BIGGER and more efficient than its predecessor, the latest Volkswagen Beetle might not look quite so extrovert but it’s a far better car.
Does it have the sheer showroom presence to make sales though? That’s the acid test.
As with virtually every midrange vehicle launched these days, the Beetle offers more space with better efficiency.
The engines slated for British buyers have been neatly downsized.
When its predecessor was launched, the entry-level engine was a 115bhp 2.0-litre petrol unit. Nowadays, we get a 104bhp 1.2-litre TSI.
Next up is the 158bhp 1.4-litre TSI and the range-topper is the 197bhp 2.0 TSI, which uses the same engine seen in the Golf GTI
There’s only one diesel engine offered, a 104bhp 1.6-litre with BlueMotion Technology.
This engine mix suggests that Volkswagen isn’t targeting the Beetle at the hard-headed pragmatist and rightly so.
The Beetle is also built to be one of the safest cars on the road thanks not only to features such as standard ESP and six airbags but also a laser-welded and galvanised body structure which has one of the highest torsional rigidity values in the segment.
In addition the range-topping engine, the 2.0-litre 197bhp, will feature standard XDS electronic differential lock as fitted to the Golf GTI. This guarantees strong traction out of corners.
Volkswagen claims 0-62mph in 7.5sec for the 2.0-litre FSI, which is just 0.6sec slower than the 44kg lighter Golf GTi. Top speed is quoted at 139mph. An all-new electro-mechanical steering system also helps improve accuracy.
Although this Beetle’s styling isn’t quite as extreme as its predecessor’s, in many ways it’s more faithful to the design cues of the original car.
The flat section in the roof profile and tapered look to the rear end diverge from design of the New Beetle and instead draw on cues from the original and Beetle Ragster concept shown in Detroit in 2005.
Longer, wider and lower, this latest Beetle has a more muscular appearance.
The Beetle is in fact one of the most difficult cars on the market to objectively review.
The reason? Most customers care very little about its statistics, its engineering or its driving characteristics.
They’ll make their minds up on how cool it looks and then check that the price isn’t exorbitant. If it satisfies those two criteria, it’ll sell.
You might think that given this buyer behaviour, that Volkswagen would have been tempted to lift the foot off the gas a bit with the development of this car.
In fact, it’s been quite the opposite and it’s a smart longer term view. The Beetle now offers something more than a mere style statement.
Even once the novelty of the looks have worn off, buyers will be rewarded with a car that’s fun to drive and reasonably practical too.
The tactics might have changed but the strategy hasn’t. Aesthetics matter. Live a beautiful life.