|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
So when Volkswagen announced a Philippine comeback, the very first question in everyone’s mind was: are you bringing back the Beetle? Thankfully, the answer was an unequivocal yes. Finally, here it is: the Twenty-First Century Beetle. The question now is: should you drive one home? As someone who doesn’t share any nostalgia with the Beetle, reviewing this car puts me in a very peculiar situation. Indeed, it boils down to this car’s modern day merits as opposed to just simply nodding to tradition. Yet, one thing the Beetle does well is that it manages to do both and this makes it a winner.
Those into retro will find that the 2014 Beetle retains all of the classic cues they’ve come to associate with the namesake. The round shape, the clamshell hood, the oval headlights, the flared wings—they all successfully point towards the original design DNA. And yet, look deeper and you’ll notice the modernity in its design. With a body that’s wider, longer, and lower than the previous ‘New Beetle’, the 2014 Beetle loses the three semi-circular silhouette and is now replaced by one that looks like a modern-day hotrod. The roofline runs lower making it sportier in its appearance while the blacked out rear spoiler does a great job of mimicking the ‘Whale Tail’ Porsche 911’s (the original Beetle was designed by Ferdinand Porsche after all). And as the only current Volkswagen with round headlights, it smart to gift it (at least on the 1.4 TSI Comfortline) with bi-xenon (HID) headlights with LED daytime running lights to add even more style points.
Despite the two-door configuration, accessing the Beetle doesn’t require that much space. Thanks to cleverly designed doors which are engineered solely for opening in tight quarters, ingress and egress are uncompromised even if the doors are of shorter length than a conventional two-door. Once inside, the Beetle amazes with its clever melding of the high-tech and the retro. Like its unmistakable shape, the Beetle’s interior has clear nods to the original from the upper glove box lid that opens upward to the body-colored upper dashboard and door trim. Even the seats are finished in a checkered pattern which is a clear homage to the original. Yet, sit down in the driver’s seat and you’ll be amazed with the highly supportive design. With the knob-type recliner and tilt/telescopic steering column, getting the perfect driving position is easy. Upfront, the semi-circular hood houses three rounded instruments laid out in an easy-to-understand manner. A multi-function display (MDI), accessible and configurable via the steering wheel, is nestled below the central speedometer. The wheel itself, thin and of small diameter with a flat-bottom is both a joy to look at and to hold. Perhaps the only painful experience is with the RCD 310 audio system. Like previous experiences with the Touran and Tiguan, it’s laggy at best and utterly hard to pair with either Bluetooth hands-free or iPod (it does readily read MP3s off USB thumb drives though). Fit and finish is fairly consistent though there are some questionable bits such as the lower glove box which feels flimsy and unlit.
Despite the lower overall height, the Beetle’s roofline creates a cathedral of space, for all four passengers (there’s a large center tunnel preventing a third passenger at the back). The unique roofline creates head room that fits even the tallest of drivers while the longer roof section does accommodate a better feeling of space front or aft. Although Volkswagen says the Beetle has more legroom than its most immediate predecessor, it’s still pretty much a tight affair at the back, though it’s certainly roomier than the other two-door sports car in its price bracket. A lovely feature is the memory mode of the front seats that remember the front seat’s position whenever someone climbs out of the back seats. The hatch, which opens wide and high (a bane for those parking in underground spaces) reveals a luggage space that’s best described as merely ‘ample’ (the donut-shaped subwoofer robs even more space). Still, it can be grown to a more usable size thanks to rear seats that fold in a 50/50 split-fold.
In a move to greatly modernize its driving experience, Volkswagen turns to the running gear of the Beetle’s modern day people’s car equivalent: the Golf. However, not all of the Golf somehow made it to the all-new Beetle. Though the front-end does feature the MacPherson Strut, the rear makes do with a Torsion Beam Axle with a four-link and stabilizer link set-up. Still, there’s a lot to love with the new Beetle. It’s not purely cutesy marketing anymore. On the road, it’s a proper and decent sporty car (not sports car) with precise steering and good amounts of grip. It’s also fun to toss around in corners. The excellent visibility also makes it great to drive around even in traffic. Despite the sportier appearance, the suspension tuning is done in such a way that the Beetle absorbs all sorts of road imperfections (even larger ones) with ease. At higher speeds, the Beetle also has great stability.
The 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine may sound banally small and slow for such a portly-looking car, but thanks to direct injection and Volkswagen’s Twincharger technology, it delivers the grunt to surprise even the most discerning car enthusiasts. The Beetle pushes out 160 horsepower and 240 Nm of torque (from 1,500 to 4,500 rpm). These figures may seem like a typical large displacement 4-cylinder engine, but the way it delivers the power is totally different. Thanks to Twincharger which combines a belt-driven supercharger (for low revs) and a turbocharger (for high revs), there’s consistent power throughout the Beetle’s engine rev range. There’s a slight lag from a standstill, but jab the throttle a bit and this car rockets almost instantaneously. At higher revs, the turbocharger lets out an unmistakable whine increasing the sporty quotient even more. Mated to the engine is a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic (DSG) which makes power delivery even more direct. And unlike other dual-clutch applications, the one on the Beetle is smooth. Yes, there’s noticeable ‘gear hunting’ at low speeds, but there’s no jerkiness. The combination of a small displacement, forced induction engine and a direct acting gearbox reveals commendable fuel economy figures: 9.90 km/L after five days (9.17 km/L city, 16.12 km/L highway). The Beetle requires 95-octane fuel.
At P 1,790,000, some will find the entry fee for a piece of nostalgia a bit steep. And though most will buy the Volkswagen Beetle purely for its eye-catching looks, there’s certainly much more than meets the eye. Even if you strip away all of the retro throwback and judge it purely on its own merit as a modern day sporty hatchback and shows its worth. Even if its 1960’s inspired styling wears off, its sporty demeanor and great build quality ensures a much longer lasting connection.
2014 Volkswagen Beetle 1.4 TSI
|Ownership||2014 Volkswagen Beetle 1.4 TSI Comfortline|
|Vehicle Classification||Sports Car|
|Body Type||3-door Hatchback|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Supercharged + Turbo|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||160 @ 5,800|
|Nm @ rpm||240 @ 1,500-4,500|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 95~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,359|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam with 4-Link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front and Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 50/50|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Climate Control||Yes (No as tested)|
|No. of Speakers||8 (9 as tested)|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|