Car Reviews

2012 Volkswagen Beetle Hatchback Review

New Volkswagen Beetle eclipses predecessor

One of the better looking retro-modern cars, the new Beetle is miles ahead of the last re-imagination with sharper looks, a more spacious interior and better engines.


One of the better looking retro-modern cars, the new Beetle is miles ahead of the last re-imagination with sharper looks, a more spacious interior and better engines. Its biggest problem comes in the guise of the car that replaced it at the top of the Volkswagen sales charts. But for those looking for something out of the ordinary the Beetle certainly has its appeal.

Key Facts

Model tested: Volkswagen Beetle Sport
Pricing: €32,084 as tested (Beetle prices start at €20,195)
Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: three-door hatchback
Rivals: Citroen DS3, MINI, Peugeot RCZ
CO2 emissions: 153g/km (Band C, €390 per annum)
Combined economy: 6.2 litres/100km (45.6mpg)
Top speed: 208km/h
0-100km/h: 8.3 seconds
Power: 160hp at 5,800rpm
Torque: 240Nm at 1,500- to 4,500rpm

In the Metal: 4/5

Considering the current throwaway society, it seems strange that this is only the third Volkswagen Beetle since the car's launch in 1938. We suspect that the German giant would rather you forget the second iteration of the iconic car though; it was too cartoony and girly for many, obviously aimed at a particular demographic and, on a whole, not particularly good. The "21st Century Beetle", with its flatter roofline, wider stance and racier looks bears more than a passing resemblance to the Porsche 911, which is much more like it.

Mercifully Volkswagen resisted the temptation to just fit the Beetle with a Golf interior, and instead came up with a bespoke creation complete with nods towards the past, but devoid of the silly flower holder that most people remember from the second generation car. The somewhat vertical dashboard houses a miniature glove box that harks back to that in the original car, even down to the way in which it opens. It is literally a glove box however with space in it for little more than a pair of mittens, but there is a regular sized storage area below.

Interior space has been put to much better use than before but the Beetle is still strictly a four-seater, with generous leg- and headroom in the rear for passengers. Boot space is up nearly 50 per cent - from 209- to 310 litres (expandable to 905 litres with seats folded) and benefits from a wide opening that allows for easy loading.

Driving it: 3/5

The Beetle is based on the older Mk6 Golf platform, rather than the all-singing, all-dancing MQB platform, so does not offer the same levels of comfort and feedback as the new Golf/Leon/A3. The ride is still composed and comfortable at motorway speeds but does tend to crash a bit over poorer quality roads - a feeling intensified by the 18-inch 'Disc' alloys on our test car. That said the new model is still a million times better than the insipid previous generation.

Undoubtedly the top sellers in Ireland will be either the 1.2-litre petrol or 1.6-litre diesel, but the 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine fitted to our car made a good case for itself. With 160hp it is an entertaining unit with enough verve to keep the new car's more masculine clientele interested, while fuel consumption of 6.2 litres/100km will not break the bank. The one blot in the copy book is the emissions of 153g/km that lead to Band C road tax. While the €390 is not unreasonable, figures show that unless a car is in the two lowest bands than it is not at the races in this market.

What you get for your Money: 3/5

Prices for the Beetle start from €20,195 for the entry level car equipped with the 105hp 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine or €22,215 for the 105hp 1.6-litre diesel. These feature cruise control, air conditioning, leather steering wheel, handbrake and gear gaiter and steel wheels with what Volkswagen calls 'attractive wheel covers'.

Mid-spec Design cars start from €22,175 and get 16-inch 'Whirl' alloys, comfort front seats, auto wipers and extra gauges for turbo pressure, oil temperature and a stopwatch. Top spec Sport models, like the one tested, are fitted with 17-inch 'Spin' alloys, climate control, tinted windows and sports pedals, all from €26,585.

Our test car was spruced by further with leather upholstery, 18-inch alloys, a Fender sound system and some other touches that pushed the price up to €32,084.

Worth Noting

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the most successful cars ever with nearly 21 million examples sold. Unsurprisingly the 'Type 1' accounts for the vast majority of sales with the 1998 re-imagination only racking up a million sales. Volkswagen hopes this new car, with its broader appeal, can do better.


Volkswagen's new Beetle is immeasurably better than the car it replaces, with better looks, interior space and engine line-up. While we don't quite buy into the more masculine ethos behind the car it is certainly more asexual. With the Mark 7 Golf starting for less than the Beetle however you really have to want one not to go for the new 'People's Car'.