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Volkswagen Beetle 1.4 TFSI Sport review (2011 onwards)
Model: Volkswagen Beetle 1.4 TFSI Sport, £21,255 (£25,880 as tested)
Bodystyle: Two-door coupé
Engine: 1.4 4-cyl turbo petrol, 160hp @5,800rom, 177lb ft @ 4,500rpm
Transmission: front-wheel drive six-speed manual with XDS
Efficiency: 42.8mpg combined, 153g/km CO2
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First drive: Volkswagen Beetle 2011
What is it?
This is the most powerful petrol version of the new Volkswagen Beetle - at least until the Golf GTI-engined 2.0-litre TFSI variant appears later in the year. Propelled by a 160hp 1.4-litre turbo, it's also the only petrol model you can currently get with a manual gearbox.
The particular example we have on test here is finished in Sport specification. Sport isn't quite in showrooms yet, but will shortly join the existing line-up of regular and Design to become the range-topping choice.
Male or female, the exterior extras should help convince
Standard equipment is generous, with 18-inch alloys, a big fat rear spoiler, chunky door protection and an additional front air intake all helping this Beetle visually live up to its name.
Where does it fit?
Male or female, the exterior extras should help convince your mates that the third-generation Beetle is more masculine than its predecessor. As we've previously commented, the new elongated roof design does make it seem more of a coupé.
Buy that line, and you'll be looking at it as an alternative to cars such as the Vauxhall Astra GTC and the Renault Mégane Coupé - but neither of those really says lifestyle in quite such bold letters. Perhaps better to take a look at the Hyundai Veloster, or even the bulbous MINI Countryman.
Volkswagen, on the other hand, could also sell you a Scirocco - and you can have one of those with exactly the same engine for almost exactly the same money (the Beetle is slightly cheaper). On the other hand there's always the sensible VW Golf - which offers much greater practicality.
Is it for you?
The Golf is, of course, far too boring. The Scirocco, well, that's just got no sense of fun. The Beetle is the kind of car that surely speaks to its customers as a kindred spirit ¬- if you don't get the appeal already then perhaps you're unlikely to buy one.
Still, there is most definitely some entertainment to be had from a car that looks comparatively fluffy but packs a relatively powerful modern turbo punch. The speed here isn't dramatic, but it's certainly tangible - especially on the faces of the junior exec drivers you occasionally get to leave in your dust.
The Beetle puts a smile on your face
Back in the realms of functional usefulness, the rear seats give you a reasonable amount of flexibility - though they're better suited to small children than teenagers. Sensible-minded leaders of industry, meanwhile, may be better looking elsewhere.
What does it do well?
The Beetle puts a smile on your face, for starters. Even if the new design is more sour and sombre looking than the triple-bubble chirpiness of the last one, you know this isn't a car that's supposed to take itself too seriously. Same goes for the owner, we'd imagine.
In our opinion the perky performance of the 1.4 turbo is only enhanced by the presence of a six-speed manual gearbox. You do need to stir this a bit to make the best progress - the engine can prove a little laggy - but with a nicely precise action this is never a chore. The steering is well weighted and accurate.
Given the added levels of power, VW has also fitted its clever "XDS" electronic limited slip device to the front axle. So while there is a tad too much lean through the corners to make this car officially sporty, you can poke it along with satisfying vigour.
What doesn't it do well?
Despite the remaining rocking and rolling in the bends - hardly excessive by any means - the ride quality on this version has suffered slightly thanks to the introduction of those big 18-inch alloys. It's not awful, but it is fidgety.
Can't say we were especially taken with the optional Fender stereo. Yes, as in the people who make electric guitars. This could well just be us, though, as the system has received one or two awards - and at least the choice of Fender is a more interesting than another vehicle with Bose.
the ride quality on this version has suffered slightly
The front speaker surrounds also change colour. Fine. So long as you are prepared to accept that this isn't as versatile as a family hatch then really there's very little to complain about. In typical Volkswagen fashion, it feels well built and all the controls are sensibly positioned.
What's it like to live with?
The interior is intended to compliment the sporty exterior - so you'll find sports seats and "aluminium-look" pedals, plus some extra dashes of chrome, leather and gloss black. This looks sharp, but your passengers will more likely be taken with the glovebox and grab handles that hark back to the original.
Standard creature comforts include two-zone air conditioning, Bluetooth phone connection, heated electric mirrors and a touchscreen central display that controls the stereo. In our test car this was upgraded with satellite navigation, but the iPod connection comes regardless.
The front and rear edges of the Beetle drop rapidly out of sight, so it's handy to have front and rear parking sensors as standard as well. The panoramic roof is well worth adding as an extra since it floods the cabin with daylight. Unless you're trapped in the back, this all makes the Beetle thoroughly enjoyable.
How green is it?
The whole point of such low capacity turbo petrol engines is to give you greater efficiency alongside a healthy dollop of power. The availability of such power does tend to increase the weight of your right foot - just us? - so don't expect to match VW's lab-born figures.
It's a Volkswagen, but with added humour
For what it's worth, these are listed at 42.8mpg with 153g/km CO2 emissions - which currently means road tax of £170 a year. Not bad really, considering this Beetle will go 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds and hit 129mph flat out. Diesel versions are also available.
Would we buy it?
If you like the look of the latest Beetle, can live with the compromises of the two-door bodyshape and don't need a particularly huge boot, then we see very few reasons why you shouldn't buy one. It's a Volkswagen, but with added humour.
The 1.4 turbo and manual gearbox offer a more involving driving experience, and if you can deploy some self-restraint you ought to see late-30s mpg. Which is compelling. But you might just want to check you're happy with the Sport's jiggly ride quality before choosing this over Design.
Read a Volkswagen car review
First drive: Volkswagen Beetle 2011
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On Bing: see more images of the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle
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