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First look: VW bowls up next Beetle

Beetle-juiced: VW goes less retro and more masculine with its redesigned 2012 Beetle.

Simultaneous world debuts for VW’s next Beetle in Shanghai, New York and Berlin

Volkswagen logo18 Apr 2011

By MARTON PETTENDY

VOLKSWAGEN has staged a simultaneous global debut for its next-generation Beetle in Shanghai, New York and Berlin ahead of its release in Australia early next year.

Revealed on three continents alongside MTV World Stage Concerts on the eve of the Shanghai motor show on April 19, the first all-new Beetle since Volkswagen revived the German automotive icon in 1998 comes wrapped in a more angular three-door hatchback body that does away with the half-circle roofline of the previous ‘New Beetle’.

Instead of the familiar geometric glasshouse is a steeper windscreen and flatter roof - as previewed by the hotrod-style 2005 Ragster concept and a teaser silhouette image screened during February’s US Super Bowl final - while an extended bonnet a new optional hatchback spoiler continue the more masculine theme.

Also making the 2012 Beetle appear less feminine than its 12-year-old predecessor, which accounted for more than a million sales before it was discontinued last year, are squared-off bumpers and wheel-arches, which remain semi-circular in profile. As predicted, there is no sign of the outgoing Beetle’s interior flower holder.

Overall, however, while the sharper new design gains the latest LED daytime running light and bi-Xenon headlight technologies and semi-circular rather than round tail-lights, it remains an evolution of the New Beetle’s semi-retro look and continues to echo line of the original ‘Volkswagen’ that has found more than 21.5 million homes since 1938.

VW’s latest Beetle is, however, substantially larger but lower than before, measuring 152mm longer at 4.278 metres long, 84mm wider at 1.808 metres wide and 12mm lower at 1.486 metres high, giving it a much larger footprint than the Golf.

Similarly, the Beetle’s wheelbase is longer at 2537mm, while luggage space grows from 209 to 310 litres and continues to be augmented by a split/folding rear seatback.

VW says that while the longer roof section results in a greater feeling of space in the back seats, the 38mm reduction in interior height “will hardly be missed, even by very tall drivers, since the New Beetle’s interior was a ‘cathedral’ among compact cars”.

Also created under the direction of VW Group design boss Walter de’Silva and head of VW brand design Klaus Bischoff, the next Beetle’s interior eschews the circular theme of its forebear for a far more conventional Teutonic look.

3 center imageThe more conventional new dashboard is dominated by a large colour navigation screen (for the first time in a Beetle, at least in premium models), topped by a row of three optional round gauges (including oil temperature, a clock with stopwatch function and boost pressure meter) and illuminated by a panoramic glass sunroof that is said to be 80 per cent larger than the unit offered on the previous model.

Other new interior features include a keyless entry/start system, carbon-look fascia surround, an extra glovebox that harks back to the original’s by opening upwards from the fascia and a premium sound system developed with guitar and amplifier specialist Fender.

Even the entry-level Beetle will score an eight-speaker dual-tuner sound system, while the full-house RCD 510 audio system features an integrated CD changer, DVD player, SD card interface, 30GB hard-drive, voice control and 6.5-inch touch-screen control.

Hinting at the increased performance potential of its newest Beetle, fitted to the top-spec model seen in the first four official images are hip-hugging sports bucket seats with cross-stitched red leather facings, a Golf GTI-style flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel and optional 19-inch machined-face multi-spoke alloy wheels.

Apart from stressing that not a single component remains unchanged on the new Beetle, Volkswagen has confirmed three trim levels will be available in Europe – Beetle, Design and Sport – along with 12 exterior paint colours, including Saturn yellow and Denim blue.

Under the new Beetle’s longer bonnet – not its tailgate, as with the original air-cooled rear-drive folk’s wagon – will be the choice of three turbocharged direct-injection TSI petrol engines (with the exception of a 2.5-litre engine for the US) and two common-rail TDI turbo-diesels.

All five Euro 5 emissions-compliant four-cylinder engines will come with the option of VW’s six-speed dual-clutch automated manual DSG transmission.

The most fuel-efficient will be the 77kW 1.6 TDI, which sets new standards for the Beetle by returning combined EU fuel consumption of just 4.3 litres per 100km and CO2 emissions of 112 grams per kilometre.

The most frugal petrol engine (5.5L/100km) will be the 77kW 1.2 TSI with idle-stop and battery regeneration technologies from VW’s BlueMotion parts bin.

At the other end of the scale is the Beetle 2.0 TSI, which is fitted as standard with an ‘XDS’ electronic differential lock and comes as standard with the top two petrol engines, delivers 147kW and consumes 7.4L/100km while offering a 225km/h top speed.

Also likely to come to Australia is the (103kW/320Nm 2.0-litre) diesel engine that will be offered in the Beetle for the first time in the US. It returns just 4.9L1/00km.

Finally, matched with a seven-speed DSG gearbox is the Beetle 1.4 TSI, which produces 118kW and returns just 5.9L/100km – down 3.0L/100km or 34 per cent on the 110kW model it replaces.

Naturally, ESP electronic stability control, ABS brakes and six airbags will be standard across the range, but VW says the next Beetle’s body – thanks in part to extensive laser-welding and galvanising - will have one of the highest torsional rigidity values in its segment at 26,000Nm per degree.

The new Beetle will be built alongside the sixth-generation Jetta sedan – with which it shares its platform - at VW’s Puebla plant in Mexico, where a convertible version is also expected to be produced from later in 2012.

Volkswagen Group Australia says only that the next Beetle will arrive here in 2012, but VW’s global press announcement lists Asia as taking delivery of the new model from February 2012 – after North America (September/October 2011) and Europe (October/November 2011), but before South America (late 2012/early 2012).

“The Beetle is now characterised by a clean, self-confident and dominant sportiness,” said Mr Bischoff.

“The car not only has a lower profile, it is also substantially wider, the front bonnet is longer, the front windscreen is shifted further back and has a much steeper incline. All of this creates a new dynamism.”

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