Volkswagen is all set to bring back the Beetle in India. We got our hands on this retro hatchback at Wolfsburg and the sunshine car left us with a smile on our face.
VW has done a great job of giving the new Beetle the perfect blend of iconic style with a hint of sportiness
At this day and age where headlines are hogged by terror attacks, reviving the carefree, passive resistance and non-violence ideology of Flower Power, from the 1960s-70s, isn’t such a bad idea. Without even knowing, Volkswagen have turned the wheels of this little revolution with the revival of the Beetle brand in India as the current generation model is to make its debut here very soon. Even though the 2009 ‘Bug’ had some pitfalls and wasn’t accepted with open arms as VW had hoped for, one couldn’t deny the fact that it still managed to stir a flutter in the heart. What went against it was the underpowered 115bhp, 2-litre petrol engine with a lethargic gearbox that sucked all the fun out of the Beetle. Also the previous generation Bug was considered too much of a woman’s car, especially with a flower vase on the centre console.
The new Beetle is a different machine and, I have to admit, it looks a lot more beautiful than the outgoing one. The reason for this could be because its silhouette is now a lot more closer to the original Kafer shape. After selling 22 million units in the last 70 years, customers are still emotionally attached to the iconic design, which separates the 'People's Car' from other retro cars. Unlike its predecessor, the Beetle doesn’t look aggressive, rather the simple clean design beautifully balances the old world charm with a modern twist. Volkswagen have given the bubble design the boot, which sometimes made it difficult to distinguish the front from the rear. No such problem with this Beetle as it looks more muscular with its flared side mouldings, flatter and longer bonnet and of course, the rear spoiler. As this three-door hatch shares underpinnings with the Golf, it is wider and longer than the 2009 model. The fully loaded version, which will be available in India, comes with Bi-Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, keyless access, power folding external mirrors with indicators housed in it and low pressure tyre indicators.
Step inside the cabin and the first thing you notice is that the German car manufacturer has worked hard to ensure that dashboard replicates the original Beetle, but with better quality and built and finish. In all honesty with the Beetle being predominantly a lifestyle car, the plastic quality is fairly average, which is disappointing. But within its limited space, Volkswagen have added many practical touches like two cup holders on the centre console, doors come with storage slots and dual glove boxes mark their welcome return. The Beetle scores full points on the comfort thanks to the beautifully crafted leather seats with generous side support.
The Beetle, which will make its way to our shores, will have the petrol power 1.4-litre TSI engine underneath the bonnet. It is mated with a seven-speed DSG gearbox and comes with paddle shifters. Before we could even venture the streets of Wolfsburg, we were told by Volkswagen to go slow in the city as they have strict speed restrictions. We took the Bug around the industrial city and within a couple of minutes it was quite clear that gearbox was perfect for city driving. The 147 ponies provided a brisk initial acceleration, but when we hit the Autobahn, we realised the power started to fizzle out, especially in the mid range. But to be fair, keeping our Indian road conditions in mind, it has enough grunt.
The ride, on the other hand, is on the harsher side as you get to feel each and every bump, and with potholes and ditches in our country, it will become a bit painful. Therefore, Volkswagen should look at softening the suspension setup for a comfortable ride. But then due to a stiff set up, the Beetle is comfortable in turns and the wider wheels provide additional grip. Therefore, this does add some sportiness to the Beetle. The new electro-mechanical steering wheel, on the other hand, is not the most responsive one in the business and lacks precision. It also feels artificially heavy.
From a historical icon to a fashion statement, the new Beetle will be an interesting addition to Volkswagen India’s portfolio. After all, it is a lifestyle hatchback coupe with a pedigree retro flavour. It certainly looks much better than its predecessor and has practical cabin storage space. The 310 litres of boot space is also very impressive and if you fold down the rear seats, the capacity increases to 910 litres, The 1.4-litre TSI provides ideal power, but the steering wheel lacks feedback and the ride quality could have been better. If you want to be the toast of the town, the Beetle, being the most recognisable car, will certainly make you famous.
- VW Beetle 1.4 TSi
Transmission: 7-Speed DSG / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 147bhp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 250Nm @ 3,500rpm
Acceleration: 0-100km - 8.7 seconds