2014 Volkswagen Beetle Review

The Beetle is back and we’re really digging the all-new love bug!

By Shahzad Sheikh

2014 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0 TSI 210

Herbie fans rejoice, the Love Bug is back! The car you see in these pictures is the all-new Beetle – technically it’s the 2012 Beetle, because they started making them (exclusively) in Mexico in 2011, but we’ve only just had the latest Bug officially going on sale in the Middle East region, so 2014 it is.

It’s built on VW’s A5 platform shared with the Mk5 VW Golf, Jetta, and Mk2 Audi TT and it gets the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder TSI engine from the old Golf GTI putting out 210bhp. Right on!

That drives the front wheels through a six-speed DSG and is good for a 227kph top speed and a 0-100kph time of 7.3 seconds (although we easily achieved that on our first try in really hot conditions) so methinks there is some sandbagging at play.

All new ‘stance’

This bug-at-play though has a completely re-profiled stance; compared with the previous 1997-2011 ‘New Beetle’, it’s now 84mm wider, 152mm longer but 12mm lower. Crucially it ditches the drawn-with-a-protractor twin arch toy-town shape, and adopts a leaner look, that’s a little more flowing and actually closer in character to the original classic Beetle.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0 TSI 210

I like the still absurd and pronounced fenders, the distinctive face, the slight curve (or is it an optical illusion?) in the flanks, the pointless but delightfully reminiscent skirting boards (ok, just ‘side-skirts’ now), and the wacky whale-tail spoiler – doubling as a handy picnic table – on the back.

If you read Volkswagen’s press and marketing bumf and gumph for this latest Beetle you’ll frequently encounter the terms ‘masculine’ and ‘manly’. VW is very keen for us to believe that the Bug has had a gender-swap op and is now a ‘he’, not a ‘her’.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0 TSI 210

I rather think it’s still an ‘it’ but I’ve got to concede the German people-car maker has a point. This new Bug had definitely ‘manned-up’ a bit compared to before, in the sense that as a man, you don’t mind being seen in it anymore, you can just go with the flow. In fact, more than that, you’d call it cool – I did!

I think it is a little colour sensitive though, going from, shall we say ‘happy,’ Saturn yellow to hairy-chested Denim Blue in the available palette. But also try to picture it in white with black stripes or black with grey go faster decals with black wheels – yeah, see what I mean? Far out, huh?

2014 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0 TSI 210

Learning from its mistakes

Of course the other car that can alter its appeal from chick-car to chick-magnet based on its colour and style is the new Mini by BMW. And at this point it’s time for a history lesson so cue the wavy lines dissolving into… 2001. New retro-style Mini arrives and immediately succeeds where the equally retro-styled Beetle fails. Not just that, it positively squishes the bug into oblivion.

How did this happen? Both cars were based on hugely popular cult-classics from the 1960s, were utterly endearing and the Beetle even had a vase on the dashboard for God’s sake – Flower Power people, make love not war and other Hippyisms should have swept car buyers away on soothing sea of feel-good higher than a kite on a Khamsin current – groovy baby!

2014 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0 TSI 210

Ahem… Anyway, BMW, more importantly, had realised that just making the Mini cutesy and appealing was not enough – it had to be fun to drive, because that’s what made the original such a hit. Okay, so fun-to-drive was less of a crucial ingredient of the old multi-million selling Bug, but it was ‘fun’ in its own charming way, and it was practical.

The shape of the new Beetle however robbed the interior of space, the boot wasn’t great and a vast amount of room appeared to be squandered on one of the largest dashboard top ever seen in the automotive industry. Plus it was dreary dull to drive, handicapped by insipid powerplants and a sense that it was a little too contrived. Meanwhile Mini romped away with all the accolades and the sales.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0 TSI 210

Is the vase still there?

No it’s gone – and that’s a good thing actually, as it has no need for such frippery any more. What you do get is a colour-coordinated dashboard panel resembling the classic spartan flat and upright dash, right down to the glovebox opening with its delightfully intricate metal-look pull-handle. It is, of course not metal, the glove box isn’t a glove box at all (that actually sits below it) and the space behind it is very small, but it’s a neat touch nonetheless.

There are extra gauges atop the dash indicating oil temperature, turbo boost plus there’s a stop-watch – the latter two clearly meant to emphasise the more sportive bent of the new bug. Similarly the half-moon shaped instrument binnacle offers a main speedometer, a rev counter (sportive again) and the largest fuel gauge you’ve ever seen – which can lead to slight instances of paranoia at the seemingly fast-draining fuel, but don’t worry, it’s a sensible sipper really.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0 TSI 210

Other great stuff you’ll find in here is an excellent Fender sound system with a massive woofer in the back, and I loved the elasticated canvas door pockets, evocative B-pillar looped grab-handles, comfy seats and proper handbrake. The rear seats can just about accommodate adults and you also get climate control and parking sensors as standard.

Move up to an SE and you’ll have 18-inch alloys, multi-function leather-trimmed steering wheel with paddle shifters, a tilt-slide sunroof and bi-xenon headlights with LEDs. The SEL in these pictures gets the 19-inch wheels, keyless entry and start, sat-nav, leather upholstery, 6.5-inch touchscreen, DVD player, SD card slot and 30GB hard drive.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0 TSI 210

What it didn’t seem to have, or at least it wasn’t enabled on this car, was Bluetooth – which is almost unforgiveable in a new car* – nor any USB sockets. You have to get the additional cable adapters for the unique VAG plug. Very annoying, particularly as the connector is inside the glovebox – put it in the centre console VW!

Does it trundle along alright then?

Trundle? More like tearaway! This new 2.0 TSI Beetle is happy to scurry about town like a real bug that’s just realised it’s been spotted on your kitchen floor. Despite the ‘sportive’ overtures, there is no ‘Sport’ button per se (apart from the S on the gearbox which makes the double-clutch changes more urgent) and you can’t turn the traction control off, but you can occasionally overwhelm it thanks to the 207lb ft of torque. There’s understeer naturally, but it’ll tighten its line on lift-off and it does have great grip and poise.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0 TSI 210

The Beetle has electric power steering, a modern-day bugbear of mine, and VW actually makes this system and supplies it to other in-family marques like Porsche. However I have a sneaky suspension that it keeps the best for itself, because as in the latest Golf, the steering is accurate and even has decent ‘feel’.

The gearbox and brakes are okay, the ride is good, the body itself is rigid, but I haven’t got to the best bit yet. VW has somehow even made this sound like a classic Beetle with a flatulent thrummy burble that’s both entertaining and soothing to those familiar with the durable old boxer unit’s unrelenting staccato beat.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0 TSI 210

Bring it home, daddy-o

I like it. Actually I love it! I had a lot of fun with it. It was enjoyable to drive and beat about town in, and it never failed to put a grin on my face when I looked back it after parking up. It’s got so much character and personality that it totally stands apart from the rest of VW’s slightly dour current range of cars.

Think of it this way, you get all the reliability and durability of the current Golf, plus most of the practicality and performance and yet you have a car that everyone will remember and talk about. If you’re planning to buy a Golf or a Jetta, DON’T, buy this instead. You’ll be cheerier!

2014 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0 TSI 210

And how does it stack up against its old arch rival, the nemesis that left it on life-support, the contemporary Mini? It positively trounces it this time actually. Sure the Mini is still the sharper and keener drive and just as lovable, but even the Cooper S has less power than this Beetle and its price range of AED165-175k seems exorbitant when compared to the Bug.

But how much is the Bug? The base model S starts from AED99,900, which makes it pretty attractively priced. You’ll pay AED114k (same as the old GTI) for the SE and AED128k for this SEL which is the most desirable.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0 TSI 210

The 128k is uncomfortably close to the current Golf GTI (this is more fun though) but nearly AED40k cheaper than the entry-level Cooper S. I believe that seals the deal.

So I’ll leave you with this Hippyism that may or may not have any significance at all at this juncture; just picture me saying it in a deeply thoughtful and enigmatic manner whilst puffing on a hookah (even though I never actually smoke): ‘No one is free, even the birds are chained to the sky.’

Outtasight man. Peace out.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle Review – The Specs

Price (UAE):
S – AED99,900 ($27k)
SE – AED114,270 ($31k)
SEL – AED127,699 ($35k)
Engine: 2.0-litre Turbocharged 4-cylinder, 210bhp, 207lb ft
Transmission: 6-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Fuel Economy: 7.6L/100km
Performance: 0-100kph 7.3 seconds, Top speed 227kph
Weight: 1439kg

*According to Volkswagen Middle East, the Beetle does come as standard with Bluetooth. So if you buy one, please make sure to ask the salesman to demonstrate to you how to connect your phone, because the MME team couldn’t manage it!

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