VeeDubs New Bug: PHABulous and Sexy
Do you remember the relaunch of VeeDubs famous Beetle? That was 16 years ago, which hardly seems possible. We’ve seen a plethora of platforms performing pleasantly for what seems an age and the new Beetle uses the PQ35 platform from the Golf MK VI. It’s a great shame it doesn’t share the new MQB platform (Mark VII Golf) which is magnificent.
The previous model Beetle followed the lines and proportions of the original 1930’s car, if on a larger scale. I found it hard to take seriously. It always looked to be in the final stages of a difficult pregnancy and therefore decidedly awkward and ungainly. The new Beetle is a different kettle of fish altogether. Imagine some clever bloke with acetylene torch got at the old model and chopped a bit out of the pillars to lower the roof. It brings a sexy gangster-esque look to the model. Adding to that, a lowered smoother bonnet and boot and the package comes out looking deliciously sporty and dare I say desirable. That’s something the previous model was never able to achieve regardless of the trim level. The ubiquitous daytime running lights and sexy rear LED lamps give the car a bit of spit and polish and the pillarless doors are very Porsche-like. I liked the look a very much.
Inside was the same story. Some people just don’t get the interior story and have said some unkind things about it. What VW have tried to achieve was a happy marriage between modern functionality and retro style. And stylish it is too. The seats and instruments are standard Volkswagen circa 2013 but the splash of body colour lends a certain gravitas to the retro theme and feels Ye Olde Wolrdie. Some don’t like it but I think it looks great. Those of you who have been in the original bug (1938–2003: 21,529,464 built (of which 15,444,858 in Germany, incl. 330,251 Cabriolets, and 3,350,000 in Brazil) will recognise the body-coloured plastic where body-coloured metal panels were. The painted steel wouldn’t pass safety tests these days but the tasteful nod manages to assuage the deep seated need for something a bit camp, a bit retro, and a bit cute. This is especially relevant now the famous ‘Vase And Daisy” have gone the way of the dinosaur. Yes ladies and germs, no daisy for you!
As I’ve said already, the latest Beetle only has a passing similarity to the look of the Beetles of the past, and absolutely no similarity mechanically. Frankly, I couldn’t be happier.
Our Beetle had keyless entry/stop/start so the key stays in your pocket for the duration. The interior is pure VW. There are bits of Golf, Polo and many other VeeDubs you care to name. The switchgear and infotainment system are the same as used elsewhere in the group. It means the familiarity would allow anyone who has driven one to jump in and know where everything is. I couldn’t get the USB to work but that is probably because VW insist on special cables to make it work. It’s a cost-option of course.
The cabin feels roomy and well thought out. The low roof means the blokes in the rear will need to be of a more diminutive stature than those in the dress circle seats. But most of us never have anyone on the back anyway so the rear seats get used mainly for DJ’s bags, groceries and tasteful potted plants.
You can have any choice of any engine as long as it’s the 118TSI twin-charger petrol. It’s both turbocharged and supercharged and gives a willing 118kW of power (5800rpm and 240Nm of torque) across the 1500-4500 rpm range. Whether it’s this, or the low 1st gear of the DSG, it’s easy to get a pleasing chirp from the front tyres as they scramble for grip at the lightss. The 7sp performed flawlessly everywhere but at ultra-low speeds. It’s difficult to creep into a tight park as the clutches grab and let go constantly. It almost becomes a two-footed process which is something our fathers slapped our hands for doing.
I‘d like to spend a few moments on the steering: It’s electric as are most modern cars. It means there isn’t a drive belt off the engine sapping much needed, and very expensive energy. It only requires power when it’s actually steering and is the method by which automated parking can easily be applied. In the early days electric steering was lifeless and dull. There was no feeling and the driver was robbed of any sense of what’s happening on the road. Some like that isolation but it was rather like being in an HQ Premier from the 70’s where breathing gently on the wheel was good for three spins. The Beetle feels sharp and precise with the Goldilocks amount of assistance. It’s confident and poised and makes the driver feel competent and evokes a feeling of a comforting hug.
Our test run then took to the M5 out of Sydney bound for the nation’s capital. I took a chum down for the Turner exhibition at the NGA which was well worth the trip. The real aim was to see what the Bug was like on the highway. For some reason I got all misty thinking about a trip I took in a 1963 Beetle when I was a kid. I hated every minute of it. It sounded like someone machine gunning a heard of harp-seals, was slower than docking the QM II and if you wanted air you had to stick your head out the window. Minis of the era were no better.
What do you suppose I found with the latest offering? It was just like a bought one! The seating was comfy, the instruments were easy to use and I had a smile on my face almost the entire time. The trip passed quickly as the chatter continued throughout the journey. The friend, a non-driver, liked the Bug very much. He thought it would appeal to the need by the “gays in the village” to have something a bit different. I agree. My only concern is for the DSG with reports of failures again creeping in to the news over the last few years. We will keep an eye on that one for you.
It wasn’t all beer and skittles though.
On changing lanes: After careful preparation we began to move slowly across the white line only to be tooted. Another check of mirrors and over the shoulder still failed to reveal the culprit. After a short while, an ancient red-faced Honda Accord driver came by shaking his fist. Somehow, the VeeDub had hidden an entire car replete with its crinkled geriatric driver. It’s not a good look for their hearts poor dears!
On wind noise: there was a little noise about the front pillars though not enough to be annoying
On taking off at light: the constant chirps will be hard on the tyres.
On using the hand brake: at its lowest setting, the centre arm rest has to be moved to pull the hand brake on.
That’s it, that’s all there is that’s bad. The rest is pure “Golf in a pretty frock” stuff. The handling is sharp and the road-sense predictable. The engine, though small, feels willing and grunty. The brakes ane responsive and extremely effective. The cabin feels roomy yet cozy. We achieved 7L/100k over the week’s run which is pretty good. We didn’t skimp on the horses whether in town or on the open road. Despite being on the older Golf platform the Beetle feels brilliant, looks sexy and makes you feel special. Yes it costs a little more than the same Golf, but it also gives you more than the same Golf. It gives you a sparkly dusting of X factor which is lacking from the family hatchback.
Would I buy one? Yes, with my own money.