Beetling back to its best

23 October 2012 - 21:38 By BOBBY CHEETHAM

The Beetle is back! Forget about the "new Beetle" which was launched in South Africa in 2000, it was an "imposter" that did not have the DNA of the Beetle which first rolled off the production line in 1951 at Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape.

The "imposter" was a sales disaster for VW and, apart from the original euphoria of the Beetle being back, Joe and Jane Public were not impressed.

After all, who wanted to buy the "new Beetle" when its target market excluded 50% of buyers?

What red-blooded male South African wanted to buy a car with a flower vase on the dash and perfumes that made it smell like a hooker's den of iniquity?

Few women fell for VW's marketing ploy either. In fact one has more fingers on one hand than the number of Beetles actually sold in some months!

Well forget all that. Volkswagen, to their credit, have seen the error of their ways and launched a car, in Design and Sport variants, that has appeal and strong strains of the original Beetle's DNA.

The new one (powered by a 1.2 or 1.4-litre twin scroll petrol engine linked to a six-speed manual gearbox) is more masculine and looks remarkably like the original Beetle, the true people's car.

In spite of its masculine look, women we questioned at the launch last week raved about its new look and appeal.

What is it?

A 21st century Beetle, which aims to re-ignite the passion of the original Beetle, says VW.

The first generation was one of the most successful cars ever built Designed in 1938, the car sold more than 21.5 million units before it was discontinued. Now, VW hopes to recapture some of that appeal with the new model.

How does it look?

A lot like the original Beetle.

The lines of the rear sections are nearly identical. A comparison to the second generation Beetle shows that nothing has been carried over from the previous model. The car not only has a lower profile than the 2000 model. It is also substantially wider, the front bonnet is longer, the front windscreen is shifted further back and it has a much steeper incline. The front fascia panel harks back to the design of the first Beetle, yet the new car does not have a retro look.

We particularly liked our test car, which had a metal dash painted yellow to match the exterior colour. It reminded us a lot of the original car. The black interior trim added to the appeal.

What makes it even more special, is that a local "boere meisie", Oona Scheepers, who was born in Prieska, who had a key role in the interior design of the Beetle and other VW products.

Her design expertise is reflected in the VW Polo, Porsche Carrera GT, Cayenne and Cayman, and the Audi R8, A5, A4 and recent Audi show cars. She now works for Volkswagen Design in Germany.

What's it like to drive?


In fact we had the opportunity to drive a 1958 Beetle before getting behind the wheel of the new model and the only way to describe the difference is to suggest it was like transferring from the Wright brothers' plane to an Airbus.

Road-holding, braking and general driving dynamics are out of the top drawer!

Our favourite was the 1.4 TSI, which has 118kW on tap and 240Nm of torque between 1500 and 4500rpm, which makes overtaking and cruising a breeze.

That's not to say we didn't like the 1.2 model; in fact, we think the smaller engined model is more like the original Beetle!

Any special features?


Automatic diff lock and hill hold control are just a few of the many features which add to the appeal.

Should you buy one?

The new Beetle has a lot of negativity to overcome, as result of the failure of the previous model, to win the appeal of buyers.

However, we have no doubt this will be overcome by test driving the new model, which now fits into our special category of top cars for 2012 and is a most enjoyable car to drive! It really is that good!

The new Beetle comes standard with a five-year/60000km Automotion Maintenance Plan, three-year/120000km warranty, 12-year anti-corrosion warranty and service intervals of 15000km.

The Specs:


VW Beetle TSI six-speed Sport manual

Engine: 1390cc

Power: 118kW at 5800rpm

Torque: 240Nm between 1500 and 4500rpm

0-100km/h: 8.3seconds

Top speed: 208km/h

Fuel consumption: 6.6/100km (claimed combined)

CO2: 153g/km

Price: R296600

VW Beetle TSI Design six-speed manual

Engine: 1197cc

Power: 77kW at 5000rpm

Torque: 175Nm between 1550 and 4100rpm

0-100km/h: 10.9seconds

Top speed: 180km/h

Fuel consumption: 5.9/100km (claimed combined)

CO2: 137g/km

Price: R235400

We like:

It looks like a real Beetle!

We don't like:

The previous model, which was an imposter!