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2012 Volkswagen Beetle review

2012 Volkswagen Beetle review front angle

You might not realize it, and maybe you haven’t even considered it, but the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle is a manly car. And by manly I simply mean it can no longer be considered the choice ride of the fairer sex, nor of men who are admirably comfortable in their sexuality or completely oblivious to the fact that the car they’re driving is — by and large — a chick-mobile, and not the cool kind of chick-mobile the Fonze would drive, but the kind of chick-mobile his grandma would drive. Although, she’d probably roll around in something awesome like a Stingray, so maybe that’s not the best example.

We digress, but you can see what we’re getting at here. Volkswagen has done a magnificent job redesigning the 2012 Beetle, so much so that this version really should have been what was introduced upon the New Beetle’s revival in 1998. Instead, we were treated to a syrupy sweet, retro-styled homage to times long past. Where free love, flower power, and an overwhelming affinity towards tight pants reigned supreme. Rather lazily, VW allowed the New Beetle’s design to mature ungracefully up until last year, so without a doubt it was in dire need of some freshening up.

A stronger breed of Beetle

And freshening up it has. The 2012 VW Beetle has been totally reshaped, remolded, and redesigned in order to appeal to drivers’ current sensibilities rather than their nostalgia. Despite all this talk over the design being “manlier” now, the truth is, the 2012 VW Beetle will appeal to a wider audience, which certainly bodes well for Volkswagen given the effort it took in redefining the Beetle’s target audience.

The first visual cue you’ll notice in the winning redesign is the 2012 Beetle’s overall flattened and lower profile. Gone is the bulbous dome adorning previous iterations. In its place: a much more streamlined and sportier gate. Also noticeable is the flattened hood, which dips perfectly above and between those iconic Beetle headlamps. All in all, it makes for a slightly larger ride than its predecessor (roughly 7.3-inches longer and 3.3-inches wider) but one with a more dynamic – dare we say Audi-like — aesthetic.

2012 Volkswagen Beetle review front angle
2012 Volkswagen Beetle review front   2012 Volkswagen Beetle review rear angle   2012 Volkswagen Beetle review side   2012 Volkswagen Beetle review rear detail   2012 Volkswagen Beetle review wheels

It’s that very aesthetic that will surely please the Beetle faithful, while providing a compelling argument to draw in newcomers that otherwise wouldn’t be caught dead in one, let alone drive one. Yes guys, we’re referring to you.

Sophisticated and spacious

While the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle may retain a good deal of its retro-flavor on the outside, inside it’s a different story. Virtually everything is modern and screams German ingenuity with just enough of a nod to the throwback stylings of yesteryear. Our senses were arrested right off the bat with just how spacious the car’s cabin is. For a two-door hatch, the 2012 Beetle provides ample room for pilot, passenger, and friends, with our review model’s plush leather interior providing ample comfort for our derrieres.

Suffice it to say, most modern cars feel the need to cram every last button, nob, and input which can quickly spiral into a dizzying mess. And while our Volkswagen Beetle packed in all the requisite accompaniments you would expect from a modern Das Auto it never felt clustered or confusing. The steering interface continues that trend by flanking the center stack with buttons that correspond to various controls, like voice recognition, volume controls, and the like.

2012 Volkswagen Beetle review touchscreen

2012 Volkswagen Beetle review speedometer   2012 Volkswagen Beetle review interior seating   2012 Volkswagen Beetle review shifter   2012 Volkswagen Beetle review fender speaker   2012 Volkswagen Beetle review trunk

Even the touchscreen navigation on our decked-out Turbo-trim handled commendably. Browsing radio stations was a breeze; syncing our iPhone was painless; and the responsiveness of the screen itself was miles ahead of some of the more “advanced” infotainment units on the market, like Ford’s insipid MyFord Touch system.

Things do start to go a little south though, but luckily it’s only minor annoyances that don’t detract much from the overall driving experience. For instance, we loved the Beetle’s spacious sunroof, but the fact that it doesn’t fully open is rather perplexing. Yes it’s minor, but we see no logical reason why VW chose to engineer it that way.

Another,  much more glaring, issue centers on the cabins height as it relates to the driver’s field of vision. During our road tests, we routinely found we had to slouch down from our normal driving position in order to safely navigate our way through stoplights. Needless to say it was a gamble — a gamble we weren’t willing to take, and safety prevailed.

Putting the “auto” in Autobahn

All of that gets swept away though once you’re behind the wheel and out on the open road. While the base model and 2.5L Beetle feature a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine capable of churning out 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, our review unit consisted of the top-tier turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque, and happened to include the optional DSG six-speed automated manual transmission which exhibited an occasional, but ever so slight, turbo lag and quicker-than-expected shifts from the gearbox, especially during sport mode.

During our road tests, the 2012 Beetle was both responsive and agile, with a turbocharged engine that was born to sing. Acceleration off the line is exactly what you would expect from a two-liter turbo – fast, very fast. Our zero to 60 mph times clocked in at 6.6 seconds, while our fuel economy generally netted us 22 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and a 25 mpg combined. Of course that isn’t exactly stellar. But for a performance trim, that isn’t bad — although the Mini Cooper S will get about 5 mpg better across the board.

All that power and torque would amount to very little if our Beetle Turbo showcased the type of mobility one would associate with a sack full of wrenches. Thankfully that’s not the case. And our drive experience was buttery smooth with moderate lean-in and an unexpected amount of grip during particularly slippery corners. Surprising, maybe? But the Beetle Turbo does share the GTI’s XDS cross differential that routes torque to the wheel with the most traction. And given that our right foot never truly gave the gas pedal a moment of respite, we found that to be more than a relief.

Wait, how much?

We can’t talk about the Beetle without going over the proverbial elephant in the room that is its sticker price. While our Beetle’s turbocharged two-liter provided all the performance and German panache we could ask for — it’s an expensive piece of kit to be sure. Our review unit’s MSRP clocks in at just a hair under $30,000 ($29,865 to be exact), with its price point subsequently turning just as many heads as the iconic Beetle’s stylish design overhaul.

2012 Volkswagen Beetle emblem

Like the old saying goes, you get what you pay for and the Beetle’s elevated price tag does include a wealth of extras. On top of standard features, and upgrades included in the base and 2.5L models, our top-of-the-line Beetle Turbo adds 18-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, sportier leather-wrapped seats, foglights, and alloy pedals. The sunroof and sound package adds (yup, you guessed it) a sunroof and Fender premium sound system with subwoofer, as well as shift paddles (for the DSG transmission).

Finish line

Sometimes it isn’t so much that you’ve returned, but rather how you returned. With the 2012 Beetle, the German automaker has reintroduced to the world a car it originally fell in love with some 75 years ago and — much like the New Beetle of the late 1990’s — manages to make yet another triumphant debut with a unique style and flair, coupled with excellent handling and Autobahn-level performance. Only now, it boasts a design that will proudly honor its storied past while appealing to a wider spectrum of people. Those who fell in love with the late 90’s era Beetle will find ample reason to fall in love all over again, while those looking for a more dynamic and visually provocative experience will find their needs equally met.

Of course whether or not consumers decide on a 2012 Volkswagen Beetle will largely depend on what engine they spring for and what they deem to be an appropriate value. Beetle enthusiasts will be more than content with the base model’s $19,765 MSRP, but will no doubt long for a bit more buzz from their Beetle. Others will be happier (us included) making additional upgrades to the Beetle’s powertrain, interior, comfort features, and overall performance. At least until they see the price creep closer to the $30,000 mark.

Redesign or not, $30,000 is a good chunk of change for any car, let alone a Volkswagen Beetle, so it’s important to keep in mind the heavy limitations the VW’s prohibitive pricing may play in your decision to purchase. But if you’re in the market for something that slightly favors flair over function, panache over price, then without question the 2012 VW Beetle should be near the top of your list. German ingenuity may breed German prices, but it also happens to breed one of the finest driving experience we’ve had in a long time.

Highs:

  • Stellar redesign 
  • Will appeal to wider demographic (men)
  • Turbo trim packs a punch
  • Comfortable interior
  • Excellent instrument overlay 
  • Crisp handling and suspension

Lows:

  • Superior Turbo model can get expensive 
  • Not as spacious as some would like
  • MPG could be better 
  • Some questionable design choices e.g., sunroof.