VOLKSWAGEN is currently experiencing the ‘third time lucky’ effect with its latest generation Beetle. Finally, after a combination of mixed consumer responses and the mushrooming in popularity of the Mini, buyers are starting to love the bug again.
The ‘new’ Beetle has come a long way since the first iteration appeared in the late 90s. It, like the Mini, has grown slightly with each evolution of the still recognisable shape. It’s also become more driver friendly and is now a genuinely enjoyable car to drive, thanks mainly to sharpened up dynamics and a range of top-notch petrol and diesel engines.
As already mentioned, this car is a little bigger than the one it replaces – it’s a fraction longer and wider. Carrying capacity is up, with occupants fore and aft benefiting from more room, plus boot space has increased to more respectable levels.
The car’s cabin is roomy enough up front, with just enough space in the back for adults if the journey isn’t too long – again, thanks to the Beetle’s enlarged dimensions. Of course, the Beetle’s rear seats are more suited to children, ensuring that VW’s lifestyle hatch is more practical than its appearance suggests.
Along with the Beetle’s enlarged dimensions, Volkswagen has decided to pitch the car higher up the premium ladder this time, with sat-nav, climate control, premium audio and leather all appearing on the options list. The range of standard kit is good too, with the likes of air-con, DAB radio, alloy wheels, Bluetooth and parking sensors spread across the trim levels.
This new approach is also evident in the Beetle’s cabin, with an almost Golf-like upmarket ambience noticeable as soon as you open the car’s big doors. And with similar switchgear to the Golf littering the Beetle’s cabin, you instantly feel part of the big Volkswagen family.
Seasoned Beetle fans will bristle at the use of the word ‘sporty’ in the context of something as historically un-sporting as the Beetle, and while Volkswagen is keen to promote the car as such it’s fair to say it’s a more willing participant than its older relatives.
Urban motoring duties do much to highlight the car’s ability to change direction. It’s no longer a small car, yet this never proves a handicap around town and the slightly raised seating position helps boost forward visibility. Although a sport suspension option exists, in standard guise the car copes well with the usual array of urban surface imperfections.
Away from the city the Beetle acquits itself well to demands of faster roads and more challenging corners. It’s no Golf but it’s good to know that a brisk pace can be maintained. It’s fair to say that the Beetle remains a more comfortable experience if driven with a hint of restraint, yet there’s no denying the fact that the various under the skin changes have but the fun back into Beetle motoring.
The best news for buyers possessing deep pockets and short arms is that all this fun and refinement can be had with the smallest engine in the line-up. Volkswagen has plenty of experience when it comes to squeezing a lot out of not a lot, and the firm’s 1.2-litre petrol motor can be found in a wide range of cars, large and small.
Far from encouraging you to get out and walk, in 1.2 TSI guise, the Beetle boasts a surprising turn of speed coupled with big car levels of refinement – if you’re expecting the engine to wheeze and stumble at every turn you’re going to be disappointed It might produce ‘only’ 105 horsepower but the on-paper figures don’t tell the full story. Eager to rev and smooth with it, this little lump is the perfect match for the Beetle’s laid-back personality. Throw in VW’s optional DSG gearbox and the unit’s well-judged ratios and near seamless shifts make light work of the urban crawl.
First hand experience of this third generation Beetle reveals that it’s a more engaging and rewarding experience than before and a genuine head-turner thanks to its fuss-free curves and simple, familiar lines.
While it’s no match for a conventional hatchback in the versatility stakes, in the context of a lifestyle hatch the Beetle is practical enough – decent cabin space, folding rear seats – to afford even a growing family the ability to mix fashion and family living in one neat, stylish package. And if you like driving the Beetle will no longer have you longing to be sat behind the wheel of something else. Third time lucky? Most definitely.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Volkswagen Beetle 1.2 TSI Design, from £19,370 on the road.
Engine: 1.2-litre petrol unit developing 105bhp.
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch transmission (DSG), driving the front wheels.
Performance: Maximum speed 112mph, 0-62mph 10.9 seconds.
CO2 Rating: 137g/km.