Sunday, February 17, 2008

Volkswagen Beetle Tested

Quick Summary
Not Recommended. It's almost impossible to believe this car was once the height of cool. Desperately dated and dynamically indifferent.

Full Road Test

The current Beetle stands as a dire warning to car designers about the risk of excessively retro and twee design. Once the height of cool, the image it projects is now one of mild desperation.

And there's not much under the Beetle's styling to strengthen its case, either. It's

based on the same set of mechanical underpinnings as the previous generation Volkswagen Golf - which went out of production in 2003 - and the Beetle drives indifferently and suffers from a tight-fitting cabin.

Despite sharing superficially similar looks to the original (or "proper") Beetle, this one is considerably larger and has its engine mounted at the front rather than the rear. The cartoonish exterior design certainly has its admirers and the Beetle seems perennially popular with middle-aged female divorcees, but for most the joke has long since faded.

The interior also feels a bit like entering a mid 1990s timewarp, with lots of outdated previous generation Volkswagen corporate switchgear on show (and the distinctly ridiculous dashboard mounted flower pot), and although there's plenty of room for front seat occupants the Beetle is tight and claustrophobic in the back.

On the road it drives very much like a slightly sloppier version of the dynamically indifferent Mk4 Golf: lots of body roll, limited front end grip and a crashy ride over rougher road surfaces. Buyers have lots of engines to choose between, with 1.4, 1.6 and 2.0 litre petrols, a 1.8 turbo petrol and a very old school 1.9 litre TDI turbo diesel. Of these the 1.6 petrol is the engine to, if not exactly go for, then to avoid least, as it gives the Beetle as much pace as the vast majority of buyers would ever want.

Volkswagen Beetle Tested


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