Reviews

2012 Volkswagen Beetle Walk Around

Inches matter, when you're trying to change a circle into an oval. That's how the silhouette of the Beetle changes, by making it 7.3 inches longer, 3.3 inches wider, and 0.5 inches lower. The new shape is more dynamic and muscular; gone is the cuteness, although not the identity. Its coefficient of drag is 0.37, a good number that still lags behind some competitors, and reveals the legacy of a round bug. The sleek 2012 Honda Civic, for example, comes in at 0.315.

Looking head-on at the new Beetle, it's wide and chubby enough that the lines are actually horizontal. A narrow black mouth under the bumper spans the face like a pinched grin, under perky headlamps like eyes, and a hood seam that seems to define a wide nose, having one chrome nostril with VW in it.

At profile, the good-looking roofline is like a stylish tight arc, with roadster lines tracing to a 2005 concept car called the Ragster, that had the look of a chopped-top hot rod.

The wheel cutouts are perfect semi-circles dropping down toward the pavement. In contrast to the smooth curves of sheetmetal everywhere else, the fender flares have squared edges, offering contrasting definition to the shape.

The Beetle might be called a hatchback. The rear gate is massive. You could probably load a refrigerator in there. No compromises to the car's shape, for the utility of cargo loading. When the hatch is closed, it flows invisibly into the car's roundness.

Interior

We take pleasue in saying that every control is easy to access and understand, making driving a joy because you can think about driving. It's like the old bug, in a welcome way.

There's a decent amount of room inside the 2012 Beetle, 85 cubic feet. Rear headroom, and front legroom and shoulder room is more than that in the New Beetle, so it doesn't feel so much like a capsule. But being a capsule is part of what a VW is all about, and it's not all lost.

Front legroom is 0.7 inches more than the all-new Toyota Yaris, and with the Beetle's standard tilt-telescope steering wheel, drivers of all sizes can fit with no problem.

The two doors are wide (note: there is no four-door Beetle), and the front seats flop forward easily, so access to the rear seat is good. But it's not so roomy in the rear, with just 31.4 inches of legroom, which is 1.9 inches less than in the Yaris, despite the Beetle being nearly 14 inches longer. However, that excess length is mostly overhang; the Beetle wheelbase is only 1.1 inches longer than the Yaris.

The 2012 Beetle trunk has grown to a spacious 15.4 cubic feet, a whopping increase of 27 percent over the New Beetle; and with the 60/40 rear seat folded, there's a vast 29.9 cubic feet behind the front seats. The rear trunk lid is like a hatchback or wide liftgate, so giant things can fit inside. We were astounded when our Beetle swallowed three huge boxes from Harbor Freight. With the dear old VW bug, there would have been no way, for even one of them.

There's good visibility out the front and rear, even with the low roof and high beltline. And it's a quiet ride. That five-cylinder engine is smooth and more silent than a four-cylinder.

Volkswagen says that some of the interior colors and shapes harken back to the original Beetle. For example the extra glovebox, called the kaeferfach or Beetle bin. For sure the simplicity of the instrument panel harkens back, which is good.

Volkswagen does gauges well, and the Beetle's are super clean. There's a big speedometer in the center, insanely optimistic at 160 mph, with organic white numbers and red needles. There's a small tach to the left of the speedo, balanced on the right by a big analog fuel gauge. The TDI will have an additional instrument pod with oil temperature, turbo boost, and a stopwatch.

In the center of the speedo there's a multi-function digital display, accessed with a flick of the driver's right thumb, scrolling a small wheel on the steering wheel. Everything you need to know is right there, almost automatically without thinking or searching for it. It makes for safe driving!

The 2.5L Beetle radio is the best! A big screen tells you what's playing. Big dials and buttons are easy to reach, and you can spin through the many satellite stations. You can get in this car for a first time and easily tune the radio. We're guessing that we can only do that with maybe one out of every three or four cars we test nowadays. We used to blame this complexity on German thinking, but the Beetle disproves that.

However, the Sunroof model comes with a touch-screen radio. We didn't get to try it, but we can't imagine how a touch-screen radio could be better than the basic one with knobs and dials, as well as a big informational screen you just look at, and don't have to figure out and don't have to make decisions about while you're driving, and don't have to touch.

A navigation system is available, but a rearview camera is not available for the Beetle.

The seats and trim are neat but nothing fancy and no tricks, clean and simple, comfortable bucket seats with excellent bolstering.

In the small convenience department, there's a big flat cubby on the dash, a small cubby forward of the shift lever, and a coin cubby and shallow console under the flip-up armrest between the seats. Two cupholders, and door pockets with elastic straps that are a bit lame.

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