  • avatar
    Byron Hurd

    “…dropping the ‘New’ and the bud vase (every review must mention this…”

    Err.. guilty.

  • avatar
    JCraig

    That Golf 928 is truly awesome.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Yup the shape says that to me, but I do like it better than the old shape. I wonder how long it will take someone to come out with a body kit to make it MORE Porsche-like?

  • avatar
    JCraig

    This car would make a lot more sense (historically anyway) if the base model had a high mpg 4 cyl along the lines of other cars in its class (~140 hp 40 mpg).

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      I think the diesel version is on the way and should surpass those numbers. As a former Rabbit diesel owner, I’d really like to see the newest Beetle with an oil burner.

    • 0 avatar
      robdaemon

      140 hp with 40 mpg is the TDI. Next year, I believe.

      In the meantime, the Golf TDI is a great little car.

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t VW charge a premium for the TDI? I understand it performs better than the base gas engines they compete with, but they must have something that compares in price and performance w/ the other 40mpg cars out today.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I thought this vehicle would compete head to head with the Scion tC.

    Did they end up jacking the price on this vehicle at the last minute?

  • avatar
    KixStart

    The exterior changes are subtle but, somehow, they conspire to make the car much uglier than the previous version.

    It it at least comfortable for tall people? We took a ride in one some years ago and a tall friend and I took turns riding front and back… uncomfortable either way.

    And 29mpg in a 4-place car seems kinda poor, especially with since Karesh seems to give no ringing endorsement of the performance.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Now I know what a gay baby whale shark looks like . Where is the hide under the chair emoticon ?

  • avatar
    Wagen

    That fuel gauge covers such a wide distance in its arc from 0 to 1, you must be able to see it moving clearly even when the car is its most efficient on the highway.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    A ‘panoramic’ sunroof that only opens halfway? That’s truly lame and a deal-killer. It’s too bad because, otherwise, the ‘new’ Beetle is way better than the ‘old’ New Beetle (aesthetically, anyway).

    OTOH, if a sliding top isn’t necessary, I’d say go for it. Particularly cool would be a base cars with steel wheels and the great retro hubcaps. In that combination, the new car definitely has a ‘poor-man’s Porsche’ vibe to it.

    Sunroof (and the usual VW quality) issues aside, I’d go for one of these instead of the admittedly better (but a lot more pricey) MINI.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Lot more pricey Mini? According to Karesh, similarly equipped they’re about the same price. Yes, you can go crazy optioning a Mini to the stratosphere, but you don’t have to.

  • avatar
    bkmurph

    Do the rear turn signals use a red lens (à la new Jetta), or is the flash emitted through one of the two whitish “slits” in the taillights?

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      It really bugs me that the German makers have gone to this, and I really don’t understand the point. They’re still making the amber lenses for the Euro market, so why downgrade for NA? This is especially egregious on models with LED turn signals, like VW and Audi (although, unlike VW and BMW, Audi’s been guilty of reddening lenses since at least the early 90s).

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I thought I was the only one who likes this engine! Fire away, gslippy!

    Considering your positive review of the new Jetta’s handling characteristics, I am disappointed this Beetle doesn’t share them. The rest of the car (interior, styling, features) looks great, though.

    Yet I would probably still be tempted away from this car by something sitting right next to it on the VW lot–the Golf 2.5

    • 0 avatar

      I’m sure many parts are the same with the Jetta and the Beetle, so I was surprised they didn’t feel more alike. Somewhere between the larger wheels with wider tires, shorter wheelbase, and firmer suspension tuning the Beetle just didn’t work for me. More than anything it lacks coherence, as if they made a few changes but didn’t do the extra work to ensure that the parts worked well together.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Thanks for the invitation. :) My friend’s 2.5 Jetta is torquey and driveable, I must admit.

      I just can’t stand the rough sound produced by every 5 cylinder, and I’d rather have a 4 or V6, both of which are smoother and more compact. Since VW is killing off the 2.5, they must agree with me to some extent.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I’d much rather have a V6 as well, I’m not always in the mood for the sound of this engine. But I do like the power at low revs. I agree the better I4s are smoother, but most of the Jetta’s competition still run pretty buzzy and loud 1.8-2.0 liter units. Maybe I’m just searching for charm in a colorful engine that is reaching the end of its effective service life.

    I’ve never driven an Acura Vigor or Volvo S60; I wonder if “premium” 5 cylinders are more refined.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      The I5 Jetta starts at $20,500 for a stripper with vinyl and steelies. Add the As Actually Sold package (primarily bluetooth and 16″ alloys) and it’s at $21,700 – which is to say $1,500-3000 more than comparable compacts and all of $500 less than a comparable Sonata.

      The $18,000 Jettas with buzzy 1.8-2.0 liter competition are buzzy 2.0 liter cars themselves.

  • avatar
    klossfam

    I agree with Michael’s comments on the 2.5L 5-banger…I’m going to MISS this unloved lump…I’ve had it in my fleet under the hood of a 2006 Rabbit (albeit the previous gen 150 hp/170 ft lb version). It’s a torquey beast and sounds cool – in a strange way – as it goes about it’s business. Also, standard maintenance is easy and we’ve had it consistently return it’s rated 22 city/30 hwy in our application.

    I guess going forward the 2.5L will be replaced by a 1.8T built in the same plant as the beloved 2.0T.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Aesthetically, in photos, the design is a vast improvement over the original New Beetle, which didn’t know whether it was coming or going, and crushed many a tall person’s head in the back.

    My main gripe with this is the same as that of the previous generation: it’s too big, too thirsty, too complicated, and too expensive to be called a “Beetle.”

    Did I mention it’s too big? That’s why I used the “in photos” caveat – the sheer visual mass of this thing in person, like that of the old New Beetle, gives it a goofy bearing. The form may be more functional, but it’s still exaggerated to the point of gross hilarity. I just can’t take this car seriously.

    Much closer to the spiritual successor to the Beetle is the up!, which is now going on sale in Europe (replacing the Fox, which replaced the Lupo) and will probably not be sold in the states. Earlier up! concepts even retained the Type 1′s RR layout, though now it’s FF.

    The up! is tiny, utilitarian, and efficient, like a Beetle should be. And it starts at £7995, compared to the Beetle’s £16,490. It’s a true people’s car; simple, basic, attainable transportation. This Beetle isn’t any of that.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Still still ain’t the cheap, trusty, rusty, clanky, but fun ’75 Beetle I used to own.

    The 29mpg remind me of the PT Cruiser and HHRs issues, the retro styling just sorely hits the gas mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      DweezilSFV

      The PT Cruiser wishes it rated 29 MPG

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Sadly, you’re right. I rented one a couple of years ago, I drove rather conservatively with it for 700 miles, but the best I could do was 27 MPG on the freeway. Otherwise I liked the utility of the little beast.

        But my 1997 Cavalier does 27 MPG in town! If I fold down the back seat, I get almost as much utility…

  • avatar
    daviel

    I like it [disclosure- owned 6 VW\'s the last a new beetle]

  • avatar
    kanakarisnico

    about the fender car stereo

    i had a carefull listen to some jazz,funk and a house track checking out it´s power and sound quality and i must say the fender stereo is worth it.afcourse you can allways buy an aftermarket stereo but thenn you have the risk of somebody messing up your car interior door panels etc…the fender car stereo is put in from factory so no cables etc…the sound was very good bass was very impressive,treble also very clear.i listen all my cd´s in the car so if i will decide to buy a beetle the fender car stereo will defenetly be in there

  • avatar
    ALunaSea93

    I personally like it. And I don’t buy that whole “VW has horrible reliability” mumbo jumbo. I will admit they used to, but new generations are much better quality.

    I am that niche segment buyer they’re targeting. I liked the New Beetle, and I like this one. I like the Cube, Soul, The Element in orange or green, Scions, Panamera, Veloster, Fiat, Mini Clubman, Chevy Sonic, etc… We had a Saturn SC2 when I was little, until 2007. Now we have a copper/orange Civic Si.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Believe what you will but VW’s quality is hardly sparkling. Everybody seems to like to rag on GM for making the worst car they ever owned (30 years ago mind you) but VW seems to get a free pass for having a very spotty repair record. My uncle owns a VW/Audi repair shop in the NE and I get to see first hand what goes wrong with them and believe me when I tell you they have all kinds of issues. Yes the newer ones are better or seem to be but I will reserve judgement until these later 2005-2011 examples get some miles on them to see if the quality has indeed improved. Interior quality on this new Beetle, the new Jetta and the new Passat has taken a step backwards and look and feel more austere and plain. The driving dynamics and the “handling like on rails” feel seems to have been softened quite a bit. The 5 cylinder engine has never been one of my favorites and it really doesn’t get any better fuel mileage than competitors V6 engines or my 90K mile 2008 V6 Impala which is a larger car with 240 Hp on tap.


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