Beetle is still retro, stylish and fun
THE first series of the reincarnated VW Beetle built until around 2010 was retro, stylish and fun, but it was also hugely impractical.
It had been designed in California, where they don’t have much rain, but when the doors were opened on a wet day, water dripped onto the seats, and opening the hatch made it pour onto the back seat.
Nonetheless, they were based on the 1997 Golf, and so they were easy to drive and to live with.
The second series, produced until 2016, is more practical and yet still has that retro cachet so beloved of many drivers.
Again it shares many parts with the Golf and improved on the old model with a higher level of standard equipment, better engines and much enhanced practicality.
The boot, for example, is a massive 44% bigger, and space for rear seat passengers is vastly improved.
They are well-built, comfortable and much better to drive, making them a realistic alternative to more mundane hatches.
Engines range up from a 1.2TSi turbo petrol with 105bhp, to a 1.4 turbo with 125bhp or 150bhp, and a 2-litre with 197bhp and up to 220bhp.
Diesels are the well-known 1.6TDI with 105bhp and the 2-litre with up to 150bhp. The 1.6TDI is the economy champion, managing an average of 66mpg.
Gearboxes are the standard and very good VW six-speed manual, or the excellent but expensive dual clutch DSG auto.
I have sadly been hearing of some major problems with these early DSGs by the way, in both VW and Skoda models, where the companies have not been willing to help cover replacement costs running into many thousands.
All the engines offer reasonable to excellent performance in the Beetle, where even the 1.2TSi covers the 0 to 60mp sprint in 10.4 seconds.
A completely revised suspension system turns what was quite a basic handler into a much more enjoyable machine.
There’s plenty of grip even when pressed hard, and the balance is as good as that in the Golf. The excellent VW group steering is precise and full of feedback.
Avoid any with large alloys and sports suspension. These ruin the good ride and can crash and bang over poor surfaces.
The 1.4 and 2-litre TSI versions are fitted with VW’s electronic differential lock, which improves cornering and traction by preventing wheelspin.
Small details add interest and make the cabin stand out from the ordinary, like a dash with two glove boxes, elasticated door pockets and drop-down grab handles for those in the rear.
The seats are comfortable with good adjustment for all sizes, and the steering wheel adjusts for tilt and reach.
Build quality is generally excellent and the interior feels like it will be hard wearing.
Pay about £9,000 for a ’13 13-reg 1.2TSi petrol Design, or £13,300 for a ’15 15-reg 2.0TDI Bluemotion Tech Sport. Cabriolets cost about £2,000 more.
The Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet. The second series, produced until 2016, were more practical but still retro