Thursday 14th March 2013, 4:41PM GMT.
Motoring editor Rosie Allsopp reviews the new Volkswagen ‘Bug’
THIS was my first time driving a VW and I had high hopes.
I’ve long envied those who have owned and driven that classic hot hatch the VW Golf and have always wanted to see at first-hand what it’s like to drive a Beetle.
My family owned a version of the original body-shaped Beetle when I was growing up in the 70s, though I was obviously far too small to do anything other than sit perched on a cushion on the driver’s seat, peeping over the dashboard, legs too short to reach the pedals (hey, no change there, then) making brumm-brumm noises.
To a child’s eye the Beetle stood out among other vehicles. Its curves and sound – not forgetting the Herbie movies – made it immediately recognisable.
But things change. The styling of the new Beetle has evolved, in my opinion, into the most sophisticated model yet. Compared with the old, some would say iconic, first incarnation, this has softer curves and a more grown-up look.
The one I’m driving has fabulous 18in. laser-cut alloy wheels and a spoiler which gives the back-end a passing resemblance to a model made by another legendary German car manufacturer, Porsche.
It has all the usual knobs and dials. There is a screen for satnav and reverse assist. It has separate heating controls for driver and front passenger. A very nice touch is the Fender speakers – the Beetle is the only vehicle in Europe to be equipped with them. For those who appreciate a fine in-car sound, there is a Fender premium soundpack which includes a 10-channel amplifier with eight speakers delivering 400 watts.
There is a choice of two TSI petrol engines – a 1.2 litre 105 PS engine with a seven-speed auto gearbox that is capable of delivering 47.9mpg over the combined fuel cycle.
There is also the sporty 1.4-litre 160 PS manual engine, which has a top speed of 129mph and can get from 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds.
This, the 1.4 sport, absolutely flies along. The acceleration, handling, suspension – everything is great. Its handling is precise without being stuffy. It loves corners and hugs the sharp bends at the back of the reservoir. It loves the straight roads too and hints at what it could do at a higher speed limit. Oh, for a disused airfield to play on.
So, yes, I did expect a lot, but the Beetle more than delivers. From the first time sitting behind the wheel, there is a real ‘wow’ factor. It’s not just the styling, lovely though that is – it’s the whole driving experience. It is versatile too. Drive in heavy traffic and it’s patient and well-mannered, tootling along without being too highly strung. But put it on an empty road and it’s an absolute joy. You can have a lot of fun in this car and I really did.