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Volkswagen Beetle 2013 review: road test

EXPERT RATING
7

They said it wouldn't last; that the VW New Beetle, launched in 1998, would be a flash in the automotive pan. Pundits predicted the revived Beetle would drag in a few lovers of the old air-cooled VW from the 1960s and ‘70s then quietly fade away.

Twelve years, yes 12, it was finally discontinued to be replaced by this new New Beetle, although this time around Volkswagen has ditched the ‘New’ and it’s simply the Beetle, presumably flagging the fact that the model will be in the lineup indefinitely.

VALUE

It’s priced from $29,990 and gets a large speedo in front of the driver in a separate binnacle. It’s easy to read at a slightest glance and revives memories of the old air-cooled cars.

The new Beetle feature we like most of all is the painted dashboard and door tops, harking back to the mid years of the 1900s when this was the norm. The new Fiat 500 has the same interior idea and it’s worked brilliantly on that car for many years.

DESIGN

(Warning! politically incorrect remarks ahead!) While there’s no doubting the intention of the stylists to retain the shape that has been familiar since 1936, this new Beetle is less feminine than before. Whereas girls (of all ages) were the biggest buyers of the new Beetle, the 2013 version has plenty of masculinity in its beetle-like shape.

Indeed, the head of the design team, Frank J Bruese who flew to Australia for the launch of his new baby, explained that there were elements of the American hotrod culture in the lines of the car. If you squint sideways and use a bit of imagination this may well be the case.

The most telling feature of all is the large aero spoiler that sits at the bottom edge of the rear windscreen. I like it, then again I liked the shape of what was to become the New Beetle from the first time I saw it in concept form at various international motor shows during the mid ‘90s. Just as I loved the style of the three beetles I owned over seven years during the heyday of the original.

The biggest and best changes in this third generation Volkswagen Beetle are in the interior. There’s no longer the feeling you’re sitting in the back of the car and peering over a vast expanse of dashtop through a small windscreen. While the driving position is still less than conventional that may well be a good thing because the semi-upright windscreen gives you better visibility than in many modern hatches and sedans.

TECHNOLOGY

At this stage the only powerplant in the front of the Beetle is the familiar Volkswagen 1.4-litre Twincharger. This engine uses a supercharger and turbocharger to provide strong torque through a big slab of the rev range. With 240 Nm of torque all the way from 1500 to 450 revs we found the engine strong and willing at all times in day-to-day driving.

DRIVING

You wouldn't say the Beetle has the characteristic engine note of the old models, but there’s a modern note that does provide a bit of personality. The double-clutch automated manual gearbox (DSG in VW terms) we tested proved better than average for its type, with no fussiness at very low speeds.

Hopefully the engineers have finally come to grips with this otherwise excellent type of automatic. Ride comfort is good on most surfaces and the slightly firm suspension provides the sort of handling that keen drivers will love. A sports coupe it’s not, but the 2013 Beetle will be given the nod by all but full-on revheads.

Revheads will need to hold off for turbocharged all-wheel-drive models that surely can’t be too far down the track. Build quality is good, this VW Beetle is built in Mexico but it’s obvious the German head office is keeping a close eye on the output from that large plant that has been screwing together Volkswagens for many years now.

VERDICT

There’s no doubting that the car is lower, heavier in the rear, more aggressive in the window cutouts and has a stronger stance on the road.

Pricing Guides

$19,888
Based on 9 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$14,913
Highest Price
$26,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $14,913 – 15,950 2013 Volkswagen Beetle 2013 (base) Pricing and Specs
Fender Edition 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $17,999 – 26,990 2013 Volkswagen Beetle 2013 Fender Edition Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7