It is 3 AM on a rainy Friday night and sleep has taken a backseat. “It’s raining cats and dogs!” Well, that’s going to be an understatement if I have to describe the downpour that has been taking place in Mumbai over the last week. But it wasn’t because of the rains and no I haven’t been popping pills as well. The reason for my insomnia was something else. The butterflies in my stomach were mainly because of the legendary automotive icon that I was about to drive the next morning. The car with a legacy as big as the Mt. Everest, the Volkswagen Beetle. ICON– If I had to define the Beetle in a single word, that would be it. Beetle has defined Volkswagen as a brand for almost 6 decades and is one of most iconic cars of the automotive industry. The bubbly bug has quite an inoffensive automotive design which is quite recognisable as well. From the legendary pedestrian crossing picture of “The Beatles” to the 2016 update, the Bug has strongly withstood the challenge of time.You, your parents and even your grandparents might have seen the Beetle either in person or at the cinemas. Some might remember it as Herbie, Kodok, Boble but the most famous nickname has to be the “Bug”. Even the 21st-century image retains the retro styling and the same curvaceous design is still very much evident.But is the new Beetle more than what meets the eye? Let’s find out-
Is the Beetle Tecked Up? Yes, the 2016 Beetle comes with a host of features like a touchscreen infotainment system, panoramic sunroof, automatic bi-xenon headlamps , front and rear parking sensors, heated front seats, push-button start, ESP, ABS. ASR traction control, auto start stop, and even a coasting function. The coasting feature decouples the gearbox with the engine and what that results into is increased fuel efficiency. It does miss out on electric seats which should have been present in a car of this segment.
Is Retro still sexy?Well Yes, definitely yes. As I have mentioned before, the Beetle is amongst the most iconic cars of this century and it still maintains the retro styling cues that were first seen in 1938. All the designers who were a part of the second edition of the Tech Fashion Tour had great things to say about the Beetle. The whole philosophy of draping fashion into an automotive design seems very exciting to all the designers.The cute bubbly face is enhanced even more by the bead-type DRL’s ( daytime running lights). Similar to the exteriors, the retrogressive design ideology has been carried forward to the interiors as well. The dashboard layout has a very old school feel (mainly because of the same body color paint on the dash) along with some techy bits like the touchscreen infotainment unit. The front seats are comfortable and offer good under thigh support for long journeys and hug you inside like any other Volkswagen.
What’s under the hood? How does it drive?The New Beetle is powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged TSI petrol engine which produces 148bhp of power along with 250Nm of torque. It is coupled with a 7-speed dual clutch DSG gearbox which extracts the most out of this engine. The car surges forward with a rush of power if you floor the accelerator pedal aggressively and Volkswagen’s claimed sub-10 second 0-100 acceleration figure is quite achievable. The Beetle also has another trick up its sleeve- the coasting function. What it does is that it decouples the gearbox with the engine when you are cruising on highway speeds. So basically, the car is just sitting idling and this results into an instant bump in fuel efficiency.
How does it handle?
The third-generation Beetle is based on the Jetta (uses the PQ 35 platform, not the modern MQB). Yes, it isn’t as exciting and involving to drive as the Mini Cooper S but again, driving isn’t the main USP of the bug. It feels well-planted at triple digit speeds and doing long highway journeys in the Beetle won’t be a problem. What I personally like about the Beetle is the fact that Volkswagen has found the right blend of comfort and driving dynamics while setting up Beetle’s platform. It has got just the right amount of stiffness for them tight corners and it isn’t a back breaker when it comes to taking on potholes and speed breakers. The latter can also be credited to the high profile tyres that it has been shod with (215/60 R16). Though they don’t aid in the aesthetic appeal of the car.
What about the competition?
The closest competition that the Beetle has in our market is the Mini Cooper, Fiat 595 Abarth and even the BMW 1 Series and the Mercedes A Class. The Mini Cooper is a better driver’s car any given day whereas the 595 Abarth has a disappointing gearbox (AMT) for the price and has a really stiff suspension as well. You won’t buy the Beetle if you start comparing it with the competition, you only buy the Beetle when you ‘want’ to buy the Beetle. One can get the same heart (1.4-litre TSI) in the Skoda Octavia at a considerably lesser price tag and it even has a capable MQB platform with proper 5 seats and better driving dynamics as well. But hey ! It’s a heart vs brain decision. If you think more from the latter, you might end up buying a full-size luxury saloon or an SUV at the same price point. The bug is like the girl you know that you know isn’t meant for you, but still you want her, she tugs your heartstrings like no one else does.
When you buy something as iconic as a Beetle, you don’t really care about practicality and daily usability. However, this is where the 2016 Beetle is going to prove you wrong. With its decent sized rear seats, acceptable fuel efficiency, peppy engine and of course the priceless head turning ability, the 2016 Beetle is way more practical than it’s predecessor. Driving the new Beetle is equivalent to making a fashion statement. With it’s iconic past and the retro design elements, the Beetle will make sure that you always arrive in style.