The Beetle has always been an iconic vehicle, but this is the first Beetle that we've really liked or would even dream of buying. You can go back (they date back to 1938) as far as you like, Herbie has never been on my "want to own" list. The original was a noisy, gutless creature with an air cooled engine that always sounded like it was about to expire, yet somehow kept on going, and going.
The new Beetle was a Rabbit in disguise, only it cost more, didn't perform as well and was nowhere near as practical. Which brings us to the 2012 VW Beetle, the best Bug of them all (hey, that's also a good name).
The cute bubble car has been replaced with a sporty creation that's a modern take on the original, similar to what BMW did with the Mini. Stretched wider and longer and with a lower roofline, this Beetle has a crouched, ready-to-bolt-out-of-the-gate posture.
Two engines are initially available, and VW's venerable 2.5-litre five-cylinder is the base power provider. This engine can generate 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque and is mated to either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
A step up the power ladder is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that pumps out 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. Its driveline comes with an electronically controlled limited-slip differential and either a six-speed manual or a six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission. A TDI (diesel) may also be added to the line.
The three Beetle trim lines are Comfortline, Highline and Sportline, which has the high-output 2.0-litre engine.
The well-equipped base Comfortline trim ($21,975) comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, heated cloth seats, 50/50 split-folding rear seats, keyless entry, power windows, three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control and even heated washer nozzles and mirrors.
Highline ($24,225) puts on 17-inch alloy wheels and adds ambient lighting, chrome interior accents, eight-way driver and six-way passenger manually adjustable cloth sport seats, fog lights, pushbutton ignition and a multifunction steering wheel.
Even bigger 18-inch alloy wheels come with Sportline ($29,025) which also includes leather seats, alloy sport pedals, red brake calipers, dual exhaust, black exterior accents, black mirrors, a multilink rear sport suspension and a rear spoiler.
Standard safety features include electronic stability control, and side airbags are provided for both front and rear passengers.
I loved the easy entry features on my test Beetle. A hand on the door handle releases the locks and a push-button engine start feature also greets the driver. If you've got rear passengers, there's a top-of-seatback release latch on the front seat, which folds and slides forward out of way in one slick movement. Driver comfort features include a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and manual settings for seat include height, which makes the Beetle very suited to the taller than average. Headroom for rear occupants is also very good, but legroom is limited.
Our Beetle came with the 2.5-litre engine, which is also available in Golf and Jetta models. It's a good engine that's been around for a long time and was recently updated to make it easier on gas. Its performance is also good, particularly at low engine speeds and compares well with any base engine in the compact car class.
The Tiptronic automatic is another piece of tried and tested VW machinery. In manual mode, however, there's no indication of the engaged gear showing on the instrument panel, which is a little odd.
Steering is on the light side, but has a precise feel and very good direction stability, typical of most VW models. Also commendable are the Beetle's large outsize side mirrors.
The 2012 Volkswagen Beetle is the best Beetle _ ever!