The new 2012 Beetle represents another step back to the future for an iconic brand that is simply too good to let slip away.
The world held its collective baited breath when Volkswagen launched the New Beetle back in the late 1990s, before surging forward to scoop up as many of the reconstituted Bugs as the German automaker could produce.
Not many years later, the New Beetle had become not so new and its popularity waned.
Although the convertible version maintained a respectable degree of popularity, the hatchback model seemed to drift unchecked year after model year.
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Following a one-year absence, the Beetle is back this fall with sharper styling, a roomier and up-to-date interior and more available power. Yes, and the name has been shortened to just plain Beetle, if you please.
That the car is returning at all is a gutsy move. After all, nobody begrudged Chrysler for cashiering the PT Cruiser econo-hot rod following its lengthy run and well after its “best-before” date had come and gone. But VW management obviously thought the Beetle brand was worth continuing.
What has emerged is a well-balanced and sportier shape that also projects the necessary degree of charm that pays homage to that original look.
Getting the Beetle up to speed is handled by three distinct powerplants.
Base models come with a 170-horsepower 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine
that pretty much carries over from the New Beetle. Optional is VW’s
popular 140-horsepower 2.0-litre turbo-diesel (TDI) that offers a very
real alternative to most gas-electric hybrids when overall fuel economy
and initial purchase cost are factored in.
The top-rung and most performance-focused Beetle features a
200-horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that also returns
slightly better fuel economy than the base five-cylinder.
The 2012 Beetle features more people-friendly dimensions.
The distance between the front and rear wheels has been increased to
create some much-needed rear-seat legroom as well as a more generous
stowage area with either the 50:50 split rear seat occupied or folded
On the inside, the term “adult contemporary” comes to mind.
A sense of purpose and sportiness prevails with easy-to-read dials and massive air vents at either end of the dashboard.
Gone is the New Beetle’s oval, almost cartoonish appearance, replaced by
a longer hood and flatter roofline that ends in a rounded hatchway
flanked by a set of prominent taillights.
Overall it’s a look that Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, who sculpted the
original Beetle nearly three-quarters of a century ago, would likely