2013 Volkswagen Beetle GSR review

  • 207bhp; 0-62mph in 7.3 sec
  • Priced from £25,100
  • On sale now

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If you're in the market for a new Volkswagen Beetle you clearly don't mind standing out from the crowd. If you're in the market for a VW Beetle GSR you must positively like shouting from the rooftops about your independence of opinion.

That's because the GSR has little of the cutesy retro style of other Beetles. Instead it comes with a huge rear spoiler, 'sporty' black graphics and in either this non-too-subtle shade of yellow or a slightly less 'look at me' grey hue.

On paper, the Beetle GSR has the wherewithal to back up the looks. It has a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that produces 207bhp and 206lb ft of torque. This is put down through a six-speed manual gearbox, although you can have a self-shifting transmission if you're willing to pay an extra £1510 on top of the (already hefty) £25,100 asking price.

What's the 2013 VW Beetle GSR like to drive?

Given that the Beetle GSR has the underpinnings of a Golf GTI, you'd expect it to have a certain vivacity to the way it conducts itself. However, if you get into it expecting hot hatch behaviour you'll be disappointed. That's because the Beetle GSR never feels anything more than a bit brisk. If you put your foot down in second or third gear, the rev counter seems to heave its way round the dial, and the GSR gains speed with a gentle insistence rather than an eager surge.

The gearbox is light enough, but can be notchy and occasionally obstructive.

Bumps are absorbed easily, to the extent that the Beetle GSR rides genuinely well, but the downside is that it feels ponderous just when you don't want it to be, such as when you're entering the first of a series of corners. This feeling of lethargy is excerbated by steering that's vague around the straight-ahead and slow to react when you turn the wheel.

Still, the Beetle GSR has a relaxed, long-legged gait when you're on the motorway, and isn't too noisy either.

What's the 2013 VW Beetle GSR like inside?

The GSR has all the style of the standard Beetle, and adds front sports seats, dual-zone climate control and a pod of performance instruments atop the dash.

There’s plenty of room in the front for people of all shapes and sizes, but the two back seats are cramped.

Should I buy one?

We'd have to say no. The Beetle GSR is no hot hatch because it is neither quick enough nor engaging enough to drive. It's also a not-inconsiderable £25,100, so if you want a fast Beetle the Beetle Turbo model has exactly the same performance but is £1205 less to start with. 

There are far more capable hot hatches or coupes that have all the style and pace you could need. Many of them are made by the VW Group too.

In truth, the sweeter Beetles lie much further down the range. They're slower, more comfortable, and have all the style you could ask for if you want to stand out – surely that's closer to what true Beetle motoring has always been about.

What Car? says

Rivals
Audi TT
Volkswagen Golf GTI

Specification
Engine size 2.0-litre turbo
Price from £25,100
Power 207bhp
Torque 206lb ft
0-62mph 7.3 seconds
Top speed 142mph
Fuel economy 38.7mpg
CO2 169g/km

 

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