There are not many modern cars that have truly iconic heritage. The Beetle is without doubt one such car with over 20 million examples of the original Beetle being sold around the World. And when it was reborn in 1998 a further one million sold to a new generation. It still has the original bug elements along with a up-to-date front-drive chassis. The bug had that cuteness type look and this current generation has it as well but some more masculine looks have been added with a lower flatter roofline and more upright windshield. This is in the hope of luring more male buyers and it’s a look that works and should stand the test of time. I think VW have achieved a shape that is more gender neutral and yet hasn’t lost its classic qualities either which is so important. When the opportunity came to test the refreshed Beetle, I was only too happy to experience a piece of motoring nostalgia.
Three trim levels are available, the Beetle, Beetle Design and Beetle R-Line. Our test vehicle was the R-line 2.0-litre TDI giving 150HP. The new Beetle R-Line trim has a sportier bumper design unique to that model. It features extra air intake openings along the upper edge of the bumper along with LED rear lights. Our model came with 18-inch ‘Twister’ alloy wheels and was in Sandstorm Yellow. Other new pearlescent-effect colours available include Bottle Green and White Silver. The Sandstorm Yellow certainly gets you noticed and it grew on me after a few days. I think of all the cars I’ve reviewed I’ve had more well-meaning comments and admiring nods driving this Beetle. People like it and they are not afraid to tell you either. I think that comes down to the iconic status and how many people know a family member or neighbor, that had one in times gone past. The Beetle R-Line comes with body-coloured rear diffuser and twin exhausts. The exterior styling is developed with gloss black door mirrors and door protectors and a rear tailgate spoiler to finish off the look along with some R-line decals.
In the new range the Beetle R-Line replaces the previous Sport trim level. The R-Line will be available with Volkswagen’s powerful 2.0-litre TDI 150HP diesel engine and a choice of either six-speed manual or six-speed DSG transmission and comes with sports suspension. Our vehicle had the DSG transmission. The line-up for Ireland is a 1.2-litre 105bhp TSI petrol engine in a 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG, a 1.4-litre 150bhp TSI petrol engine with same transmission offerings as the 1.2-litre above, the 2.0-litre 110bhp TDI diesel (5-speed manual or 7-speed DSG) or the aforementioned 2.0-litre 150bhp TDI diesel (6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG). Our 2.0-litre engine had a nice balance between being able accelerate when needed for overtaking without being necessarily quick to having decent efficiency with 4.8L/100km. The car is comfortable to drive and handles well but I didn’t get that driver to car connection over my test period. What I did get though was a car with personality, solid build quality and a sense of fun that’s hard to find in many modern cars.
Inside, the design is clean and flowing, with rounded rectangles and circles the major themes. Controls are simple, both on the wheel and on the dash. Inside the car, the traditional Volkswagen driver-focused design remains. In the R-Line this starts with ‘Sports’ instrument dials, while the pedals are trimmed in aluminium and the scuff plates feature the distinctive R-Line logo. The quality of the interior is evidenced by the leather-trimmed colour coded three-spoke multifunction steering wheel the moment you sit inside. The colour coded Sandstorm Yellow theme inside continues across the entire dash over the glovebox and across the doors and into the rear. There is plenty of leg and head room and overall very comfortable for driver and front passenger. The back seats aren’t very spacious and with the front seats extended to a normal position, leg room in the rear is all but gone. It is at best a part-time four-seater so if that suits your lifestyle and circumstances then great as you have use of the rear seats for some extra space. You will also find the glove box and other smaller storage areas located around the cabin useful for putting your everyday items into, along with the boot for larger items which has a 310 litre capacity.
Good visibility through the windows and large rearview mirrors make for easy sight lines in traffic. Standard safety equipment on the Beetle includes the usual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes and stability control; and active headrests. The optional rear view camera system enables you to view obstacles behind the vehicle on the display in the centre console making things that bit easier for parking. The Beetle has automatic emergency braking system that applies the brakes when a collision is detected to reduce the possibility of a second impact and more damage.
The Bug has character and has some go. It’s not overally quick but has enough pace to keep you happy and easily overtake if needed. The R-Line touches are very nice and they enhance an already good looking car. It’s a better-looking car than before but lacks that connection you get with the likes of the Golf which is a pity as it really is all that’s missing. In the end it will come down to personal circumstances though. If you have a growing family perhaps look to something a little as it just doesn’t make sense based on your needs. If that’s not an issue however and you’re looking for something with character, fun, to stand out from the crowd in what can be a sea of mundane vehicles, then look no further than the Beetle. You’ll be smiling ear to ear with no shortage of admiring glances.
Engine Size: 2.0-litre TDI four-cylinder
Fuel Type: Diesel
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic DSG
Acceleration: (0-100km/h) 8.9 seconds
Top Speed: 200km/h
CO2 Emissions: 126g/km
Road Tax: €270 per year (B1)
Base Price: €22,735
Our Test Model: €36,567