Have you ever noticed that sometimes we refer to certain items to the brand or names that they are associated with? Diapers, Pampers; Chocolate mix drinks, Milo; Instant noodles, Maggi Mee; Hook-and-loop fastners, Velcro, and many others that would be enough to fill up a paragraph or two. Cars are no exception either, especially those which has been around just as long as Baby Boomers have been around on the face of this planet; the Fiat 500, the Morris Mini, Porsche’s 911 and the Volkswagen Beetle.
Unlike the British and the Italian, both the German cars has enjoyed long lasting fame for two different reasons; one by appearing on album covers like Kraftwerk’s Autobahn and The Beatles’ iconic Abbey Road album cover. What’s more that it had its own movie franchise as Disney’s lovable sentient anthropomorphic 1963 Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie. Besides enjoying the mainstream limelight, the Beetle was also associated with the counter culture movement; together with the iconic Bus, both vehicles are part of the Hippie folklore, painted in the vibrant and distinct Psychedelic “Flower Power” art style.
Volkswagen had eventually discontinued series production of the Beetle with the last German made cars assembled at Emden in 1978, after which the Puebla plant in Mexico became the principal source of Beetle production. The Beetle’s eventual demise in Mexico was attributed primarily to Mexican political measures, as the little air-cooled engines couldn’t meet emission standards for Mexico City, in which the ubiquitous Beetles were used as taxicabs.
To add salt to the wound, the last nail was hammered down as the government outlawed their use as taxicabs due to rising crime rates, requiring only four-door vehicles be used. The last “Vocho” taxis in Mexico City were retired at the end of 2012. With 21,529,464 produced, the Beetle still stands as the longest-running and most-manufactured car of a single platform ever made.
The New Beetle made a comeback debut in 1998 albeit having a transverse engine at the front instead of the traditional air-cooled flat-four engine at the rear, which loyalists sees the new powertrain layout as sacrilegious – coincidentally, Porsche fans at the time were just as flustered of seeing the 911 fitted with a water-cooled engine with Pinky Lai’s take on the iconic 911 body styling. Personally, my teenage self wasn’t excited at the time either, especially with the departure from the 993’s iconic Coke bottle shape.
In 2011, Volkswagen introduced the current generation Beetle and the way it looks can be described as faithful to the original model. In particular, the current Beetle model is 84mm wider, 12mm lower and 152mm longer than its immediate predecessor, which is the contributor to the Beetle’s aggressive and muscular look. Now in 2017, the Beetle has been stylishly refreshed with a new front and rear bumper design now featuring wider air vent openings, chrome garnish and updated rear reflectors.
The updated Beetle now comes with more colours to excite than before; it now comes in Blue Silk (in pictures), Habanero Orange, Tornado Red, Tornedo Red with Black Roof, White Silver, Dark Bronze and Pure White.
Like its spiritual ancestors, the Beetle Sport comes with wide colour matching horizontal plastic trims on the dashboard and on the topside of the door cards. The contrast of the body paint and its soft touch black interior trims gives the Beetle’s interior its chic yet sophisticated atmosphere.
Likewise, harking back to the original is the Beetle’s glove compartment, which you can store smaller and lighter items in the iconic top shelve, while bigger and heavier items can be stowed away at the bottom.
The interior is surprisingly spacious for a car with two doors; the Beetle’s interior sits 2 adults comfortably at the front and 2 at the back for short trips. The Beetle Sport comes with ‘Vienna’ sport leather seats offering adequate lateral support for the spirited drive and sumptuous comfort for the long drive on highways. Both front seats are mechanically adjustable which includes height, fore, aft, recline with lumbar adjustments possible as well.
Taking centre stage of one is the Beetle’s speedo-centric instrument cluster, providing vital information to the driver of the car’s engine speed, vehicle speed and fuel level. Housed in the speed cluster is a ‘Plus’ multi-function display that relays detailed vehicle information, such as mileage, average fuel consumption, vehicle speed, MFD settings, service intervals, speed warning, and the radio station or music track that you’re listening to.
And what’s playing your favourite music track is the Beetle Sport’s 6.5-inch ‘Composition Media’ touchscreen display with the options of reproducing your favourite tracks stored or streamed from USB, iPod, iPhone, Bluetooth, AUX-IN, SD Card. Channelling the sound to your ears are by eight loud speakers (four woofers and four tweeters) placed strategically around the Beetle’s interior which provides powerful and clear sound reproduction.
Like in most Volkswagen Cars today, the audio system in the Beetle goes as high and as deep without both ends of the spectrum sounding overly saturated with plenty amounts of kick from the woofers. Just be mindful that turning the volume all the way up can potentially give you tinnitus.
When it comes to boot space, the Beetle boast 310-litres, which is 50-litres more than the latest MINI, which is adequate for a three-day trip luggage for two persons. If you need to lug more stuff on the way home, the Beetle is able to accommodate; by folding the rear seats down, the boot space is extended to 905-litres, that is plenty of space for a car that sits two persons most of the time. The Beetle comes with a space-saver spare wheel with a safety triangle and a tool kit housed under the boot floor.
The Beetle Sport comes with a compact 1.2L TSI engine, and don’t be fooled by its small size, as this engine packs a huge punch. It makes 105hp at 5,000rpm and a flat yet punchy torque curve of 175Nm from 1,550rpm to 4,100rpm, and it’s mated with a 7-speed DSG transmission with evenly spaced gear ratios to complement the compact turbo engine’s power curve – shifting manually is possible with paddle shifters or via the gear selector.
This is helpful when it comes to fuel efficiency; the Beetle is able to achieve a frugal 4.5l/100km Highway, 7.8l/100km Urban and 6.5l/100km Urban Extra as tested. You may point out that the Vento is not as punchy as described although powered by the same powertrain; this is because the Vento’s gear ratios are tuned towards fuel economy and comfort.
So, how does it perform? It’s not bad not all; the Beetle is not only comfortable to drive, but also offer drivers high levels of confidence when putting it through its paces. The Beetle exhibits similar handling characteristics to the Golf GTI. The steering feels light and progressive through corners with a neutral balance, which can be felt when mostly on the windy switchbacks.
To put it simply, the driving characteristic of the Beetle can be described as a hyperactive Corgi chasing a bouncing tennis ball. Is it practical enough to be a day-to-day car? Yes. It’s manoeuvrable in tight spaces, which doesn’t require plenty of elbow grease to operate.
Does it justify its RM147,888 price tag? Yes, especially if you don’t plan to have children in the next decade of so, or need a car which you can use to run in the city and on contemplative road trips out of state every once in a while. Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. is providing 5 Years Manufacturers Warranty and 5 Year Roadside Assistance. The Beetle has a service schedule every 15,000km, which you can do a lot of driving in it, too.
+ Classic design
+ Frugal Fuel Consumption
+ Exciting colour choices
+ Punchy 1.2-litre engine
+ Fun to drive
– The last of its kind
Volkswagen Beetle Sport (CKD)
Price Msia: RM147,888
Engine: 1.2-litre turbocharged in-line four-cylinder
Top Speed: 187km/h (Tested)
Fuel consumption: 4.5 litres/100km (Tested)