Monday, 3 September 2012


Volkswagen Beetle Design 2.0-litre TDI 140 PS DSG

Its no secret that currently retro is cool. You could be fooled into thinking that it all started with BMW's runaway success the MINI but Volkswagen’s Beetle predated it by a good few years.

Sadly in comparison the 'new' Beetle seemed like a poor regurgitated imitation of the original Beetle. If you squinted hard enough it sure looked like a Beetle but everything else was pretty ordinary including its bland VW parts bin interior (dashboard vase aside) and so-so drive from its Golf derived underpinnings.

2012 saw the launch of this, the 2nd generation car which promises to up the game in response to the now more crowded sector occupied by not only the MINI but Fiat's 500; not forgetting the 'anti-retro' Citroen DS3.

A quick walk around the new car confirms that its all-new, its proportions are very different. The roof-line is now much lower with a windscreen that’s much more upright - just like the original. The wheelbase is also much longer to accommodate the new platform that it sits on. The bulbous arches and sloping rump will however be familiar. This time round VW has gone for cleaner styling at the front with retro-looking circular headlights and greater use of chrome. Its just a little disappointing that the more angular lower bumper appears to have come from a different car. The rear is much improved losing the odd looking round taillights replaced by larger led units and on our car twin exhausts. The wheels fitted are probably the most successful feature, they look like they came straight from a 1970's original.

Open one of the incredible long doors and you will find greatly improved cabin space especially for rear seat occupants. Legroom is now OK providing the pair in the front aren't over six foot tall. Headroom -which was a big problem before - is now much better, admittedly its still a little restricted compared to a DS3. The luggage space on offer is where the biggest improvement can be seen with its wider aperture and 310 litre capacity over the old cars tiny 209 litres, this can be extended further by folding the rear seats.

The old car’s interior design wasn’t really much to write home about. This new Beetle is much better. The dashboard, steering wheel and tops of the doors are now trimmed in plastics the same colour as the exterior. The dashboard itself is a real throw-back to he original in its upright design and twin gloveboxes. The steering wheel also manages to look modern yet retro at the same time, its similar to what you will find in the smaller UP!. Switchgear is typically VW in its logical layout and clear labelling, as are the dials dominated by an over-sized speedo with chrome surrounds. The quality on offer is sturdy rather than high-class, the plastics are tactile but there is a definite lack of soft-touch material as you would find in a Golf for example. Thankfully the masses of glitzy chrome effect highlights help lift the mood.

On the road the Beetle goes about its business with minimal fuss with a compliant, fairly soft ride that does a good job of filtering out road imperfections. The steering is also very direct and seems to be better weighted than recent overassisted Volkswagens. Refinement is also very good; the 2,0 TDi we drove was very quiet coupled with only small amount of wind noise at higher speeds.

Those expecting an assault on the senses when dealing with challenging roads as MINI owners will be familiar with are likely to be disappointed. If you tackle corners slowly there is little to complain about. There are good levels of grip but its the handling that fails to shine. Body roll is well contained but mid-corner bumps cause the rear to feel jittery losing composure easily. As the chassis is based on the Golf platform you would think that the Beetle would have the far superior multi-link rear suspension setup but sadly not. It makes do with a torsion beam. The soon-to-be-launched 200bhp version however will get an independant setup.

The powerplant we had the pleasure of trying was the excellent 2.0 litre TDi diesel engine mated to Volkswagen's divine DSG (dual clutch) gearbox. With 140bhp on offer from 4,200rpm it manages to feel more brisk than the 9.4 second to 60mph would suggest. Thanks to the DSG gearboxes ability to change gear quickly overtaking is easy with a good shove of power always on tap. It suits the character of the car well and will return an impressive 52.3mpg combined and costs just £120 to tax for a year.

Equipment levels were good on our mid-spec Design trim with standard climate control, Bluetooth sat nav/DAB digital radio, alloy wheels, leather steering wheel, connections for MP3 players, electric windows and mirrors, one-touch indicators, a trip computer, a CD player and remote central locking. Adding parking sensors, the sat nav unit and ‘special paint’ brings the list price to £22,565 which isn’t as cheap as we would have liked. It places the Beetle at the top end of the MINI range although you do get a lot of car for the money.

Words and Photos by Rob McSorley

Technical Data

Price as tested: £22.565
Engine: 2.0 16v 140bhp - 0-62mph: 9.4 secs - Maximum Speed: 121mph -
Economy: 40.9mpg (urban) –61.4mpg (extra-urban), 61.4mpg (combined) - Emissions: 140g/km (Band E) - VED (12 months): £120
Dimensions: Length: 4278mm - Width: 1808mm - Height: 1486mm - Wheelbase: 2537mm

*data from Volkswagen UK

The Verdict

There is no doubt that the second generation Beetle is a marked improvement of its lackluster predecessor. It not only looks better on the outside but has an appealing, retro interior that brings back fond memories of the original Beetle. It also presents less of a compromise when carrying people in the back and the boot is a lot more usable. On the road it may not be the last word in driver thrills but what is does very well is provide a hushed, comfortable environment for passengers. Coupled with the 2.0 litre TDi engine and DSG gearbox there is also a satisfying cocktail of pulling power and economy on offer. Whether it is retro enough will be a matter of taste but for many people it will hold plenty of appeal.

You will like
-Retro looks
-Stylish Cabin
-Comfortable drive


You won’t like
-Lack of driving thrills
-Interior build quality in places

All photographs and text are the exclusive property of Rob McSorley (except where stated otherwise). They are made available for your personal viewing enjoyment only. No images are within the Public Domain. The photographs may not be copied, reproduced, redistributed, manipulated, projected, used or altered in any way without the prior permission of Rob Mcsorley (

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