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First Drive: Volkswagen Beetle 1.2 TSI DSG
Sector: Lower medium Price: £16,600 Fuel: 47.9mpg CO2: 137g/km
With concept cars like the sporty E-Bugster and Beetle R, Volkswagen wants to shift the emphasis from flower to power with the new Beetle. But I’ve always wondered whether that’s the smartest move.
Its curvy predecessor sustained demand throughout its lifespan, despite using an ancient platform and even older Golf and Polo engines, so it was obviously doing something right. And you don’t need to look too far adrift to find Volkswagen already has a masculine, Golf-based coupe in its range – the Scirocco. Does the Beetle really need to appeal to men?
On the flip side, that new shape is a more successful rebirth of the original and iconic Beetle, albeit one with a much lower and almost early Porsche-like roofline. Volkswagen has, at last, pulled the same trick as Fiat and MINI have done with their retro-inspired offerings, instead of doing a modern reinterpretation.
Having tried the 2.0-litre turbo petrol, the only option at the press launch last year, I was impressed to find it’s a much better drive than the Millennium Bug too. But it did leave me wanting to find out how the car performed with a setup closer to the original car. So a small engine, small wheels, and no leather-trimmed sport seats was exactly what I wanted to test.
Such engines have come a long way since even the latest air cooled Beetles. In this case, the entry point is Volkswagen’s gutsy 1.2-litre TSI. It’s nothing adrenaline-pumping, but at 103bhp it’s got more than enough go for a style-conscious motorist. Plus there’s a DSG gearbox, tested here, if you want to dilute that back-to-basics “people’s car” formula.
This also allows you a little space to appreciate the neat homages to the original, like optional alloy wheels which replicate the old steels, the trademark large speedometer and that tiny form-over-function glovebox. All of which is really what the new Beetle is about.
The Beetle’s contribution to mass-market motoring needs no introduction. Take the same approach with this latest version – don’t be tempted to make it a curvy Scirocco, keep it simple and it makes a stylish, relatively affordable and very frugal city-slicker just like the 1938 original.