16/04/2012 09:11 | By CJ Hubbard, contributor, MSN Cars

Volkswagen Beetle 1.2 TSI DSG review (2011 onwards)

Volkswagen Beetle Design (© Volkswagen)
  • Volkswagen Beetle Design (© Volkswagen)
  • Volkswagen Beetle Design (© Volkswagen)
  • Volkswagen Beetle Design (© Volkswagen)
  • Volkswagen Beetle Design (© Volkswagen)
  • Volkswagen Beetle Design (© Volkswagen)
  • Volkswagen Beetle Design (© Volkswagen)
  • Volkswagen Beetle Design (© Volkswagen)
  • Volkswagen Beetle Design (© Volkswagen)
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Model: Volkswagen Beetle 1.2 TSI DSG Design, £18,895 (£20,210 as tested)
Bodystyle: three-door coupé
Engine: 1.2 turbo petrol, 105hp @ 5,000rpm, 129lb ft @ 4,100rpm
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive with Electronic Differential Lock

What is it?

Aww, c'mon - you're teasing us, right? The Volkswagen Beetle is perhaps THE most recognisable automotive icon in the world, and although there are some notable changes for this new third generation model, it carries its heritage with pride.

Well, sort of. Instead of following on where the last the one left off, VW claims its designers have looked back to the original for inspiration. Out goes the triple semi-circle silhouette, in comes a flattened, extended roofline - and in the process they've toned down the cute.

Compared to the mk2, therefore, the mk3 looks a little bit squashed at first glance. But in the process it's supposed to move from kitschy fashion accessory to become more of a coupé. And attract more male buyers as a result.

First drive: Volkswagen Beetle (2011 onwards)
Read another Volkswagen review

Volkswagen Beetle (© Volkswagen)

Where does it fit?

While the idea of the Beetle as a coupé isn't completely bonkers - it is, after all, a three-door with a swooping roofline - it is slightly confusing. Doesn't the Volkswagen Scirocco already compete in this area of the market?

The Scirocco is modern to the Beetle's retro, presumably. Yet it still seems indulgent for the German giant to be offering two cars to junior coupé customers. But then, the Beetle did launch the company back in 1945. Who are we to judge?

Prices start at around £16,500 for an entry-level model. You might consider it an alternative to a regular family hatchback or, given the compromised practicality, perhaps other pseudo-coupés such as the Vauxhall Astra GTC and the Renault Mégane three-door.

Is it for you?

There's still a heavy, shall we say 'lifestyle' element to the Beetle, even if VW has attempted to make it more butch. So you're perhaps the sort of buyer who would also be looking at the latest MINI and Fiat 500 models. Perhaps the Nissan Juke?

You may find the extra space justifies the cost

The Beetle is rather bigger than any of these, though - and pricier. You may find the extra space justifies the extra cost, of course, especially since the basic model is powered by 105hp a downsized 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine that comes with VW's seven-speed DSG automatic transmission as standard.

We're testing this engine and gearbox, but in middle-ranking Design trim. This will set you back nearly £19,000, but includes a seriously chunky amount of fitted equipment.

What does it do well?

In fact, once you start to look at the standard kit list, £19k begins to feel like very good value indeed. In addition to that fancy twin-clutch transmission - easy to use and with extra bonus tech points - you do get a load of highly desirable items.

Volkswagen Beetle (© Volkswagen)

This includes convenience features such as Bluetooth, iPod connectivity and an eight-speaker DAB digital radio audio system. But also stability control with electronic differential lock to improve cornering grip, air conditioning and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The "Orbit" wheels fitted at the factory have a very retro look (easily sorted via the options list - as pictured - if you're not keen), in keeping with other touches, including the dashboard design and rear grab handles.

Combine all this with the distinctive looks, typically robust Volkswagen build quality and a fuss free driving experience, and you've got a compelling all round package.

What doesn't it do well?

That's assuming you buy into the whole Beetle thing, of course. If you do, you'll probably love it - but this is not a straightforward substitute for a family hatchback by any means. You really do need to think coupé for comparison.

Rear access requires a degree of athleticism

There are only four seats, for starters, and access to the rear requires a degree of athleticism. Once you're back there you'll find actual passenger room has increased, but it remains slightly claustrophobic for adults.

The small windows probably won't go down well with scenery keen children, either. The boot has gotten considerably bigger, though, growing from 209 litres in the previous version to 310 - and you can fold the rear seat backs when required.

Keeping to the coupé theme, VW has also sharpened the driving experience. You'll find the new car far more eager to change direction, with less of a rolling motion through the corners. But you might not like the occasionally bumpy ride that comes as a result.

What is it like to live with?

We're not entirely sold on the new looks, and can't help thinking the mk2's purer design concept will better stand the test of time. That said, the new car is different enough that people will at least realise you're driving the latest model.

Firm suspension aside - and for most part this is more niggle than real annoyance, anyway - perhaps the most pleasant surprise about the new Beetle is just how much fun it is to drive.

Volkswagen Beetle (© Volkswagen)

Again, this keys into the coupé motif - and helps it better compete against the giggle-inducing MINI - but even with a tiny 1.2-litre engine and just 105hp driving the front wheels it zips along with an engaging amount of urgency.

That's a tribute to the character of the power delivery, which always manages to feel much more boisterous than it really is. This is worth remembering before you attempt an overtake.

The solid build quality is complimented by the attention to detail in the interior design, leaving little room for complaint amongst front seat passengers. Those relegated to the rear won't be so happy - so you'd best be quick to call shotgun.

How green is it?

That 105hp will officially propel the Beetle from 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds and hit 111mph flat out. So, given that, the claimed 47.9mpg and 137g/km CO2 emissions aren't so bad. This is a petrol engine, after all.

The most fuel-efficient Beetle now available

At the moment, it's also the most fuel-efficient Beetle available, as the only other engine choice on sale at the time of writing is a 1.4-litre petrol with a turbocharger and a supercharger.

This is less green - but not to quite the extent you might expect given it produces 160hp. A 200hp 2.0-litre petrol will join the range soon to fortify the Beetle's faster side, while coming 1.6- and 2.0-litre TDI diesels promise greater mpg.

Would we buy it?

Try as we might, it's rather difficult to put the Beetle into a conventional category. It plays the coupé card well, but it seems unlikely many will really line it up alongside an Astra, a Mégane or a Scirocco as an alternative choice.

It's better to think of the Beetle simply as the Beetle. You already know whether you want one - we can simply confirm that if you do you're unlikely to be disappointed.

As for the 1.2 TSI, you should give it a try. Despite its tiny size you really could find it's all the engine you'd ever need. A truly impressive entry-point to the range.

First drive: Volkswagen Beetle (2011 onwards)
Find how much a used Beetle costs on Auto Trader
Read another Volkswagen review

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