2016 Volkswagen Beetle Review
2016 Volkswagen Beetle – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

Volkswagen Beetle Review

Car Tested: 2016 Volkswagen Beetle; Road Test No. 664

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 34.64 lakhs

A rare sight on our roads, the Beetle will make you feel really exclusive when you drive it down

It was the year 2005 and I had just come out of a Planet M store with a gleam in my eyes. In my hands, I had a brand new CD of Midtown Madness 2 and I was dying to play it on my Compaq Presario. Quickly installed the game and and found a yellow car that seemed quite interesting. Yes, it was the second generation Volkswagen Beetle, which I drove around merrily on the streets of San Fransisco, albeit virtually. Times have changed since then and while I don’t possess that CD of Midtown Madness any more, what I do have is a shiny white Volkswagen Beetle standing in my parking. This is the third generation of the cute hatchback and this time I’m driving it on the streets of Mumbai. Let’s see whether the car really lives up to its hype or not.

Motor Quest: The first generation Volkswagen Beetle came out more than a few decades back and it had a rear engine layout. The bug was a very popular car back then and vintage car collectors still swear by the vehicle. The second generation Beetle was also sold in the market for a really long time while the third generation has been around globally since more than a year. A lot of things have changed and the bug is very modern now. What has also changed is the fact that the engine is now placed at the front.

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The Beetle gets lots of modern touches, including DRLs and projectors

Exteriors – The third generation Beetle carries the same silhouette as the previous generations but when you look closely, a lot of changes have been made and improvised upon. The front now looks much more handsome and the smiley face has developed into, well, a more happier face. You get state-of-the-art projector headlamps with LED DRLs while there are useful foglamps mounted in the lower part of the bumper too. The bumper itself gets a lot of detailing, something which seems like a Volkswagen trademark. Move to the side profile and you see how the Beetle has increased in length and also the fact that it looks much bigger and muscular now. The ORVMs now come finished in chrome. Cute looks and a muscular body, well that’s describing the new Beetle in a nutshell.

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The bug looks very classy now and the build is top-notch

The Beetle may have got modern but it continues to feature a body type similar to the older generation retro model

As we move towards the rear of the car, we notice the striking tail lamps which again have a fair bit of detailing in them. The bootlid comes with a sweet-looking spoiler with a black applique on the top while just below the spoiler you see the word Beetle, written in that classic old font. The Volkswagen logo doubles up as the boot release lever. The Beetle now gets high profile 16-inch rubber and the overall design looks extremely attractive. So much so, you can actually pick up a bright colour and drive it down our roads and make the traffic stop, just because people of all ages love to have a look at this car.

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The interiors are very modern and come with great quality all around

Interiors – Open the extremely long and wide doors and step inside the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle and the first thing you notice is that the quality and build has really gone up, as compared to the old Beetle. The fit and finish is top notch which actually goes without saying in any German car for that matter, period. The dashboard comes in a sporty shade of black and there is a huge glossy panel running across the length of the dash. This panel comes in the same colour as the exterior of the vehicle and that’s why it is white over here. The steering wheel also gets a coloured panel which adds some appeal to it. The wheel also feels very good to hold though it is a tad big in size.

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The cabin gets dual gloveboxes thus adding to the practicality

The Beetle comes with audio and phone controls and behind the steering wheel are the usual stalks for cruise control, indicators and wipers. The instrument cluster is easy to read and displays stuff like DTE, trip information, fuel consumption, average speed, digital speedometer, etc. The headlight toggle lever is located below the RHS AC vent. The Beetle gets a push-button start and the button is located right next to the gear selector. It is amusing that Volkswagen has provided a foldable key even though it is not really required. The centre console is reminiscent of other cars from the German stable and the Beetle comes with the newer head unit. The head unit gets some buttons stacked on either side but what it also gets is a smooth-to-operate touchscreen function. The quality of audio is decent enough to satisfy most of you all out there. The Climatronic climate control system works nicely and the AC cools the cabin pretty efficiently. There is a panoramic sunroof on offer and you also get ambient lighting with 3 colour options.

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Decent space at the rear for kids, ingress/egress is a bit tricky

The seats are comfortable and the cabin is very practical with splendid quality

Ergonomics are spot on in the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle and there are no complaints on this front. The front seats are also very large and accommodating and provide good support to your body parts. The seats make use of manual adjustment though and the rotary lever used to adjust the seat’s incline is a bit annoying to use. The travel range is quite good though. The front seats also get a heating function. What was surprising was the fact that the rear seats are also fairly spacious and have manageable amount of legroom and head space. However, getting in and out of the rear seat is again a tricky affair. Talking about visibility, the large windows and the big windshield offer a clear view of the outside while rearwards visibility is a bit limited. There is no rearview camera on offer but you do get parking sensors at the front and rear. The boot has a wide opening and it can hold 310-litres of luggage. And before you ask, no, there is no flower on the dash this time around.

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The 1.4-litre TSI engine is well-known from its Jetta days

Performance – The 2016 Volkswagen Beetle is powered by a very familiar engine that also gives horses to the Jetta. The 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine unleashes 150 PS of power between 5000-6000 RPM and 250 Nm of twisting force between 1500-3500 RPM. The engine is mated to the again familiar 7-speed DSG DQ200 automatic transmission, a part shared with the Polo and Vento. The engine is a very nice performer and offers a good surge of power right from the low-end RPM range. Torque is spread out evenly, coming up right from 1500 RPM, thus resulting in a very good low-end and excellent mid-range.

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The Volkswagen Beetle has punchy mid-range performance

The engine has a good mid-range and is very efficient too, engine note is nice

The engine is free-revving and loves going all the way to the 6000 RPM redline. 100 km/hr comes up in third gear while 0-100 km/hr takes 8.82 seconds if you go flat out on the throttle. In 7th gear, 100 km/hr comes up at around 1100 RPM. There is also an Eco mode on offer which basically shuts off the engine when the car is idling. The engine spurts back to life with a slight dab on the clutch pedal though. The Beetle also gets cruise control which is pretty much useless on our roads. Activate it while driving on empty highways and expect a good surge in fuel efficiency too.

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The DSG transmission is quick and smooth but acts confused at times

The 7-speed DSG gearbox is smooth and quick but it is also extremely lazy and confused at times. If you’re driving comfortably in D mode and decide to overtake someone, stomp the pedal and you’ll realise that the gearbox thinks for a few seconds before downshifting a couple of cogs. It acts pretty swiftly in S mode though. Gear changes happen at the 2000 RPM mark if you’re driving with a light foot in D, while if you’re giving it the beans, the vehicle upshifts at 6000 RPM irrespective of D or S mode. Paddle shifters are also offered on the Beetle while you also get a manual tiptronic mode. German engines are pretty efficient and the Beetle returns a mileage of 12-13 km/l under ideal driving conditions which is pretty good.

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The Beetle has a very plush ride, feels very comfortable

Driving Dynamics – The Volkswagen Beetle rides on 16-inch high profile tyres which translates into splendid ride quality. The ride feels very plush and you get the feeling of sitting in a luxurious vehicle, something that the Beetle is. The ride remains stable over bad patches and the Beetle takes no qualms in tackling uneven or rough terrains. It handles brilliantly whatever is thrown at it. The ride does have a chance of getting unsettled if you hit some nasty craters at high speeds.

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Handling isn’t a forte of the Beetle, nice steering though

Handling isn’t excitingly fun but the ride very comfortable, brakes very effective

Since it is a Volkswagen, you would expect the handling to be brilliant. That’s not the case with the Beetle though. Sure, it has improved drastically over the previous model but due to the softly sprung suspension, the Beetle doesn’t feel sharp to handle. It also twitches a lot during cornering or hard braking situations. The steering is nice and weighs up as the speeds increase. It also feels very direct. Braking is again excellent on the Beetle while the Hankook tyres have satisfactory grip levels.

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After-sales is below satisfactory, 5-star safety gets a thumbs up from us

Safety and After Sales Service – The 2016 Volkswagen Beetle comes with the usual safety tech that you would expect in a car below the price segment that the Beetle is positioned in. It gets 6 airbags, ABS, Hill Hold and ESP. That’s it. However, the build quality on the whole is also good and the hatchback even bagged a 5-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests. Talking about after-sales, Volkswagen has a pretty bad reputation in this regard and people generally don’t have a good perception about the German automaker’s service standards.

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The Beetle is a good buy if you want something that stands out

Verdict – If you have Rs. 35 lakhs to spend but are bored of seeing loads of Mercedes A-Class’ on the road, and want something that would be a bit exclusive, the Beetle would be the perfect choice. Remember, it is a very iconic brand and will retain its emotional value a lot of years down the line. Volkswagen has provided a good powertrain and a decent amount of features apart from a more practical cabin. While the price is a bit too high thanks to our monstrous tax duties, the Beetle is something that should appeal more to the heart than to the mind. But, the MINI Cooper and the Fiat Abarth 595 are also something that will appeal to the heart. And if you’re looking out for a blend of heart and mind satisfaction, you also have the Volvo V40 in this price range. Get the gist, eh?! So before I start blabbering on how you could get better cars for the price, I think I’ll get back to my game of Midtown Madness.

The Volkswagen Beetle is a very good package and it is aimed at those who desire a bit of exclusivity. The vehicle’s power and features will keep you just happy but the main downer of the car is the price which soars across the roof due to the fact that it is a CBU model.

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The Volkswagen Beetle has a lot of emotional connect to it

What’s Cool

* Looks cute in a modern way, retro feeling intact
* Excellent interiors and comfortable seats
* Refined and efficient engine, smooth gearbox
* Plush ride quality

What’s Not So Cool

* Could have got some more features
* Very overpriced by segment standards

Alternatives: MINI Cooper S, Fiat 595, Mercedes A-Class, BMW 1-Series, Volvo V40

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The Beetle could be a good second car if you already have a big German

Volkswagen Beetle Specifications

* Engine: 1395cc, 4-cylinder, Turbocharged, DOHC
* Power: 150 PS @ 5000-6000 RPM
* Torque: 250 Nm @ 1500-3500 RPM
* Transmission: 7-speed automatic
* 0-100 km/hr: 8.82 seconds
* Fuel Consumption: 12-14 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Suspension: Independent (front), 4-link (rear)
* Tyres: 215/60/16
* Brakes: Disc brakes, ABS
* Safety: 6 airbags, ABS, ESP, Hill Hold

Volkswagen Beetle Dimensions

* Overall length x width x height: 4278 mm X 1808 mm X 1486 mm
* Wheelbase: 2524 mm
* Ground clearance: 136 mm
* Turning radius: 5.39-metres
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 55-litres
* Kerb Weight: 1580 kgs

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Other similarly priced retro cars would be the Fiat 500 and MINI Cooper

Testers’ Note:

“The old Volkswagen Beetle was quite a looker and the new one has become modern in its appearance while keeping its iconic design traits firmly intact. The retro car now drives way better than before and the smaller engine is fast yet crucially frugal. Not a cheap car by any means, the new Beetle is expensive but will surely attract those who have been a fan of the bug since years. But for an enthusiast, this isn’t the car.” – Faisal Khan, Editor, MotorBeam.
“I was quite excited to check out the third generation Volkswagen Beetle because it is a very different car. It looks very attractive and the interiors are also great. The engine is good enough but I would have appreciated had Volkswagen plonked in the 1.8-litre TSI or the 2.0-litre TDI engine. Right now, the Beetle would be a no-no for me and I would any day pick a MINI Cooper by paying a slight premium.” – Parth Gohil, Road Tester, MotorBeam.