IN its present cut the VW Beetle is more rakish — masculine, even — than the model it replaced (the mostly unmissed New Beetle of 1998-2011). But, like its predecessor, it also shares a lot of its underpinnings with the VW Golf. While the Golf is coveted both as an appliance and a source of driving pleasure though, the Beetle seems it is always regarded as a fashion accessory. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
• Styling really is one of the car’s strongest suits — if not the strongest. The dark alloys and body graphics worn by the 1.4 TSI Club Edition do not come across as contrived, allowing for a sporty vibe while freshening the Beetle’s seven-year-old looks.
• Decidedly retro treatment of the cabin — dashboard and door panels are defined by a huge swath of body color-painted surfaces — is uncluttered and integrates modern niceties, like the multimedia unit, climate controls and other switches, coherently.
• Various systems are operated by tools best suited for a particular purpose — large knobs for the air-conditioner and head lamps, dials for volume control, buttons for engaging multimedia functions. Car makers that insist users stab repeatedly at a touch screen just to adjust the cabin temperature should learn from the Beetle’s uncomplicated and effective example.
• Club Edition raises the luxury quotient with leather seats.
• The 1.4-liter TSI engine may be small, but the 157hp it puts out through the use of both a turbo and a supercharger means grunt is not only adequate, but is accessible throughout the rev range. Helping here is VW Group’s seven-speed dual clutch gearbox, whose ability to row through the gears as imperceptibly as it does makes it the auto industry standard.
• Build quality and construction, as expected from a VW, is flawless. Every panel gap is uniform and tight. Controls engage securely and with solid heft. Furniture and trim seem like they will never break.
• Ride feels as solid, the suspension and body structure never quivering even over bad road surfaces. The soft suspension setting also means the car does not crash over ruts or bumps.
• Domed roofline creates massive headroom for front-row occupants, large doors let them in and out effortlessly.
• Domed roofline pinches headroom for backseat occupants, large doors don’t really allow them to get in and out of the car easily. All right, it’s no worse in the Beetle than is the case for most coupes.
• Softly sprung suspension causes car to lean noticeably when taking corners quickly. While this is not exactly alarming, it does make the car feel sloppy at handling speed. Numb electrically boosted steering does not help any.
• Graphics of multimedia unit, while highly legible and easy to decipher, look dated. VW may have gone overboard on the retro thing here.
At its price range there are few cars in the market that can match the Beetle’s solid, Germanic feel and benchmark-setting mechanicals. Even fewer, if any, can match its distinct fashion-accessory styling. — Brian M. Afuang
VW Beetle 1.4 TSI Club Edition
Price: P1.790 million (Design variant)
Engine: 1.4-liter inline-four, gasoline with turbocharger and supercharger; 157hp @ 5,800rpm, 240Nm @ 1,500 — 4,500rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch
Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
Wheels/Tires: 17 inches, 215/55
Key features: Bi-Xenon head lamps with LED daytime running lights; rear spoiler; multi-function display; leather steering wheel, seats and shift knob; 12-volt power socket; multimedia unit with USB, aux-in and mirror connectivity; electronic stability program; differential lock; engine drag control; smart entry system