Thursday, August 2, 2012
Fire up the... Volkswagen Beetle 1.4 TSI 160PS Design
The old Beetle - by which I mean the cutesy hatchback of 1990s vintage, not the clattery rear-engined original - had a slight notoriety because it was the only new car on sale which offered you a vase rather than an ashtray. It's a novelty that's vanished from the latest version, but don't let that put you off. If you really want somewhere to stick your flowers, go to a garden centre.
What it lacks in floral storage systems the new arrival makes up with having something much better; substance to match the groovy, Sixties-inspired styling. While there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the outgoing Beetle it was trying to compete with the MINI and the Fiat 500 with nothing more than a twelve-year-old shape and Golf mechanicals long past their sell by date to call upon; the new one, on the other hand, is genuinely new and an an awful lot better.
By far and away this Beetle's best bit is the interior, which is not only easier to live with than the last one but genuinely stylish too. The body coloured dashboard, the neatly integrated stereo, and the glovebox seemingly inspired by a SMEG fridge are a joy to behold, and has the same chunky, bombproof feel as everything else the enormous VW Group, Europe's biggest car company, makes.
It's no hot hatch to drive but for something that doesn't pretend to be it's a reassuring companion, with handling that's tidy rather than grin-wideningly fun. That said, the 160bhp petrol version I drove pulled more than quickly enough, and settled down to offer nothing more than an ambient hum on longer runs.
The new Beetle, however, is all about looks and it's here where I genuinely don't know whether it'll thrive or flop. I like it because it's more sophisticated and less cute than the old car - something I'd happily be seen in - but it loses a little impact in the process.
For nineteen grand it's a genuinely good offering. Perhaps one you'll love a little bit less, but definitely one you'll respect a whole lot more.