New Car: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle

The New Beetle took the design community by storm when it popped into being in 1998, and once it went on sale, buyers immediately took to the car’s cute and friendly look. It was chipper and cheerful, with a flower vase on the dash, but it was utterly lacking in anything that suggested aggression or speed.

This approach nevertheless sparked a cult following, particularly in the U.S., where dealers got away with charging way over sticker price, at least at first. But a mid-term face lift didn't help the model look much more serious, and the overpriced, limited-edition European RSi model with its VR6 engine simply flopped. Nevertheless, the New Beetle stayed in production for an unusually long time, with the final 2010-model-year cars still utilizing the PQ34 platform, the basis for the Golf IV—in case you’ve stopped counting, the Golf VII will arrive in 2013

With this new Beetle—note that the car no longer carries the capitalized “New” in its name—VW set out to vastly broaden the model’s appeal. The design brief was simple: Make it look sportier and more purposeful than the New Beetle. So instead of evolving the previous version, Klaus Bischoff's design team went back to the original design conceived in the 1930s. What they came up with is a car that’s six inches longer, 3.3 inches wider, and 0.5 inch lower than the New Beetle, and one that truly looks more aggressive. The new proportions imply motion, whereas the previous one always looked like it was standing still. There is some pronounced angularity around the daylight opening and the hood and bumper, and the taillights are wider. From some angles, the Beetle looks almost-sort-of Porsche-like. Daytime running lamps rendered in LEDs underscore the round shape of the headlights, making them resemble a glitzy Chopard watch.

The interior reflects the changed mood of the exterior. The press photos show a black and carbon-look treatment with burgundy seating surfaces, which combine to impart a very sporty, outta-the-’70s look. A less-menacing painted dashboard is available as well. The optional auxiliary instruments on top of the dashboard look right at home in this purposeful environment, and we think they might help define this Beetle's interior as much as the flower vase did its predecessor’s. There’s no longer a vast swath of plastic between the steering wheel and windshield base, and that piece of glass is now more upright than before. There are edges to the cabin design, a departure from the soft styling from before. Two trim levels, Design and Sport, are available and the trunk swallows 10.9 cubic feet of stuff.
Thanks to: Car and Driver
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