_RE-IMAGINING _a car as iconic as the Volkswagen Beetle is no easy task and, after the mis-step that was the New Beetle in the late 1990s, coming up with a model befitting the vehicle's rich history was essential for the German company this time around.
Thankfully, the third Beetle generation in 70-odd years is a step up from its predecessor, paying homage to its history while still very much being a car for the 21st century. And with a price starting at $29,990 (plus on-road costs) for the manual, it will likely have many interested.
Design-wise, it gets a tick.
Though it may not be quintessentially "Beetle" looking enough for some, the round eyes and bold wheel arches are prominent, while the body as a whole is longer, wider and lower than before.
At the car's Australian launch in Brisbane, its exterior designer Frank Breuse said the body was based on the original design and the various hot rod-like modifications VW fans around the world have put in place.
As a whole, the car has a sophisticated yet still-fun appearance, with the longer bonnet appearing almost Porsche-like. Under the bonnet - no, the engine's not in the back - a 1.4-litre TSI as found in the Golf is the only power option and the four-cylinder twincharger gets the Beetle from zero to 100km/h in 6.8 seconds.
Transmission is either via six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG. Safety is another strong point, with electronic stability control, hill start assist and front and side/head airbags.
Drive-wise, it's sprightly and fun. Considering they share the same drive train, it could be easy to call it a Golf with a different shell, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
It's a great engine and the Beetle's responsive handling and good weight distribution makes it fun to throw into corners, giving it a level of sporty appeal.
The interior continues the simplicity of the outside, with the body colour used on the trim inside a nice retro touch.
The small "Beetle Box" compartment above the glovebox is cute and historically accurate, but its size limits its use. Standard features include Bluetooth, rear spoiler, front and rear parking assist and rain-sensing wipers, though sat-nav is available only as an option and will cost a hefty $2500.
The automatic will cost $32,490 while a limited edition of 200 Fender editions, featuring black pearl paint and sunburst interior trim akin to the Fender Stratocaster guitar, will also make it to Australia with a price tag of $34,490.
Volkswagen is also expected to offer capped-price servicing on the new model and the car isn't without issues.
Though the roof height in the back has increased, taller people will likely hit their heads over speed humps. The interior is a bit plastic overall.
However, the Beetle is about personal expression. Those looking to make an individual statement will likely approve of the design, while those with memories of the original Bug may look at the price and be tempted to grab a slice of nostalgia.
Volkswagen said they hoped they were "creating a new icon" with their latest Beetle. Though it is doubtful they've done that, they have at least released a car worthy of the name.
- VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE *
- Price * $29,990 (manual); $32,490 (auto), $34,490 (limited Fender edition)
- Engine * 1.4-litre four-cylinder twincharger direct-injection petrol
- Outputs *118kW/240Nm
- Transmission *Six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG
- Thirst * 6.8L/100km (manual), 6.4L/100km (DSG)
- Safety * Five stars