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2012 VW Beetle review

  • VW Beetle tested on UK roads
  • 1.4 petrol available now; more due later
  • 1.4 priced from 19,470
Words ByTom Webster

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The 2012 VW Beetle gets a sporty, butch makeover for this second-generation iteration of the fashion-conscious small family car.

Its exterior styling retains plenty of original Beetle DNA, including large wheelarches and a sweeping roofline. However, square edges and glossy trim replace the flowerpot and curvy lines of the outgoing car's interior.

Just the 1.4-litre TSI 160 engine is available for now but a 2.0-litre petrol and 1.6- and 2.0-litre diesels will arrive later this year.

A small number of 104bhp 1.2-litre TSI petrols will also be available later this year.

Whats 2012 Beetle like to drive?
The 1.2-litre petrol takes more than 10 seconds to hit 62mph, although its happy to rev, and the standard DSG semi-automatic gearbox is smooth and unobtrusive.

However, the 1.2s pedestrian performance is at odds with the Beetles firm ride, which has been set-up for a more spirited driving experience.

Choose the 158bhp 1.4 TSI model in Sport trim and things feel even stiffer, but the engine itself still needs to be worked hard.

Almost everything else about the Beetle driving experience is standard Volkswagen; dependable yet light steering, and good grip through corners. It's all very reassuring, but far from exciting.

With emissions of 137g/km, the 1.2 TSI DSG model produces just 3g/km more CO2 than the equivalent Golf, while average economy is a respectable 47.9mpg.

Whats the 2012 Beetle like inside?
VW has given the latest Beetle a bespoke interior, yet some of the quirky charm of the previous model has been lost; staples such as the single dial on the dashboard, are just memories.

Instead, it gets an overriding theme of black gloss dashboard surfaces with silver edging. This sets the car apart from the more functional Golf, but owners of the previous Beetle could well be disappointed.

The swooping rear roofline was always going to impinge on practicality. The boot offers a decent 310-litre capacity, but the cars shape means the loadspace is more triangular than square.

Rear passengers get adequate rather than generous legroom, while headroom is compromised making backseat travel best reserved for children or short journeys.

At least rear visibility is decent.

Should I buy one?
The modern Beetle has always been a slightly divisive car, but Volkswagen has pared down the quirks on this latest version, to make it feel like a more middle-of-the-road option.

Its a car thats hard to recommend, because the ride is a little too firm for something that doesnt offer much in the way of sporting credentials, and the rear space is too compromised for passengers and luggage.

However, it still has enough about it to appeal to those who want Volkswagen sturdiness and reassurance in a package that looks a little different from the norm.

Rivals:
Mini Clubman
Nissan Juke

What Car? says

Tom Webster