Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven
No other car can claim such a rich, storied history quite like the Volkswagen Beetle. It begins in Germany, 1934, when one Adolf Hitler contracts another Ferdinand Porsche to design and build a cheap, reliable car for mass production. The result is the Volkswagen Type 1, produced from 1938 to 2003, making it the longest-running and most manufactured car of a single platform ever made. In that time, we’ve seen it in movies, decades of pop culture, and possibly in our own garage. Today’s Beetle holds much of its key design elements intact, but how well does it merge vintage sensibilities with the things we’ve come to expect from a modern car? We find out.
The Volkswagen Beetle has come a long way, and yet still retains the familiar shape we’ve come to love. From the clamshell hood, the round headlights and the lift-back tail gate, the Beetle is instantly recognizable, with the extra sporty allure of a modern, lower roofline and rear spoiler. Volkswagen has gone through a lot of effort to give the Beetle a more serious, macho vibe, and they’ve succeeded in finding the right balance with the current iteration.
The Volkswagen Beetle is a two-door coupe with shorter than average doors, making it easier to open them in tight spaces. Yet despite its coupe nature, getting in and out of the Beetle is an easy affair. Once you step inside, you’ll immediately notice Volkswagen’s homage to the past, with a glove box lid that opens upwards, and body-colored dash trim. The seats are supportive up front, and at the rear too, where two individuals can sit in relative comfort, even with the low roofline. The driver’s seat is a particularly nice place to be, with a multi-adjustable seat and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel allowing you to find the perfect driving position. The half-circle-shaped hood houses the instrument cluster, with the central speedometer relaying information with its multi-function display, also accessible from the steering wheel.
True to Volkswagen form, the entire cabin looks and feels solid, with premium materials adorning the buttons and knobs, with superb build quality all throughout. The center console is kept rather simple, perhaps Volkswagen’s attempt at keeping the Beetle from becoming too high tech. Where other cars are switching to touch-screen LCDs and capacitive controls, the Beetle sticks to a simple 2-DIN head unit with Bluetooth and iPod connectivity. The air-conditioning is controlled through standard knobs for temperature and fan strength, leaving the center island looking a little bare compared to the rest of the body-colored trim.
Don’t expect much in terms of luggage space, as much of it is taken up by the rather large subwoofer. Nevertheless, there’s enough room for three to four overnight bags for a quick out of town getaway. More room is available if you need it though, thanks to the rear seats capable of folding down in a 50/50 split.
The Beetle’s bulbous frame hides a deceptively fun drive. Its 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged and supercharged engine outputs 160 hp and 240 Nm of torque, giving it plenty of pep whether you’re at low or high revs. It’s mated to a smooth-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox which is intelligent enough to know when you need the power to come in, and is able to provide it quickly.
The flat-bottom steering wheel makes attacking corners more fun than it should be, which the Beetle handles with ease. The steering response is relatively accurate, and body roll is reduced to a minimum even during hard turns. Slow the pace down and you’ll find that the Beetle boasts a surprisingly comfortable ride as well, able to soak up bumps and road irregularities quietly and confidently. Fuel economy is good too, easily achieving averages of 10 km/l on regular city and highway driving.
THE PRICE OF NOSTALGIA
P1,790,000 may seem a bit steep for a car that almost seems like a novelty from a bygone era, but it’s much more than that. At its core, the Beetle is a capable, sporty coupe that rivals some of the best in its class — dedicated two-door sports coupes included. When you add the charm, romance, and nostalgia that it brings, the Volkswagen Beetle becomes more than owning a car — you’re owning a piece of history.