It was a muscle-bound car, with bulging wheel arches and bulbous, rounded roof, but it had a vase for, if you were on-trend, a gerbera flower on the dashboard. It was a stimulant packed demonstration that a motoring icon of 1930s heritage was back.
Now, it’s having another curtain call. And it is no less androgenous.
The flower vase has gone, but so have the biceps: the 2012 model has been squeezed and pulled in all directions. It is 152mm longer, 84mm wider and 12mm lower. The wheelbase has also been increased.
Combined, these factors mean the latest Beetle (no longer called New Beetle) looks deliberately more like the original ‘people’s car’.
Such a move in 1998 would’ve backfired. You don’t make a bold statement by repeating yourself; now it seems a little more comfortable with the truly retro direction.
As a result the car is much more comfortable. Millimetres have made a difference to driver legroom, particularly. In the past, I considered buying a New Beetle, but the seat didn’t go back far enough and the reach and rake couldn’t compensate sufficiently. The boot size also seemed restrictive (this has been increased from 209 to 310 litres).
So I bought a Golf which had no such problems. With the new car, the Beetle would be a serious contender.
The 2.0-litre TDI engine is also a treat. It is one of four engines available, three petrol and a diesel: 1.2-litre TSI 105PS, a 1.4-litre TSI 160PS, a 2.0-litre TSI 200PS petrol and a 2.0-litre TDI 140PS. Six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox technology – the next gear effectively in standby until engaged – lives up to the hype with smooth changes.
The only surprise comes in the acceleration – it doesn’t take much pressure on the accelerator before the turbo demonstrates its power.
A new seven-speed version means an improved acceleration from standstill in first and the seventh gear acts as an overdrive, apparently making it ideal for motorway driving and improving fuel economy.
AM has the Beetle for six months. We’ll be covering all angles of the car in that time.