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Still cheeky!

Still cheeky!

The VW Beetle needs no introduction. Known to almost everyone, this car was directed into production by none other than Adolf Hitler, who provided some of the specifications with the intent to get Germany on the move. Ferdinand Porsche (who went on to give his name to another, famous car manufacturer) was the lead engineer on this project, and what subsequently became the Beetle enjoyed a stellar production run from 1938 all the way up to 2003, picking up modernisations and updates under the skin while the basic shape remained. Twenty-one million were made. That’s an average of one car for each Sri Lankan!

VW followed it up with a New Beetle, and then the second generation of New Beetle was released in 2012. While the first gen cars came to Sri Lanka in some numbers, the second gen A5 Beetle did not, and slipped under most people’s radar. However, with the see-saw taxes, the scales tipped in favour… and Autoland – the respected car importer located in Kohuwela - brought down this Beetle from the Japanese market.

 

Exterior 

The New Beetle carried over some quirks from the original and this second-gen New Beetle tones it down a bit. The shape is still unmistakably Beetle, but the car is slightly longer, lower and more tapered. The headlamps still look like eyes, the fender flares are still there and the rear tapering is unmistakably Beetle, especially with the tailgate up. Frameless doors complete the modern look, with “Club” decals (the trim level). The alloys are generic 17inch VW ones, wrapped in 215/55 tyres. Black mirror caps and roof complete the look. Definitely turns heads in Sri Lanka.

 

Mech & Tech

Our test car packs VW’s 1.2litre four-cylinder Turbocharged engine. Putting out 103bhp at 5,500rpm and 175Nm of twist at 4,100rpm, it drives the front wheels through VW’s seven-speed DSG (with manual shifting on the lever). The engine is Euro VI compliant so you know you are doing your bit for the environment. Front suspension is MacPherson while semi-independent at the rear. Disc brakes all round help the Bug come to a stop and it has the now-obligatory ABS, EBD and ESP (Electronic Stability Programme).

At the other end of the scale, you can get a Beetle with a 2.0L TSI engine with 217bhp and a six-speed manual transmission which will rocket you to 100km/h in 6.7 seconds and all the way to 233km/h if you so desire.

 

Driving Experience 

Ah… fabric seats. A relative rarity nowadays, yet Japanese prefer fabric over leather; I have read may times. It’s apparently because fabric is quieter and doesn’t scorch or freeze you when you settle down. The Beetle’s ‘Club’ spec pattern stitch seats are comfortable. The seatbelt is mounted on the B-pillar and it is a stretch to reach it – the doors need to be long to accommodate access to the rear. Comfortable with a decent range of (manual) adjustment.

The engine settles into a smooth thrum. Set off; and the engine is eager, with plenty of low down torque. Push harder; and it’s not afraid to rev, and will downshift on a part throttle if demanded. Nice to experience a drivetrain that’s not economy biased. Manual shifting is available at the gear lever and allows you to keep the engine on the boil – which you will need to do sometimes, as just 103bhp moving 1300kg (plus occupants) needs to be hustled along sometimes (with a slight roar at higher revs). Zero to a hundred kays is stated at 10.9 seconds which won’t whip your hair back but will keep up with (and leave behind some of) the traffic well. The ride is slightly firm and the handling is safe and predictable – the Beetle is made for cruising, not bruising.

The steering wheel is flat bottomed and has some nice shiny inserts, but no buttons. It’s a joy to hold though. Steering weight is on the firm side as can be expected with Euros. Ditto the brakes. They feel meaty and gave good stopping power.

 

Living with it 

Our test car was in ‘Club’ spec with Aluminium Ash finish interior trim and had a manual AC system (no climate control) and manual adjustment. However, in the multimedia department it was a delight. First off, it had the full VW multimedia interface with touch-screen, RDS radio, CD player, AUX input and Bluetooth phone tethering plus Maps (but Japan maps).

However, it came with the Fender Premium audio system that was created for selected VW vehicles – the Beetle, the Jetta and the Passat. It comes with nine speakers (eight in the cabin and one subwoofer) and 400W of power. Speakers are dual voice coil and the system is created to “recreate the raw emotion of a live performance” as per Fender. And it sounds the part! Highs come through clearly, mid ranges are well heard and the subwoofer in the boot delivers a performance that belies its 20cm diaphragm. Very impressive, and certainly belongs on cars in a segment or two above! Even at volumes well above the average person’s comfort level the sound stayed composed and I could not discern any distortion.

Other quirks include straps in the door pockets for holding bits and bobs and a novel glovebox handle that requires you to push it and then pull it out. The flower vase from the previous New Beetle is gone though.

You get a multifunction display between the dials that is of the old-school type but shows you a plethora of information including your engine coolant temperature, fuel consumption figures (instant and average), average speed, outside temperature, odometer information and distance to empty. You also get cruise control.

Foreign publications have stated that this is “a Golf in a Beetle skin” and I think they are spot on in regard to the interior quality. Panels don’t rattle or shake about, panel gaps are tight and consistent and buttons engage with a damped feel. The Beetle-specific designs and quirks differentiate it, visually from its more serious sibling.

Rear space was alright for me, and I was able to just about manage between my own driving position. For smaller and slimmer individuals it will be fine. Boot space is 310litres which is pretty good for a hatchback. Fold the rear seats down and you can get up to 900 litres.

 

Safety 

The Beetle has four airbags and seat-belt pre tensioners among the usual safety accoutrements. It’s also built very solidly and achieved a 92% score under EuroNCAP’s Adult Occupant and 90% under Child Occupant tests.

 

Fuel Economy & Price 

As you may have gathered, this is no eco-car. Even with a relatively fuel-sipping 1.2L engine you can maybe expect 8 or 9 km per litre in our choking Colombo traffic. When pushing the car hard, I saw figures in the 4 to 5 km per litre range, while settling down at a 60km/h cruise yielded around 12 km/l. No doubt venturing onto the highway will net you figures in the 15 km/l range if you stick to the speed limit (better do now, what with the new speed detection systems and all…).

This Beetle is for sale at Autoland with a sticker of Rs. 6.4 million. That’s a lot of car for the price, and its helped by its 1.2L engine. The recent tax revisions have been kind to this car.

 

Final Words 

I recently read online that VW might not green-light a third generation of “New Beetle”, as they wish to concentrate focus on another of their “heritage” vehicles – namely the long overdue modern variant of the VW Bus, the symbol of the hippie and free culture of the 1960s. The Beetle is already being phased out of production, so you may have to source one from the gray market given that the official representation of the VW passenger car brand in Sri Lanka is somewhat in limbo right now.

Why would you buy this car? Let’s say you are a guy or gal who wants something out of the ordinary, is more interested in a smooth drive than cutting apexes and enjoys listening to music on your commute. Fuel economy is not too much of a concern – you don’t think in decimal points there, but you don’t want a gas guzzler either. Also, you will have a model of a car that doesn’t have a successor, at least not for a few years, thus increasing its rarity factor. The Beetle is a car that will tick all those boxes and be instantly noticeable in any crowded carpark but will not break the bank!

 

Thanks to Yoga Perera and Thiran Perera of Autoland Pvt Ltd, 469 Sunethradevi Road, Nugegoda for the test car

 

TECH SPECS

Engine

1.2L 4-cyl, turbocharged

103bhp @ 5,500rpm

175Nm @ 4,100rpm

 

Transmission

7-speed DSG dual clutch

Manual shift on gearstick

Front wheel drive

 

Front

MacPherson Strut

Ventilated Disc Brakes

215/55R17 tyres

 

Rear

Semi-independent

Disc brakes

215/55R17 tyres

 

Performance

0-100km/h in 10.9s

180km/h max speed

(manufacturer claims)

 

Misc

Length: 4,278mm

Width: 1,808mm

Height: 1,486mm

Kerb Weight: 1,300kg

Boot Space: 310L

Fuel Tank: 55L