By on May 13, 2012

Please believe: car design school is a frickin’ bizarre place. The phrase “I’m surprised you are here and not in medical school” was thrown in my face several times at CCS.  And this verbal diarrhea came from people who take your tuition and are supposed to help you become a designer! But can’t I, a fairly smart South Asian dude, be more than what you assume?

Or do stereotypes exist for a reason? Like the beliefs held about the vehicle in question?

The newest VW Beetle reminds me of that old “Design School Sajeev.”  This Vee-Dub wants a change of pace from the stereotypes, and it’s done a fine job. After all, it spent far too much time as a stereotypical girly car…it needed a touch of beefcake for the next redesign.


Two worlds collide: the soft and girly demeanor of the Beetle remains, but there’s a nod to toned muscle in the bumper’s lower half.  The nose is downright chiseled! And while the Beetle should never have a “Bunkie Beak” like the works of Mr. Kundsen, adding some tonal quality to the Beetle’s otherwise undefined bumper is a thoughtful touch. Even better, the muscles have a bit of chrome trimming that gives it an-oh-so subtle smile.


The foglights integrate nicely into that smile.  And the bumper looks even better from a lower view.  Children will love this.  I imagine it saying “Hi” like the advertisements for the original Dodge Neon. It is undeniably cute, but not nearly as prissy as before.


Thrusting forward.  The front clip itself is more than a little manly while the squared off, beveled hood adds more definition than before.


The Beetle’s schnoz is definitely growing up in the same manner as our first Vellum Venom subject: the Porsche 911. Check them both out from this angle.


The headlight’s eyelids are a little touch of retro flair that I truly adore.  They are super-duper brand honest, and integrate very well into the headlight’s overall design.  I love it when custom touches from the aftermarket receive a hat-tip from the OEMs, decades later. Nice job!


And the layers, textures and bullet like thrust of this lighting appendage work nicely with the bumper’s imagery.  It’s about time that our love of plastic headlight castings really highlighted a brand, a model, or a design studio’s creativity.  I first noticed it on the uber-pricey headlights of my HID-equipped Lincoln Mark VIII…and now it is everywhere! Technology FTW!


Yes indeed, the bumper is squared off and tougher, but the same is true for the green house.  Note the hard, not organic bend in the A-pillar at the roof.  This leads to a roofline that is no longer Astrodome-like.  Which is far more mature than the last Beetle. Also note the bigger, meatier door. Even the fenders look a bit, well, hunkier?


Someone with more design experience than myself should chime in: what is this center panel called?  It’s not a fender, or a hood. Rather, it is a cowl cover. Whatever, this hunk of metal that covers the cowl has three dynamic cut lines and one very, very static line.  I would aim the cowl/A-pillar/Door seam with a downward trajectory so it hits the base of the DLO (daylight opening) instead. This gives a little more flow and excitement from up close. Maybe even from a distance!

Oh, and congrats for not having DLO FAIL with pointless black triangles.  This is one time where German engineering and Design can rightfully claim a victory.


My apologizes to the VW fanbois, as I can’t remember the name of the original wheel design that inspired this hoop.  You’d see this black and silver wheel spoke on everything from Beetles, Buses, 911s and 914s in the 1970s, and they translate well into the Dub generation.  My only beef is the interrupted outer rim, those slots need to be pushed back so the design can “breathe” a bit.  Job well done still, and I like the side marker’s matching curves against the wheel arches.

While I didn’t photograph a Bug with the retro wheels of the base model, I found them oversized and therefore out of proportion.  Big discs are a pleasant nod to the past, but these Turbo wheels work better.


I assume this bodyside molding seeks to emulate the original’s classic running boards, and I guess that’s cool.  I woulda gone more retro, with a fluted/ribbed top and a matte black finish. This is one time where if you’re wanna stick out, you might as well be LOUD and PROUD…son!


Like the hood bevel, the green house sports a hard recess around its perimeter.  While I think the bevel is too long/deep at the quarter window, this is a significant improvement over the previous New Beetle.  Now this roof is stylish, not soft. Perhaps rear seat headroom also improved, from the looks of it.


I quite like the meeting of quarter panel, fender and hatchback: the lines are fast and a touch on the muscular side. The Turbo’s spoiler helps too, in a proto-911 kinda way.  The biggest improvement from this shot is most certainly the taillights. The dull, flat and fruity circles from the last model are history, now the Bug has a bit of deep and complex techo-industrial chic from the rear. And their larger size is in better proportion with the rest of the package.

If there was a bit more tumblehome (google it) to the green house, we’d have a more honest Beetle.  Then again, whatever I am seeing here doesn’t look like a stereotypical Bug.  It looks like a bad ass little compact car.


I wish the spoiler extended further down the hatch, and stuck further out.  It would be a good “F U” to the rest of the world, adding to the masculinity seen elsewhere on the coachwork.


The rear bumper continues the theme from the front, deeper/lower and more masculine.  Also note the squared off hatch corners with a hard bevel. Combined with the fender’s ability to give the Beetle more tumblehome than actually available, you have a mature redesign of an absolutely childish original.  And with the bigger taillights in the right proportion, can I call this wee beastie a “Butch Machine” and get away with it?


Back to my deep and complex techo-industrial chic remark: these lighting pods are such an improvement over the previous design.  Note the prominent “U” theme, complete with clear lights with the same vanishing point. The design is rich and deep in these pods, and they point to a well executed little vehicle. While not the cheapest small car on the planet–or especially reliable, in TTAC’s Piston Slap terms–this new VW Beetle simply appeals to me in every place where the original failed. This one is totally okay for a manly-man type of dude to own.

And thank goodness neither of us went to “Medical School.”

Thanks for reading and have a great week.

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53 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 2012 VW Beetle Turbo...”

  • avatar

    A page break would really open up this breakfast area…

  • avatar

    While the new New Beetle is a big improvement stylistically, I think VW missed an opportunity to purge the “girly” rep once and for all. They should have eliminated the seam between the body and the fenders and smoothed the fenders into the overall shape – no more pretense of “separate” fenders. Also ditch the Beetle name altogether. Those steps would give the car a Porsche 356 vibe that I think would be hard to resist at the price.

    • 0 avatar

      A rounded, three-door hatchback with sleek sides and a name other than ‘Beetle’? That name is ‘TT’.

      • 0 avatar

        Except the TT costs over $38,000 to start (nearly double the Beetle) and is for all practical purposes a two-seater. There was room for VW to make an economy-oriented Porsche-like coupe.

      • 0 avatar

        True – a used TT is the real competition, and VW can’t make much of a profit on cars they aren’t selling.

        The New Beetle’s rear seats were, to be polite, best suited for children; I haven’t had the opportunity to fold myself into the rear of a TT or this new Beetle.

      • 0 avatar

        The back seat of a New Beetle is no joy for an adult but the “back seat” of a TT is nothing more than a package shelf with pretensions. Even kids will have a hard time in the TT unless they don’t have legs.

      • 0 avatar

        A lady-friend and I test-drove a TT hardtop a long while ago. I never felt sorrier for anyone than I did for the salesman who insisted on going with us on that run. An Audi dealership really needs to hire a paraplegic whose sole job is to go along on test-drive for the TT.

  • avatar

    All these design changes deserve kudos. However, I have sympathy on the folks charged to design this car. The last Beetle was such a chick car, that they were given the task of making a handbag look like something a manly man would carry.

    • 0 avatar

      I learned from watching Seinfeld that a black, leather European carryall with a strap is still a purse, despite the semantics.

      This is an attractive car, but I wonder if a version of the Jetta would be a more popular choice for guys who want a two-door, three-box VW?

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Sajeev, great analysis. It’s hard to take issue with any of it. Next on your list might be interior designs. What do you think?

  • avatar

    Sorry – I hate it. Instead of cute chick car, it’s now a diesel dyke.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. Just because it was a chick car didn’t mean I couldn’t admire it for what it was.

    • 0 avatar

      Funny you should mention that, because the New Beetle has been available a diesel engine (TDI) for quite some time.

      I had a truly disastrous ownership experience with a Jetta, but the diesel engine and the handling was nice enough that it was almost worth it. Almost. I’ll likely never own a Volkswagen again, but calling this car a “diesel dyke” reminds me about what I actually liked about my diesel-powered Jetta — and what I would actually like about this car, if I were ever going to own a Volkswagen again.

    • 0 avatar

      Aw man, you kind of stole my line! I was going to say it went from a “Chickmobile” to a “Bull Dykemobile”. I like your line better.

      • 0 avatar

        Except that most bulldykes will probably prefer a beat up truck and they CAN be more butch than many men…

        Your garden variety dykes, perhaps might like this, but again, they may also prefer something else.

        Lesbians, likely though many of them have, at least in the past preferred the Outback wagon so they can carry their dogs around, which is why in some circles the Outback wagon is considered a Lesbian mobile.

  • avatar

    IIRC the wheels were called cookie cutters.

  • avatar

    It should be “chic” not “sheik.”

  • avatar

    Steve, I’m really enjoying these VV articles.

    I would normally love this VW Bug’s design – it’s clean, though full and detailed. But the Bug’s past stigma of a

    Nazi car -> Hippy car -> Hobo car -> Chick car

    gets in the way of me even caring.

    It reminds me of why it was stupid for GM to kill off Saturn as there was a lot of Saturn owners that would never otherwise even look at GM car given all the baggage that has built up in their mind.

  • avatar

    A question for someone who has driven one of the new ones:

    How badly did headroom suffer when the roof line was changed? For me, the one thing the last design had going for it was the headroom. It was a small car I could actually drive in reasonable comfort.

    Not that I’d get rid of my Panther for a Bug, but it made for a nice option at the rental counter.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m concerned about that too. I’ve only sat in one of the first models. It had decent headroom, comparable to a Golf, but the coal- black headliner made it a dismal, confining place to be. I’m looking forward to trying another color scheme, if that’s not too ‘fruity” for all the adolescents here who can’t get beyond classifying every object into “macho” and “anti-macho.” If I thought that way, I’d speak French, where every noun has a male of female gender.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d just hate to add this to the list of small cars I’m too tall to drive.

        It’s a rental car, who cares if it is masculine?

      • 0 avatar

        “It’s a rental car, who cares if it is masculine?”

        Guys who’ve so little actual man-stuff that they are still likely to be judged by appearances rather than their actions.

  • avatar

    It has gone from being an automotive-equivalent of a purse to a… man-purse.

    I certainly appreciate how much effort has gone into butching-up the car. But it still has a fundamentally feminine silhouette, and now it’s wearing overalls.

  • avatar

    As far as this iteration of the Beetle is concerned, it’s growing on me, but do I like it better than the New Beetle? Dunno but at first, I didn’t like the squished down look of the greenhouse.

    Now, it’s not so bad in the greenhouse department as that has been a trend that’s been around and really should’ve never been thought up in the first place.

    All that said, the car DOES look more butch but the original New Beetle never bothered me and it seems almost as many guys drove it as women. It know it WAS considered a gay car when it first came out for a few years but seems to have taken on the chic/girly car though I never thought it as such.

    The New Beetle was more of a nod to the original air-cooled bug than this one, but this updates it to better cater to both sexes without resorting, IMO, to too much feminine, nor masculine details, it’s a nice mixture of both I think.

    The headlights, I gotta agree, a subtle nod to the original pre ’67 headlights with the small parking lamp in front of the headlight itself, but within the glassed in housing, however, this seems to also be a common design detail on many cars today whereby the turn signal is now integrated into the headlight housing in one way or another.

    Overall, a nice evaluation of this car, though I LOVE the wheels on the base car as it’s an updated nod to the originals, though I would agree, drop them down a size to perhaps 15″ and they’d look even better.

  • avatar

    Sorry, but to me it looks like a “chopped top’ Super Beetle.

    This car is just as contrived as the New Beetle. It’s gone from being a little too cute to something trying to be macho. There’s an honest charm about the original beetle that’s missing from the newer retro cars (as well as reliability – so long as you changed the oil and adjusted the valves).

    All said, I can’t say I wouldn’t own one, but the price and reliability place it well down my list.

  • avatar
    Dave W

    A friend who loves the previous bug (on their 3rd one) asked at the dealer how many new ones they’ve sold. He thought a bit then said “none”. Unfortunately it seems to suffer what many “segment expanding” objects do. They’ve chased off their old customers, without attracting any new ones.

    By the way my friend hates the new one. If they weren’t afraid of it’s reliability they might consider it, but won’t take the headaches if they can’t have the look.

    • 0 avatar

      I have seen a grand total of two on the streets of this metropolitan area of one million plus residents. If they are selling, I sure don’t see it, and my local VW dealer (which I frequently visit) almost never has one on the lot. Are they being introduced slowly, or is demand really that weak? I was a fan of the New Beetle, but I find this new design has taken away all the playfulness that used to engender a smile when you saw one driving by. I’ll never forget the first New Beetle I saw in person: it was parked in a Whole Foods lot on a Saturday morning at 7:30 AM, and there was a crowd of thirty people standing around it and gawking appreciatively. No other car before or since has ever elicited that kind of reaction that I’ve personally witnessed. I know VW made a much better overall car with this Beetle, but it just doesn’t push the right buttons for the general public. It may be more masculine,
      but at what price? So what if it sold mostly to women and Gay men? Is there anything wrong with that? A sale is a sale.

  • avatar

    I looked it over at our local car show last fall and was pretty much impressed with the changes.

    One thing the VW spokesman (no booth babes were visible) was anxious to point out was the new frameless door glass–surprised Sajeev didn’t mention that.

  • avatar

    The car looks best with the Turbo wheels by far. I like the idea of the Heritage wheels, but yes, they are disproportionate.

    The chrome “disc” wheels, on the other hand, are terrible. Did VW’s designers look to a Ford Tempo’s hubcaps for inspiration?

  • avatar

    It’s the roofline.

  • avatar

    “While I didn’t photograph a Bug with the retro wheels of the base model, I found them oversized and therefore out of proportion. Big discs are a pleasant nod to the past, but these Turbo wheels work better.”

    Do you mean the 17 inch wheels of the two base 2.5 liter trim levels, or the bigger chrome wheels of the 2.5i with sound, sunroof and navigation? The base model’s 17 inch hub cap emulating wheels are the only style element of this car that I actually like. If I was still seeing a girl with a Jetta TDi wagon, I’d buy her a set of them.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Great series Sajeev! While you may be a frustrated car designer, you have a sharp eye of how the shapes play off each other.

    I love the look of this redesign – it takes the Beetle concept to a whole new level – retro yet modern. Except briefly for the nostalgia factor, the original New Beetle did nothing for me.

    The horrific 4 foot dash top is gone. The IP is modern. No flower vase. The only critique I have is when you sit in one (and at 6’3″, I was comfortable), it’s like tunnel vision looking towards the front.

    And it needs the sharper suspension tuning of the Golf.

    A black turbo is more reminiscent of the Porsche family than VW. And personally I love the retro wheels with dog dish covers.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    It’s easy to avoid a plastic triangle when you have a static window.

    • 0 avatar

      Not in the front of the DLO. And that’s where so many plastic triangles live…for no good reason!

      • 0 avatar

        I now look at all potential purchases of new cars for a DLO fail and it’s gettng hard to find one without it! I even found one on my minivan, and I’ve had it for nine years and never noticed it.
        Focus, Fiat 500, Volt, Prius c, Sonic, Cruze all have it.
        It’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle now that I know what to look for. Should I live with a DLO fail if that is the only wrong thing with the car?

      • 0 avatar

        Nope…this is another reason why I gave up and bought one of the last Ford Rangers. I only partially kidding.

  • avatar

    What IF it was RWD or AWD? And came with 250hp (easily with a chip)just thinking…….

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