The 2012 Volkswagen Beetle has grown into its more masculine shape, as if it's been exposed to some insectile growth hormone. It's 3.3 inches wider than it was in its more girlish figure, and it's a full half-foot longer.
Much of the extra room relieves passengers of the old, cramped seats from the old New Beetle. Volkswagen says the extra length goes to flattening out the roofline, which extends the roof peak farther back along the Bug's body, which is the primary reason tall adults can actually fit into the front and back seats with some headroom to spare. The optional sunroof can't dampen that victory, even.
Front passengers get some flat-bottomed seats on base Beetles. Count the sport seats in Turbo versions as a win; their horizontal seat stitching works retro magic, and even though it's pure vinyl seating with no leather option, the bolstering and supple cushions really lack little in comfort. It's even easier to reach the Beetle's seat-height lever and knob adjuster for seatback angle, when you have to--a power driver seat is available. In front, leg room is up two inches and shoulder room grows by 2.5 inches. As in the Jetta, the elbow room comes mostly to the left of the driver: sitting off of center, you'll make knee contact with the center console, but will have to reach to rest on the door panel.
The back seat may have almost a half-inch more head room and more leg room, but it's still tight for adults. With the shallowed dash, front passengers can scoot closer and leave more foot space for those in back, but it's still better reserved for small adults and kids.
Small-item storage has been carved into most of the available nooks and crannies. The traditional glove box is deep enough, once you ditch the thick owner's manual. The available kaeferfach box has a lovely aluminum pop-out lever, but it's pretty shallow and tall, and pretty un-useful. The shallow dish on the dash is practically made for an aftermarket GPS mount, and your smartphone will fit nicely in the bin ahead of the shifter. Pens and Post-Its are about all you'll wedge into the available armrest bin.
On paper the Beetle's trunk is bigger, up to 15.4 cubic feet of space, but the sloped hatchback means only a pair of roller bags and some soft-siders will fit unless you fold down the rear seats. Bonus: they lay nearly flat, and expand the cargo area to just under 30 cubic feet.
While Volkswagen has made the Beetle a quieter place for European customers, North Americans get versions with thinner glass, and it's evident in the way the Beetle, especially the Turbo, reverberate with drivetrain and wind noise. The engine's turbo burble and four-cylinder gurrs are fine, and actually make us want to push that Beetle around more roughly. We can't say the same for the tire noise at highway speeds, or the high-velocity wind whistles that come off the mirror housings.