The original Volkswagen Beetle, as we know, was conceived to be an affordable car for the German people. It was a car built on sturdy underpinnings and rock solid quality, both virtues that remain prevalent in the generations of Volkswagen products that have since followed. Modern incarnations of the Beetle have since moved upmarket, but its iconic shape remains one of the most recognizable silhouettes in the motoring world.
Although the Beetle’s production run spanned for more than half a century producing 21 million units, its role as Volkswagen’s primary mass market vehicle was ultimately usurped by the Golf in 1974, which became another success story in itself. In 1997, Volkswagen decided to cash in on the Beetle’s cult status, and the result is a Golf Mk IV reskinned with a shell that rekindles the Beetle’s iconic shape. They called it the New Beetle.
|The Beetle’s iconic shape and bright colour of our test car make it an attention magnet.|
The New Beetle’s 13-year production run may pale in comparison to the original’s but it is lengthy by modern production standards. Its replacement has finally arrived and Volkswagen had good sense to drop the ‘New’ moniker and named the new model as just the Beetle.
One of the main criticisms of the previous New Beetle was that it was too much of a sissy-looking car and that stopped many men from wanting to get one. To be frank, I didn’t quite mind that the timing of my entry into this industry precluded me from having the opportunity to review one myself. The latest new Beetle seeks to better transcend gender boundaries with a more muscular appearance, and in my eyes, at least, I would say Volkswagen have succeeded.
|The third-gen Beetle’s appearance has a more unisexual appeal compared to its predecessor.|
As a result of its predecessor’s longevity, the new third-generation Beetle’s underpinnings have become a two-generation advancement over its predecessor, with underpinnings of the Golf Mk VI running the show behind the scenes. Lower-powered models have dispensed with the Golf’s multi-link rear suspension for a torsion beam, but in the 2.0 TSI guise tested here, the back wheels remain independently sprung.
That the Beetle shares underpinnings with the Golf is no surprise, although compared to most other products in the VW Group, the connection is not immediately obvious. Unique bodystyle notwithstanding, the Beetle’s interior also sports a funky retro-futuristic interior that is similar or identical to no other VW product. Whilst switchgear are obviously from the parts bin, the dashboard’s layout is unique to the Beetle.
|Dual storage compartment a nod to the original.|
Engine and transmission are both familiar items with the 1,984cc EA888 four-cylinder turbo engine paired to the 6-speed wet-clutch DSG transmission. Producing 197hp and 280Nm, this is a mildly detuned version of the Golf GTI’s setup which we also see in the Sharan. Detuned or not, the engine’s outputs remain considerable, and if you bury the throttle, progress is rapid and relentless even if it is not exactly neck-snapping.
Before testing the car, our expectations of the Beetle 2.0 TSI was that of a softer and more mellowed Golf GTI, but that most certainly was not the reality. If anything, the Beetle felt like the harder-edged machine in comparison. The Beetle’s ride quality was surprisingly stiffer and less composed than the GTI. Potholes sent jitters into the cabin, and I discovered for the first time in my life that the cement-paved basement parking lot of Bandar Utama Centre Point is not exactly as smooth as it appears.
Unlike the GTI, the Beetle does not have adaptive dampers but quite why Volkswagen engineers thought it would be appropriate to use a setup more aggressive than the GTI’s in a car that is more likely to be bought as a fashion statement than as a performance vehicle is anyone’s guess. Even more surprising is that Volkswagen shods the Beetle 2.0 here with 18″ rims – one size bigger than the GTI. Downsizing to the GTI’s 17″ size during your first tyre change might help alleviate the brittle ride.
|18-in rims fill the Beetle’s wheel arches nicely, but resulted in brittle ride. 17-in may be better.|
The Beetle’s stiff ride unfortunately masks quite a few virtues that actually make it a practical vehicle that is offers the allure of retro-funky styling. Compared to the MINI, for example, the Beetle has ample luggage space, and as usual, Volkswagen’s sense of ergonomics are spot on with little touches that demonstrate thoughtful attention to detail – like the rubber strap for rear occupants to hold on to when exiting the car, for example.
So, what’s the final verdict? Well, to be frank, the RM220k that Volkswagen asks for the Beetle 2.0 would be better spent on the mechanically-similar Golf GTI which is both better to drive and use as an everyday car. The new Beetle is a much better car than its predecessor for sure and with a wider appeal now that is not overtly feminine. Its interior is usefully practical and handling is decent; other than its shockingly stiff ride, the Beetle 2.0 is actually a car of few vices.