Volkswagen puts the Bug back into the Beetle

Volkswagen puts the Bug back into the Beetle

The original Volkswagen Beetle built between 1938 and 2003, became the longest-running and most-produced vehicle in the history of the car, with over 21 million units sold in its 65-year lifespan. It was developed by Ferdinand Porsche under instruction from Der Führer himself, Adolf Hitler, as the Type 1 Volkswagen – which literally means “people’s car” in German.

In 1998 Volkswagen launched a New Beetle, based on the Golf IV larger platform and despite its broad initial appeal, has never been as popular as the original Type 1, being perceived as a niche model more likely to be chosen by city-dwelling women drivers. In fact, let’s be honest – very few red-blooded males would wish to be seen driving one..

The Type 1 Beetle sold in the US at the rate of 166,270 cars per year, whereas New Beetle has managed just 39,778 cars per year in its 12-year life – less than 24% of the original car. It was time for a change – the Beetle had to recapture the charm of the original car, whilst appealing to the all-important – predominantly male – enthusiast customer.

Fast forward to 2011 and on the eve of the Shanghai Auto Show, Volkswagen have unveiled the New Generation Beetle. Gone is the dashboard-mounted flower vase, replaced by a more mainstream VW-group facia designed to provide a more masculine and sporting feel to the new Bug.

On the outside the New Generation Beetle is longer, wider and lower, conveying a more dynamic appearance – it now measures 4,278 mm in length (+152 mm), 1,808 mm in width (+84 mm) and 1,486 in height (-12 mm). The track width front and rear, as well as the wheelbase at 2,537 mm, are also increased. Unlike its predecessor, the underpinnings of this New Generation Beetle are based on the latest VW Group PQ35 platform – the same as the current Golf and the Audi TT.

Another feature is the rear spoiler that is integrated into the design (standard on 2.0-litre TSI engines with 197bhp). The top surface of the rear spoiler is black, while the underside is painted in body color.

Overseen by Walter de Silva (Volkswagen Group) and Klaus Bischoff (Volkswagen Brand), with Marc Lichte the team leader for exterior design, the car’s new proportions mean the roof extends back further, the windscreen is shifted back and the rear section is now more akin to that of the original Beetle. The boot capacity is a practical 310 litres, up from 209 litres in the 1998 model. The Beetle continues to have four seats, with a split-fold rear seat for added versatility.

Inside the cabin, the Beetle’s designers created a modern, practical and distinctive appearance with easy to identify and ergonomic controls. Certain features, such as the glovebox and colour accent panels hark back to the original.

Three trim levels will be available – Beetle, Design and Sport – and each will be endowed with its own individual character and features. A wide range of innovative optional equipment will also be available, ranging from Keyless Access through satellite navigation systems and a panoramic sunroof to bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights – all of which are available for the first time on a Beetle.

In the UK, a choice of four engines will be offered: three petrol – a 104bhp 1.2-litre TSI, a 158bhp 1.4-litre TSI and a 197bhp 2.0-litre TSI; and one diesel – a 104bhp 1.6-litre with BlueMotion Technology. Thanks to the addition of Stop/Start and battery regeneration systems the 104bhp Beetle 1.6-litre is estimated to have a combined fuel consumption of 65.7 mpg and carbon dioxide emissions of 112 g/km.

The range-topping engine, in the 197bhp 2.0-litre, will feature standard XDS electronic differential lock as fitted to the Golf GTI. The system electronically monitors input from various wheel sensors and, in the event of slippage, transfers extra torque to the wheel or wheels with the most traction.

A 2.5-litre five cylinder engine will be available in the US market, producing 168bhp and 177 lb.-ft of torque, it fits in beneath the sportier 2.0-litre TSI.

The new car will be available to order in the UK in the summer, with first cars arriving in showrooms early in 2012