2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo review: Beetle reborn

2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo

2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo

There are two ways of looking at the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle. One is to compare it to its predecessor, the Volkswagen New Beetle, and the second is to view it as just another car.

The Volkswagen New Beetle, of course, was the production version of the Volkswagen Concept One retro-themed concept car that proved wildly popular when it debuted at then 1994 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, so much so that a production version was inevitable, even unavoidable. The production Volkswagen New Beetle, however, was larger, based on the Golf instead of the Polo like the concept.

But the Volkswagen New Beetle, however, kept the three-semicircle design of the Concept One, however, which was endearing but eventually cloying. Volkswagen dropped the slow-selling turbocharged versions and settled on a percentage of overall sales too big to ignore but apparently not worth promoting, because VW didn’t. The model’s doom seemed ever more imminent as the new decade rolled on. Volkswagen could easily have walked away from the entire retro-bug concept as the New Beetle suffered declining sales—admittedly after years of neglect—and demographics that had veered much too far in the feminine direction.

2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo interior

The driver and front passenger get multi-manual adjustable sport seats in the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo.

To just about everyone’s surprise, however, Volkswagen elected to revive the Beetle franchise, though this time the official name is Beetle, as in 2012 Volkswagen Beetle. If it helps, say “new Volkswagen Beetle” rather than Volkswagen New Beetle.

It is an all new car, at least as new as the new Volkswagen Golf is, the new Beetle is based on the Golf platform and powertrain, as had the New Beetle. The new Beetle takes it a step further, however, with an aggressive and bolder stance, and one Volkswagen hopes will be seen as more masculine. It is, as Volkswagen notes, lower, longer and wider—though really not by very much—than the New Beetle. The new Beetle leans forward with a forward rake to its shoulder line, and there’s a scallop around the side windows as if carved by the wind rushing by.

The Beetle’s windshield is further back than the New Beetle’s, shifting the greenhouse rearward and reducing the acreage of the dashtop inside the car. The roof is flatter, more like the original “Type 1” Beetle, the profile of the rear of the car more closely matching that of the first Beetles as well.

The 2012 Volkswagen Beetle is wider, however, than either original Beetle or New Beetle, the headlights faired into the front fenders, though under glass and rimmed by chrome rings. VW accentuates the wider look by stretching the grille for the radiator—the 2012 Beetle has a front-mounted water-cooled engine, after all—low and across the width of the car.

However, compared to just another car, the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle looks like nothing but a Beetle. Want distinctive? We’ve got your distinctive right here. One won’t buy a 2012 Beetle without wanting to make a style statement. If not, buy a Golf for the same mechanicals.

At the moment there are two trim levels for the new Volkswagen Beetle, the standard model with Volkswagen’s workhorse 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, and the Beetle Turbo, which naturally enough has Volkswagen’s popular 2.0-liter turbocharged four. The latter is immediately identifiable from behind by a discrete spoiler under the rear window, finished black on its upper side and body color underneath. The Turbo also gets different wheels, 18-inches instead of the standard 17-inch rims. Otherwise the Turbo is indistinguishable from the base model, unless, of course, like out test model, there’s a graphic down the side spelling it out.