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Volkswagen Beetle 1.4 Design

Click to view picture gallery“In its latest incarnation, although
  very retro in design, the Beetle is
  a much more muscular, even macho,
  three-door coupe-styled model...”

PRICES ARE TEMPTING for this new Beetle — starting from 16,490 for the 103bhp 1.2 TSI turbocharged petrol version (with a standard-fit seven-speed DSG automated gearbox) and topping out (for the moment) at 21,220 for the 157bhp 1.4 TSI twin-charge petrol unit with a six-speed manual transmission.

More costly and more powerful units will be introduced to the line-up in due course, as too will a cabriolet version. However, due to the world-wide demand for 1.2-litre engines, UK deliveries (from April this year) will only be of the 1.4-litre version.

This third generation Beetle runs with a front engine, front-wheel drive, three doors and four seats. It's also a design break from the style and proportions of the 1998 generation and has a longer bonnet, a more steeply inclined windscreen, coupe-like side profile, a longer roof (for reasonable back seat headroom), and the characteristic sloping clamshell tailgate. Top models feature a rear bootlid spoiler.

“The new design shows
off some real ‘steroid
growth’ — it’s a totally
new image that will
appeal to male drivers far
more than the previous
models which were
considered very ‘girlie’
This 2012 Beetle is longer and wider, too, with wide track widths and pronounced mudguards and side sills, but it is still sports a retro theme.

At the same time the new design shows off some real 'steroid growth' — it's a totally new image which will appeal to male drivers far more than the previous models which were considered very 'girlie'.

The muscular retro theme continues inside, enhanced by modern treatments. I love the paint finish to the full-width fascia that matches the exterior body colour — retro but modern. It's not going to appeal to mainstream buyers but the latest Beetle will undoubtedly find many older friends.

VW has a policy of not saying how many cars they expect to sell of any of their model ranges. More than 5,000; that's my guess as to how many will be snapped up each year by drivers who find this thoroughly modern Beetle absolutely irresistible. It's also a car for couples who want more than just a sensible hatchback or saloon; who want their motor to make a statement.

In the fullness of time, a total of five engines will be available to UK customers: three petrol and two diesel. Petrol engines take in a 103bhp 1.2-litre TSI, a 157bhp 1.4 TSI and a 197bhp 2.0 TSI; diesel choices are a 103bhp 1.6 TDI with BlueMotion Technology and 112 g/km that returns 65.7mpg on the combined cycle, and a 138bhp 2.0 TDI.

The new model's launch engine (tested here) is a 1.4-litre petrol unit with an exhaust-driven turbocharger twinned with a supercharger. The turboed 1.2 petrol engine arriving in 2013 is paired with a seven-speed DSG twin-clutch auto 'box. Other variants get six-speed manual gearboxes.

“The 157bhp 1.4 turboed
and supercharged
unit drives through a
six-speed manual ’box,
returns a real-world
42.8mpg, has a 129mph
top speed and gets to
62mph in 8.3 seconds
Depending on the engine, there are three distinct trim levels: Beetle; Design; and Sport. Optional equipment includes keyless access, satellite navigation, a panoramic sunroof, bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, etc.

Yet another option is the Fender sound pack — developed in conjunction with the legendary Fender electric guitar company, it's an audiophile's delight that serves up a 400W output and comes with a subwoofer and switchable three-colour illumination surrounding the front speakers.

The mainstay engine, and the first new Beetle in UK showrooms, is the 157bhp 1.4 turboed and supercharged unit. With a standard six-speed manual 'box, this unit officially returns 42.8mpg — my test drive recorded a 38.8mpg average. 153g/km of CO2 means road tax is 165 a year and BIK 20%. Maximum speed is 129mph, with zero to 62mph in 8.3 seconds.

I also had the opportunity to drive one of the 103bhp 1.2-litre petrol-powered Beetles which are not due in the UK until 2013. With its standard seven-speed DSG autobox and its 16,490 price tag it will, for most people, be the right choice. 111mph is the top speed and 10.9 seconds is all it needs to hit 62mph from standstill. And this all from a 'lowly' 1.2-litre engine. 47.9mpg is the official combined figure and my test drive saw 42.5mpg. Road tax is 115 a year and company car users will pay 17% BIK.

But you don't have to overspend: I like the standard Beetle spec right down to the retro-styled 16-inch steel wheels with wheel trims! Plus the ride comfort is better than with the Design's 17-inch alloys.

“The new Beetle has
retro style, is beautifully
made, feels solid, is
roomy and well
equipped, looks great
inside and out and makes
a real statement about
your individuality
All Beetle models come with AirCon, power windows and door mirrors, multifunction computer, DAB digital radio, a good sound system, retro styled interior trim along with a full set of airbags, an electronic handling programme and traction control. Luggage carrying is taken care of by a 310-litre boot that converts to a 905-litre loadbay when you fold down the back seats.

Reasons to get with the latest Beetle include the retro style, it's beautifully made, feels solid, it's roomy and well equipped, looks great inside and out and makes a strong statement about your individuality.

While the Beetle is not as dynamically accomplished as a thoroughbred sports coupe, it is more charming. And, as already noted, specify larger wheels and you'll get a firmer and less controlled ride.

However, when all's said and done, it's a smart package inside and out. And I want one! It's already on my shopping list for when the 1.2-litre models arrive next year. And I can't say fairer than that. — David Miles

Volkswagen Beetle 1.4 Design | 19,470
Maximum speed: 129mph | 0-62mph: 8.3 seconds | Overall test MPG: 38.8mpg
Power: 157bhp | Torque: 177lb ft | CO2 153g/km