Mention Volkswagen and people will usually think of the Beetle; and if you mention the Beetle, people also know it’s a Volkswagen. Both names have been known around the world for almost seven decades and the car itself is indeed an icon. Like the coke bottle, its shape is instantly recognizable by young and old, and interestingly, even though it was driven by the grandfathers of today’s young consumers, they still regard the model as ‘cool’ and many would even want to own one (even an Original).
In 67 years, the Beetle has only gone through three generations, a contrast to the Golf which has entered its seventh generation after just 36 years. However, it’s not that the first two generations of the Beetle were 30+ years; the Original lasted 50 years and the second generation was in production for around 13 years. The third generation will probably have a shorter life though, being an iconic model, Volkswagen may keep it longer than the other models since its shape is fairly ‘timeless’.
Having started sales in North America in September 2011, the model has been progressively launched in other countries and last night, it was launched in Malaysia. Like a number of other models Volkswagen Group Malaysia (VGM) has launched this year, the Beetle has been much-awaited and its launch is complemented by the Das Auto 2012 event this weekend where the company shows off its technology and model range.
There are various engine options for the new Beetle and as a start, VGM is importing (from the global Beetle production hub in Mexico) the 1.2 TSI version. This has the same direct-injection turbocharged 4-cylinder 1.2-litre engine as the Polo TSI and produces the same 105 ps with 175 Nm of torque (from 1550 rpm). That’s should be enough to provide a nippy character for the 1,300-kg car and the power gets to the road via a 7-speed DSG transmission. Fuel consumption is claimed to be about 17 kms/litre so a full tank of 55 litres could give a range of 950 kms. Top speed? 180 km/h is claimed.
If you were hoping for the 2-litre version with the same engine as the Golf GTI, don’t be disappointed as that will be available later on. The MD of VGM, Ricky Tay, said that it’s definitely in the plan but stocks from the factory may need some time as the model has, not surprisingly, been in great demand in many countries. In Malaysia, some 200 customers are already waiting to take delivery of their Beetles, we heard.
The Beetle platform has two rear suspension types and other than the ones with the powerful 2-litre TSI engine, all other versions come with a torsion beam rear suspension. It’s interesting that Volkswagen decided to have two suspension set-ups which might be thought to be a costly approach. However, a Volkswagen engineer explained that there are actually some cost-saving advantages doing it this way and it came out of the very lengthy debate on the cost of producing this new Beetle generation.
Size-wise, the third generation is longer than the second generation by 152 mm and this is emphasized by the profile which is less circular over the roof. The body looks a bit stretched but the proportions are still balanced and the overall effect does make it look sportier.
The new Beetle is also wider by 84 mm and sits 12 mm lower, giving it a low-slung stance that also contributes to that sporty look. Taking advantage of the larger footprint, the tracks have been widened and another 22 mm added to the wheelbase.
The inside is a combination of modern and retro, resulting in some elements that will bring back memories of the Original for those who sat in one while other elements identify it as being a Volkswagen product.
Whereas in the other models, there is a lot of sharing of components which lead to dashboards having much similarity, the Beetle – being the brand icon – has the privilege of more exclusive parts. For instance, the dashboard fascia has the same colour as the bodywork – just like the Original. There’s also an extra glovebox above the usual drop-down one. This is designed just like the one in the Original which has the lid flipping upwards.
But where driver ergonomics and passenger comfort are concerned – as well as safety – these are all similar to other current Volkswagen models. And though it is at the lowest end of the Beetle range, the standard equipment that VGM has ordered with it are in keeping with the premium positioning of the brand.
Leather upholstery is provided and the steering wheel and shift knob are also wrapped in leather. There’s Climatronic air-conditioning, cruise control and a 6-CD audio system with connectivity for portable music devices.
Colour choices number seven: Candy White, Tornado red, Saturn Yellow, Reflex Silver, Deep Black, Platinum Grey and Graciosa Brown.
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