Volkswagen Beetle 1.4 TSI Design (2012)
Our Rating

4/5

Volkswagen Beetle 1.4 TSI Design (2012)

158bhp 1.4 turbo engine suits the Beetle very well.

The first present-day Volkswagen Beetle we drove on UK roads, you may remember, was a 1.2 TSI DSG which you're not actually going to be able to buy in this country until some time in 2013. Sorry about that. It's the way things happen sometimes.This time it's different. The car we're looking at on this occasion is, like the 1.2 we reviewed previously, in the Design trim level, but it has a 1.4-litre petrol engine and a six-speed manual gearbox, and you can, if you choose, go out and buy one once you've finished reading this.I'm not sure that I would. I don't quite "get" the Beetle in the way I do the Fiat 500, which is every bit as much of a pastiche. To me, it looks a bit odd, though I'm becoming quite fond of the front three-quarter view. The tail, however, still seems dumpy, and the only reason I'm starting to like the profile is that I've realised it reminds me of what a dragster version of a first-generation Beetle would probably have looked like.This car is also fairly impractical compared with the Golf on which it's based. Luggage capacity is only mildly compromised when the rear seats are in place (Beetle 310 litres, Golf 350), but the shortfall rises to 400 litres when those seats are folded. And there is as near as dammit absolutely no room for passengers in the back of the Beetle.And, while I'm having a rant, I could do without the body-coloured interior trim. For a start, it makes me feel like I'm sitting in a car that has been stripped out for motorsport purposes (even though the body-coloured bits are made of plastic rather than metal). On top of that, it's quite alarming when the colour in question is bright red.Still, you might think this is okay, and you may consider the car to look cute, and you might never carry much luggage, and you may have no need to take more than one passenger anywhere ever. In those circumstances, the Beetle suddenly becomes rather appealing.I drove this one for over 1000 miles in the course of a week, and there was much to commend it. The seats, for example, are very supportive, which is important if you're practically living in a car and you have a long back prone to twinges. Just as helpfully, the ride and handling are better than those of any first- or second-generation Beetle.Then there's the engine. With the help of both a supercharger and a turbocharger, that little 1.4 produces no less than 158bhp, a figure which you might imagine would put the car almost into hot hatch territory. In fact, it doesn't feel anything like that - it's set up more for comfort than speed - but there's strong acceleration when you need it, and in particular you can make quite smart progress from very low revs.Being 13kg heavier than a Golf with the same engine and gearbox, it's slightly but not importantly slower, and a little less economical too, though official figures of 42.8mpg combined and 153g/km are not far behind what the Golf can manage.You may be sceptical of official figures, and it's true that they don't always have much relevance to real life. But the first half of this test involved driving on a wide variety of roads in generally awful weather which must surely have harmed the economy, and according to the trip computer I averaged 40.6mpg. Not convinced by trip computers? Fine, because I also measured the fuel consumption myself, and came up with 41.6mpg. On a subsequent long motorway run in much better conditions the average was nearer 44mpg.So the Beetle performs very well, and is more economical than the EU says it is. Not a bad combination, if you ask me. But I'd still rather have a Golf. Engine 1390 cc, 4 cylinders Power 158bhp Transmission 6-speed manual Fuel/CO2 42.8mpg / 153g/km Acceleration 0-62mph: 8.3 seconds Top speed 129mph Price £19,605 Details correct at publication date

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