2012 Volkswagen Beetle Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 31, 2011

It's a tale of two Bugs: base Beetles are boring, but 2012 VW Beetle Turbos have us seeking out the nearest exit ramp.

The 2012 Volkswagen Beetle would like us all to forget some things--that it ever had "new" in its name, that it ever had a bud vase on its dash, that it ever occupied more parking spots at more sororities at more of our nation's colleges than actual pledges did. That's, like, totally possible, right?

This time around, the Beetle wants to be your bad bromance, and it gets things rolling with sheetmetal that's been butched up and pulled taut. If the flat-top roof, the unsubtle Turbo stickers and the red-painted calipers didn't clue you in, we'll just point to the place on the dash where the flower pot used to live.

Now, the base Beetle doesn't live up to that hype, but it's fine for the kind of commuting chores that won't tax the generic acceleration of its five-cylinder engine and the bobbly handling generated by its torsion-beam suspension. Fine, as long as the middling gas mileage doesn't steer you into a MINI Cooper or a Mustang instead.

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Check off the Turbo boxes, and now, we're talking. This is the punchy Bug, with VW's omnipresent, heavy-breathing four-cylinder flipping out 0-60 mph runs under 7.5 seconds while it doles out some not-unpleasant whining and growling. VW's dual-clutch transmission passes the winding-road test with flying colors, even if it bogs a little from a dead stop. A touch of body roll here, a quick crank of electric steering there, and the composed Beetle Turbo feels like it has much more potential than its B+ average indicates.

The Bug's even a little more practical now. VW says it has more room than before, and it's felt in the front two seats, though the extra space seems to spread out all to one side: the console's still close, the door panels farther away. The back seats can be endured by adults, but skimpy leg room means this is still a classic 2+2, no EPA-standards sedan like the BMW 3-Series two-door. Trunk space gets better on paper--so why could we only stuff it with two roll-aboards?

At its most clever, the Beetle recognizes how the digital world has changed cars, at least in entertainment features. Safety gear lags a bit, with no rearview camera linked up with the available navigation, but every Beetle can have a USB port, Bluetooth audio streaming and a classy Fender-penned sound system with some epic midrange talents.

The Beetle name has sold more than 20 million vehicles, over more than half a century. But for the past decade, it's been tougher and tougher to get overwhelmed by history alone, tougher to give the old New Beetle a pass for lackluster performance and aging kitsch. Now the likeable Beetle's become way more interesting to drive--and we're more than ready to take on diesel and R versions, cars that probably will outpace the newest Beetle Turbo as the best Bugs yet.

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April 20, 2015
For 2012 Volkswagen Beetle

Too Small Even if It's "Cute"

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Small interior feel to the point of claustrophobia provoking. Fit and finish is marginal. Seats are uncomfortable for a tall person on a long road trip. Respectable gas mileage. Basic maintenance for free is... + More »
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