Volkswagen went way back to the drawing board with its reimagining of the 2012 Beetle. The new Beetle--which is not to be called a "New Beetle"--draws its inspiration from the original car of 1938, but with a lower, flatter roofline. This gives the car a more aggressive stance. Overall dimensions have grown, which translates to more interior room for passengers. Those passengers get a combination of retro simplicity in the gauge layout, elegance in the quality of cabin materials and high-tech in the available gizmos and gadgets.
The Beetle comes in two basic trims--the base 2.5L and the Turbo. The base model utilizes a 170-hp, 2.5L 5-cylinder engine driving the front wheels through a standard 5-speed manual. The Turbo delivers 200 hp from a 2.0L direct-injected and turbocharged 4-cylinder. This engine is mated to a 6-speed manual. On 2.5 models, a 6-speed automatic with Tiptronic and Sport mode is optional, while on the Turbo buyers can opt for a 6-speed direct-shift (DSG) automatic. The dual-clutch unit offers drivers both fully automatic or semi-manual control.
The Beetle shares its underpinnings with the new Jetta, which include front struts and a rear twist-beam axle. Steering-feel will feel very familiar to those who have driven previous New Beetles, though the driving experience has changed significantly, thanks to the revised A-pillar angle and accordingly the abbreviated dashboard. The effect is to bring the driver closer to the action.
Base trims come nicely equipped with cruise control, keyless entry, 3-color ambient lighting, 6-way adjustable and heated front seats and a 50/50 split folding rear seat. On the technology front, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and a media device interface with iPod cable are also standard.
Base models can be equipped with a powered panoramic sunroof and a Fender premium sound system and navigation.
Turbo models add a rear spoiler, painted 4-wheel disc brakes with red calipers behind special 18-inch Twister alloy wheels, variable electromechanical power steering, front MacPherson struts and a Cross Differential System, which helps prevent inside wheelspin when cornering. Inside, accents such as brushed aluminum-look pedal covers, sport seats, the 8-speaker sound system of the base car, cloth seating and special interior trim pieces.
Safety comes standard as well in all 2012 Beetles, with anti-lock brakes, dual front airbags and combined curtain and side front seat airbags.