Priced from about $20,000 to just over $30,000--a couple of thousand dollars more than in 2011--the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle confirms yet again that the customization lessons taught by MINI and Scion are being absorbed by every "iconic" car on the market.
The basic $19,765 Beetle comes with a standard CD player with an auxiliary jack; a leather steering wheel; 17-inch wheels and tires; and a split-folding rear seat. On this version, VW offers packages that include Bluetooth; iPod connectivity; ambient lighting; Fender premium sound; 18-inch wheels; a panoramic sunroof; leatherette upholstery stitched to look like the real thing; heated front seats; and a "kaeferfach" glove box that looks like the one on vintage Beetles.
On the $24,165 Beetle Turbo, VW adds on the Bluetooth and iPod controls as standard equipment, as well as the ambient lighting and kaeferfach glove box. Also bundled in: red brake calipers; sport seats; 18-inch wheels; a rear spoiler and fog lights; a set of three ancillary gauges on the dash; a flat-bottomed steering wheel; and alloy pedals.
We recommend the Fender sound system, which uses Panasonic speakers, a massive subwoofer and 400 watts of output for brilliantly rendered sound, from stripped-down acoustic pieces to Sixties walls of sound. Unlike many Bluetooth-streaming sound systems, VW's actually lets you use the steering-wheel controls to change tracks, a major bypass around musical frustration. The panoramic sunroof is your best bet until the real Beetle Convertible bows sometime in 2012--it's almost twice as large as the panel on the old New Beetle.
Volkswagen also offers a premium audio system with an SD card slot, touchscreen controls and navigation. The interface is colorful and renders well on the small 5-inch LCD screen. There's also an option for keyless entry and pushbutton start, but there's no option for leather trim in any Beetle, just as with the related Jetta sedan.
VW is adapting some of the custom trim pieces to the Beetle portfolio. There are lively Turbo decals for that model; there's also a choice of nameplates for the car, whether you know it as a Kaefer or as a Bug or as a good, old Beetle. Some body-color trim makes its way into the cabin, too, in a particularly winning touch.
Volkswagen's latest maintenance program also comes with every Beetle. It covers all basic maintenance for the first three years or 36,000 miles of ownership, down to synthetic oil changes.