Beefier Beetle bulks up on price
"The version that made its debut in 2011 is the longest, lowest, toughest-looking Beetle Volkswagen has ever produced."
When I was a kid, the kind of money Volkswagen now asks for a new 2012 Beetle would have been unbelievable.
Back then, the Beetle was building its reputation on dependability at a reasonable price. Today, that dependability often is called into question in owner surveys, and the price has zoomed to the point where you actually can buy a full-size Chevrolet Impala for less.
Base price of a new 2012 Impala is $28,125. Base price of our Beetle test car in Sportline trim: $32,390.
To be fair, you can get a 2012 Beetle, in Comfortline trim with manual transmission, for as little as $21,975, but even then it’s priced thousands above its compact car competition.
There’s no need to wonder why you see so few of this latest generation Beetle on our highways.
And that’s too bad because the version that made its debut in 2011 is the longest, lowest, toughest-looking Beetle Volkswagen has ever produced. And with a new-for-2012 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, it’s also the fastest. But, it may also be the thirstiest.
The 200-hp turbo four replaces last year’s 170-hp inline five-cylinder gasoline engine. Thus equipped, and coupled to the optional six-speed automatic direct shift gearbox (DSG), our Beetle can sprint from 0-100 km/h in about 6.3 seconds, with just a little turbo lag. But it delivers combined highway/city fuel economy of only 9.1 L/100km - worse than a recently tested Mercedes-Benz E350 with AWD.
VW interiors and controls are known for being quite simple and utilitarian - unlike other cars from Germany, which tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. So the Beetle’s multi-function touch screen display for nav, phone, etc. is a bit out of place here. It’s confusing and hard to use. Note to VW engineers: Stick to simple. Simple is good.
By contrast, the audio and HVAC controls are straightforward and the centre armrest/storage bin flips up to provide easy access to the front cupholders.
If only accessing the rear seat was as easy. Getting in and out is awkward, and there’s very little legroom back there. You’re forced to sit upright, but here’s another problem: there’s not much headroom either.
The 50/50 split rear seatbacks fold forward to increase luggage space. However, they don’t create a flat cargo floor unless the rear seat headrests are removed.
I don’t like the piano black trim accents that show every dust mote and fingerprint, but I am in love with the premium 400-watt Fender sound system. It has a great satellite radio feature I have seen only on Volkswagens, which allows you to continue listening to the selected channel while scanning the others to see what else is playing. I want it!
Volkswagens really are fun to drive and this new Beetle is no exception with its sport suspension, quick power-assisted rack and pinion steering and tight turning circle. Sportline trim provides useful features such as heated seats, keyless ignition, 18-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust and electronic stability control. Oddly, neither driver nor front passenger gets a power seat.
You could consider the turbocharged 2012 model to be a Beetle on steroids, and it certainly looks that way - more muscular than any previous generation.
The more time I spend in this car, the more I like it. But I would trade a little performance and some of its aggressive styling for a more useable back seat.
But I really do want the radio.
2012 VW Beetle
Trim level: Sportline
As tested before taxes: $32,390
Options on test car: Technology Pkg. ($1,290) inc.: Fender 400-watt sound system with 8 speakers plus subwoofer, navigation system, touch screen; Connectivity Pkg. ($675) inc.: iPod and Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity
Configuration: Front engine/ front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.0L turbo 4-cyl./ 6-spd auto. with sequential shift
Power/torque: 200 hp/207 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): Premium recommended (55L)
Fuel economy ratings: 9.0 L/100km city; 6.5 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 9.1 L/100km over 640 km
Warranties: 4 years/ 80,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100,000 (powertrain)
Competitors: Chevrolet Sonic; Ford Focus; Honda Civic; Hyundai Elantra; Nissan Versa; Toyota Corolla
Strengths: great audio system; acceleration; nimble in traffic
Weaknesses: price; tight rear seat; small trunk; likes premium gas