In all honesty, the last time we got behind the wheel of the reincarnated bug-inspired icon on wheels in its New Beetle (1997–2010) avatar, we weren’t too impressed. 2011 onwards, though, VW has decided to drop the ‘new’ prefix and put together the car bearing the legendary nameplate with a mission to make it more agile, more fun, more practical and injected it with a mild dose of testosterone for a slightly more muscular appearance. We took the bug out on a delicately sunny, pleasant day for a long-ish spin, sans any lofty hopes. Painted in bright orange, one of the colours found on the bug it found its inspiration from, the Beetle looked resplendent, with some of its chrome laden details glinting splendidly in a gentle pre-noon sun. Did we turn second time lucky? You’ll soon know.
Design and style
Having found its newest form through the seasoned hands of Walter de Silva, the man at the helm at VW Design, and the father of epic modern classics such as the original Audi TT and the VW Scirocco, the Beetle has struck a relatively flamboyant shape this time around. A flatter bonnet, more length and width, along with a more forceful overall stance take away the overly cutesy demeanour and inject a bit more purpose to the car.
Mild hints of the Beetle having grown some soft tendons can be seen in places like the front bumper, which gets a mildly chiselled kink, bunking the usual a soft curve while reaching the flanks. A central air dam is an integrated unit, and somewhat reminds us of the Polo, fog lamps and the slim chrome slat included. Elliptical chrome lined headlamps housing projector lamps and dotted brilliantly on the sides with LED DRLs are a fantastic blend of classic lines and modern tech, and look the part. Between the two eyes of the bug, the VW emblem shines brilliantly on that legendary, curvaceous hood.
On to the sides, the Beetle has extended its arches more than ever in a bid to appear squatter and wider than ever. To put things in perspective, it’s 84mm wider, 12mm lower and 152mm longer than its predecessor. The window sills get a chrome lining, so do the mouldings on doors. The upper portion of the greenhouse gets a black lining though.
The 16 inches 10 spoke wheels on the car look neat, though they don’t evoke a retro feel. The small dual-tone duck tail spoiler is a beautiful touch though, adding both an element of sportiness and a sprinkle of yesteryears’ memories.
We aren’t too fond of that shiny chrome lashed mirrors though – they look way too loud on what’s a bona fide classical package.
At the rear, the sharply dropping roof, along with those massive haunches extending properly into the car’s derriere and that ducktail spoiler make for a familiarly curvy shape, though the proportions of those elements are bigger than we have ever seen. The rear bumper with its sharp horizontal crease adds one more chiselled surface to the package, and once again underlines the sporty inclinations of this Beetle.
The Beetle is still unmistakably a Beetle, though it’s bigger, bolder and slightly more baroque this time. Even after 75 years of age, the nameplate is ready to imbibe modern cues, and in turn gives us a car which is probably the most amazing amalgamation of vintage charm with a modern appeal.
Engine and transmission
Powered by the 1.4 TSI engine, the Beetle gets 150PS of power produced between 5000-6000 rpm. Peak torque is rated at 250Nm and produced between a low 1500 – 3500 rpm. The engine is mated to the tried and tested, quick and smooth, 7-speed DSG automatic box. Thanks to that hardware which we have sampled, and been delight with elsewhere as well, the Beetle managed to indulge us with its performance, unlike the last time.
The engine is responsive to the pedal, buttery smooth and doesn’t resist revving. The low cubic capacity does have some effect on its eagerness to deliver power in the sub 2000 rpm range too. This affects the responsiveness of the transmission in slow moving traffic condition in drive, not S mode, as one may be fooled into believing that the shifts are slower than ideal. Mash the pedal, and the bug wakes up offering swift, smooth and unfaultable shifts we can have come to expect from that dual clutch transmission.
You also get to shift using steering mounted pedals which are concealed neatly behind that wheel with parts of it splashed in body colour. Bury the pedal in drive mode and it’ll keep holding on to the revs until it kisses redline. It’ll shift early or higher up the tacho arc based on how gentle or rude you are with the right pedal.
Whack the satin silver finished shifter into S and the transmission turns even wilder, shifting with more ferocity and allowing the needle to slingshot higher even when there isn’t much need for it.
The 4 pot motor is smooth and makes the Beetle build speed at a rather deceptive pace. You wouldn’t know when you’ve nudged 140 kays even as the engine keeps building pace. Great noise insulation, an absorbent suspension, solid punch from that mill, a propensity to rev freely, and a Golf derived chassis, all add up to the Beetle’s capability to travel at a fast clip. 0-100 can be attained in less than 9 seconds, and the car will get past the double ton mark gave the space. It’s a sweet package, thoroughly sporty, enjoyable and equally practical.
Even after being reasonably punchy and quick, the Beetle isn’t a guzzler by any measure. Even with a relatively heavy foot it isn’t difficult to extract fuel efficiency in excess of 10kmpl from this package. Be more careful, and you could actually make the figure go up to 14 kmpl. Abuse it if you will, and the Beetle would still return a respectable 8 kmpl. Part of it is made possible by the coast function which allows the engine to be declutched when the foot is taken off the accelerator pedal, letting the vehicle coast and roll over a longer distance. With some foresight, the function can be used to great effect to reduce consumption. As the brake, accelerator pedal or the gear selector lever is operated, the clutch is re-engaged. Coasting Function can be selected or deselected via the MFD on the instrument console using the steering mounted controls. The gear selector lever is required to be in the D position for the feature to be functional.
Interior and features
In its newest generation, VW have decided to jazz things up on the inside and have painted the dashboard, door panels and parts of the steering wheel in body colour. It’s a polarizing act, and we have some guys in Motoroids office who cannot lament that body painted interior enough. My personal take on it is extremely positive though. The Beetle always has had a strong feminine appeal to it, and that dashboard in that bright orange hue would liven a lady’s day up. It’s well finished, and adds tons of character to that cabin.
Behind the steering wheel, the three pod instrument cluster gets a big analogue speedo in the middle flanked by a tacho to the left and fuel guage to the right. A monochrome multifunction display under the speedo offers rich information on a variety of parameters including fuel efficiency, distance to dry, audio source and a lot more. Check out all the readouts in the gallery below.
On the central console, the car gets a 6.3 inch touch screen, which is appreciably responsive to touch, though the resolution in today’s world of quad HD displays could have been richer. We loved the interface though with simple and intuitive menus making life easy browsing through and using various controls. Inputs include CD, Aux-in, Bluetooth, SD card and USB along with Radio reception. We connected to the audio system with an aux-in cable, and the sound was crisp until we started reaching the upper limit of the volume. There was some distortion to be heard clearly, though it went away once we reduced the bass and treble levels in the sound settings. In all, it’s a solid system with eight speakers, though it does show signs of distortion once you turn up the volume full blast. Here’s a gallery taking you through all the menus and functions on the central screen
Below the infotainment screen, you get a two-zone climate control with rotary knobs. There is some rubberized space underneath for a wallet or a cellphone too. Behind the drive selector, you get a pair of longitudinally arranging cup holders, followed by a slim central armrest with a flip open lid and some space underneath.
The leather seats with a ribbed look are comfortable and well bolstered, though there is no power adjustment here. You get manual seat height adjustment along with lumbar support though. The steering is adjustable for reach and rake with height adjustment on offer, we managed to find our sweet driving spot in a matter of moments.
The door panels are painted in body colour and black, with a satin silver detailing on the inner handles, in line with similar accents across the cabin. The finish of these inserts, along with the quality of materials and upholstery lends the Beetle a solid, premium, and built to last feel.
Some of the party tricks on the Beetle include a three-colour mood lighting which allows certain sections like the front speaker rims inside the car to be lit in the red, blue or white light.
There’s an electric sunroof on offer too, though the opening isn’t too wide owing to the two-door layout and the heavily sloping roofline.
Finally, to make things look properly dramatic and grand, the doors show you their frameless window design when swung open
Access to the rear is difficult, though dropping and sliding the front seats is a breeze thanks to the easy drop and pull lever.
Space at the rear, as you’d expect is limited, and with no winding windows and a sloping roofline, meant only for small kids.
Same is not the case with the boot though, which is a generous 310 litre and can be further expanded by dropping the rear seats 50:50.
Under the boot floor you’ll find a 125 / 90 R 16 Continental space saver spare with an 80 kmph maximum speed marking and the gear to put it up when need be.
Here’s the interior and features of what VW calls the 21st Century beetle in more detail
LED light brake light strip sits under that pretty looking two-tone ducktail spoiler. Volkswagen badge flips in and also doubles up as the handle to open the boot
Boot area gets illuminated with that light
Boot space is a generous 310 litres and can be further extended by dropping down those 50:50 split seats. Thos seats don’t drop fully flat though
As mentioned above, the VW badge doubles up as the handle for the boot opening
Select mood lighting colour using that rotary selector reading R, B and W for red, blue and white respectively
Chrome strips on door mouldings on both sides
Twin exhausts are an indication for the trailers to not to try and overtake in vein
Those bi-xenon lamps with LED DRLs look just right on the Beetle
We love those tail-lamps too
There are two glove compartments, one in the dash and and one below it, in the normal position
The battery for the car comes wrapped in a paper like casing
All the seats are fully manual, which is a bit of a shame for this segment. You get height, recline and lumbar adjustment
The rubberized tray on the dash is great for keeping small articles such as wallets and cellphones
There’s some storage space available underneath the front armrest as well
Two cup holders and a small crevice ahead of the selector lever to store small articles
Ride and handling
A wide track, short length, low centre of gravity a capable chassis borrowed from the Golf / Jetta ensure that the Beetle delights with its road manners. It runs squat, glued to the road and instils commendable confidence in the driver with the Hankook Kinergy 215 / 60 Eco tyres offering loads and loads of grip. The Beetle goes around corners with uncanny self-belief. Sharing its underpinnings with the Mk6 (previous generation) Golf, the Beetle has a solid chassis, bestowing it with laudable body control and fantastic poise.
The steering is light and even after weighting up with speed remains on the lighter side. It’s precise though and you can throw around this retro-styled machine with confidence around corners. As you gain speed, it wraps itself tight around you and allows for an involving, taut, solid driving experience that rewards the skilled driver.
As we mentioned before, this Beetle can attain fast speeds deceptively, and the situation doesn’t change around bends either. Clawing hard on to the tar the Beetle somehow has its own illusory style of making you enter fast sweeping corners at silly speeds. It’s confidence and grip for the class is something to be experienced. After a 150 km drive we were marvelling at the progress this specific model has made over its forebear in terms of its dynamic ability.
It’s not just the handling aspect on this Beetle that delights, the suspension is absorbent and goes over broken patches of Indian tar as though it was designed specifically for it. While not overly soft, it’s surprisingly pliant and like one the Audi A3 Cabrio we tested some time back, surprised us with its capability to take on our notorious terrain unperturbed. Part of it can be attributed to the high profile rubber, acting as a robust primary suspension along with the honed secondary system.
The Beetle offers an amazingly balanced ride handling package for its class. It’s easy to manoeuvre, handles like a dream and strides over undulations in a manner quite astonishing for its class.
At around INR 29 lakh ex-showroom, the Beetle is the most economical car to own as compared to its closest rivals – the Mini Cooper S and the Fiat 595 Abarth. It may not be the most focused or involving car to drive of the three, but it sure is the most comfortable, the most practical and arguably the most iconic and desirable of the three. The Beetle may not be the people mover it was when it originated, and has gone on to become more of a fashion statement, inaccessible to the ‘folks’ it was originally meant for, but a statement it does make in its current avatar, more strongly than any of its rivals. It the kind of machine one can use for the daily commute to work and for a heady trip to the hills over the weekend. More than anything, it’s just the car for the fashionista who drives herself and describes her fashion as something that makes her feel confident and comfortable. Unpretentious, yet dashing and confident – the Beetle is the machine for the level-headed style conscious.
Price as tested: Rs 29 lakh ex-showroom
Technical Specifications :
- Engine: 1395 cc, 4 cyl, turbo and supercharged
- Fuel: Petrol
- Power: 148 bhp @ 5000 – 6000RPM
- Torque: 250 Nm @ 1500RPM
- Fuel efficiency: (ARAI) 17.68kmpl
- Transmission: 7 speed DSG Automatic Type Automatic
- Drivetrain: Front Wheel Drive