Volkswagen Beetle (2012 – 2019) At A Glance
Icon is a word that's banded around too frequently when it comes to car designs but the Beetle can rightly claim to be a true automotive icon. First seen in 1938 the original air-cooled Beetle was the 'people's car', an affordable and reliable motor that promises mass mobility for all. The intervening years saw more than 21.5 million Beetles sold worldwide until the final one was produced in Mexico in 2003.
Replacing an icon is never easy though. Volkswagen brought back the Beetle in 1998 with the 'new Beetle' but while it sold more than a million, it never caught the public's imagination in the same way, although it does have the distinction of being the first 'retro' model, coming several years before the MINI and Fiat 500.
Now Volkswagen is back with its new Beetle and a look that's much more in line with the original Beetle of the 1930s. It's certainly more masculine than the previous Beetle and far less twee - there's no vase on the dashboard for starters - while the interior harks back to the old model too with a flat dashboard and the recognisable flip-up glovebox built into it. Practicality is much improved with a boot that's almost 50 per cent bigger and more interior room too.
Overall quality and refinement is a huge step forward from the previous model and on the road it's far more together with sharper handling, a hugely improved ride and better steering. While the exterior shape is similar, underneath this Beetle is very different from its predecessor of 1998. It gets a good range of engines including Volkswagen's excellent TSI engines - a 1.2-litre, 1.4-litre and the top 2.0-litre with 200PS - plus there's an impressively frugal diesel in the shape of a 1.6 TDI BlueMotion Technology than averages a claimed 65.7mpg.
The new Beetle is well priced with on the road prices starting at a very competitive £14,875 - about the same as a MINI Cooper. It's an incredibly likeable car with plenty of charm and character, much more so than the previous 'new' Beetle. There's also an even more desirable Cabriolet version which was launched in April 2013.
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Ask Honest John
Had the emissions update and now the DPF is clogged. Can I get Volkswagen to fix it?
"I have a 2013 Volkswagen Beetle diesel. It went in for the emissions update but 12 months later, the DPF light came on. The car does very few miles per year. I took it to a local garage who told me this was a recognised fault following the emissions update and I should go back to Volkswagen. I did this, but they said as it was 12 months since the update, it was not their responsibility. I then went back to my local garage - which managed to clear the fault - but said it would need fixing soon. The light is now back on and we are looking at a large repair bill. Is there any way I can get Volkswagen to sort this out?"
Diesel cars are not designed for low mileage use. A DPF needs at least 15-miles (per journey) to passively regenerate - anything less will cause it to clog up. I do not think the DPF fault is related to the emissions update. I would recommend selling the car and replacing it with something more suitable for your needs, like a petrol or hybrid vehicle.
Volkswagen Beetle gearbox chatter
"I have just bought a Volkswagen Beetle 1.4 TSI. The car is a 2012 model and has started making a loud noise from under the bonnet. It seems to go when I put the clutch in, sometimes it stops doing it if I put it in a gear and take it back out. Also when changing gears sometimes feels like it is juddering, could you please help me with this as I've been told it's called gearbox chatter."
Could be 'chatter'. VW transmission bearings are of very variable quality. There can also be problems with the casings. Might help to use a molybednum disulphide gearbox oil additive such as STP or Wynns. I've used it to hold noisy VW boxes together in the past and have seen it do so for a couple of years.
Would you recommend a Beetle or MINI convertible, and should I buy an automatic?
"I am a fit and active 75-year-old and learned to drive in London in a Ford Popular when I was 17. I have always driven manual cars. Being barely five foot tall I have enjoyed the adjustable seat and steering wheel on my latest Golf but after 92,000 miles I am now considering buying a Beetle or MINI convertible, for a last bit of fun. Probably a one to two-year old model. I drive approximately 10,000 miles a year on both country lanes and motorways and wonder whether there is any structural difference between the two cars in the case of an accident. I drove the original MINI, which seemed very flimsy in comparison to the early Beetles.
Also, my family are urging me to get an automatic, feeling it would make driving less tiring on long journeys, especially when the joints start to stiffen up. However, I remember reading somewhere it is unsafe for older drivers to change to automatic driving if they've never done it before. I would very much appreciate your advice."
Obviously a Beetle is slightly more substantial, but carries the disadvantage of being bigger and you can't see any of the corners from the driver's seat. The MINI has a 6-speed torque converter automatic transmission. The Beetle usually has a 7-speed dry clutch DSG.
I would not advise you to switch to an automatic unless you can learn to left foot brake: two pedals - two feet. Left foot braking, especially while manoeuvring at low speed, and when setting off, allows you to brake instantly (within a metre) if something goes wrong. The phenomenon of "unintentional acceleration syndrome" occurs with automatics when drive is engaged unexpectedly and a one-footed driver either cannot get his/her foot from accelerator to brake fast enough, or misses the brake and stamps again on the accelerator, then stamps even harder on the accelerator when the car does not stop.
Why are Volkswagen Beetles not imported into the UK in greater numbers?
"Volkswagen has finally launched the 2012 Beetle, but it's limiting UK deliveries to 3000 this year, and is saying that the automatic version won't be available until next year. Searching the internet, the model spec and availability varies widely all over Europe. In 1999 the same thing happened and I went to Hamburg to buy one. They can't order it this time.
Further Internet research is now showing automatics are off the menu (except in Germany) as is the Basic beetle, but the list prices elsewhere are actually lower than the UK's. Taking prices for the standard ‘Design’ for comparison: UK £19,470; Germany (20,350 euro) £16,936; Holland (19,990 euro) £16,644. Even worse is the US price: $19,795 = £12,601. I feel paranoia coming on."
I asked Volkswagen yesterday. What is happening is that the Mexican factory is concentrating on building masses of basic spec Jettas for the US market and does not have the capacity to produce enough Beetles to satisfy worldwide demand. So it’s basically Volkswagen strategy in attempting to dominate the US market for small sedans that is causing a shortage of Beetles. I have driven a 1.4TSI 160and a 1.2TSI 105 DSG automatic and they definitely have “want one” appeal.