BEETLE TO THE POWER OF TWO
Volkswagen’s Original 2.0-Litre Beetle Faces Stiff Competition From A Growing Number Of Rivals.
The new Beetle is a Volkswagen through and through feeling like it’s hewn from stone …
With the novelty value starting to rub off, Volkswagen have been in the unusual position of having to really sell their Beetle to a public that now has a far greater choice of retro and quirky vehicles from which to choose. Cars like the MINI and Smart car are satisfying the needs of those who want to be different and have left Volkswagen with a problem that they haven’t had to face before.
Their solution has been to continually introduce new variants like the 1.4-litre, 1.6-litre, turbo-charged 1.8-litre and Cabriolet versions as well as a 1.9-litre TDi PD diesel powered model to keep customers interested and the range fresh. There’s also been a mild facelift in recent times.
The model we look at here though is the 2.0-litre petrol eight-valve 115bhp petrol engine already used, at one time or another in Golf, Bora and Passat models and capable of surprisingly good performance. This is the version that first hit the streets when the need to be seen in the latest Bug was more important to buyers than the performance or even the cost.
Now that the hype has died down, the 2.0-litre Beetle has to compete with all the newly arrived versions, so how does it fare? At £14,920 for the manual variant, it isn’t cheap and if you want the automatic, that costs £15,770. There’s also a Cabriolet alternative to the fixed top version we’re looking at here, open-topped motoring in this case priced from £18,785. Whichever version you choose, this Beetle comes with a fairly high specification along with the performance you would expect from a lusty two-litre engine. It’s decently fast (rest to sixty in 10.9s on the way to 115mph) but less frugal than any of its stablemates bar the 2.3-litre V5, with a combined consumption figure of 32.0mpg. This reduces further to 29.7mpg if you opt for the automatic gearbox.
Performance however, tends not to be an important consideration for potential Beetle buyers. What you get for your money though is and with this model the creature comforts over and above the standard fare consists of manual air-conditioning, ABS brakes, ‘Route 66’ alloy wheels, ‘Canasta’ cloth upholstery and carpet mats. You also get a very handy 12-volt socket in the luggage compartment. In addition, expect to find electric front windows, powered heated and adjustable mirrors, tinted glass, remote central locking and an alarm. You can get all these things in a Golf of course – or indeed in any other sensible family hatchback. But then, you don’t buy a Beetle to be sensible.
The car has, as we’ve said, been recently mildly facelifted but the changes haven’t amounted to much. There are revised bumpers and wheelarches, with sharper edges than before, plus subtly restyled headlights and front indicators, and tail lights with white circles inside the red circles. The ‘VW’ emblems have also been modified at the front and rear. In addition, there’s a new range of colours and alloy wheels, complemented by fresher fabrics for the interior. Chrome now adorns the air vents and surrounds the instruments, for what Volkswagen reckon is an even higher quality feel inside.
This Beetle’s interior is even more of a shock than the outside; full marks to the design team for doing the job properly, rather than filling it with Golf and Polo dials from the Volkswagen parts bin. Of course, there are plenty of tell-tale Volkswagen signs; the switches, the firm seats, the positive gearbox – but you don’t really notice them. What you do notice are all the natty stylish touches. The big central circular instrument cluster with its huge numbers and cute little built-in rev counter.
As you’d expect from a car with such a high roofline, there’s enough room inside to wear a top hat should the mood take you. More practically, that high roofline does make travelling in the rear reasonably palatable, although legroom is at a bit of a premium. Nice touches include folding rear seat that increases boot space, the height adjustable seats and the three 12V power sockets installed around the car. On the road, the ride is Germanically firm and the handling competent but generally uninspiring.
The new Beetle is a Volkswagen through and through feeling like it’s hewn from stone, with the kind of build quality you’d expect from something twice as expensive. The little touches help too; the lovely blue instrument lighting which illuminates only the figures on the speedometer; the beautifully designed unique-fit stereo. Equipment levels, as we’ve seen, include most things on the average wish list and include ESP, the Electronic Stability Programme normally reserved for performance models. This senses when you’ve entered a corner too fast and automatically reduces the power whilst selectively applying individual brakes so that the car can be kept under control. On the passive safety front, there’s twin side and front airbags built around a platform that’s still one of the safest things this side of £30,000.
This 2.0-litre Beetle has a fight on its hands and not just with the opposition’s products. Most prospective customers will be looking for something different to what this model offers. It is neither the fastest, most economical or cheapest in the range and the specification could offer more. So who’s going to continue to buy this Beetle? Perhaps a keenly priced 2.0-litre special edition version would answer that one. Over to you Volkswagen….