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First drive: VW Beetle Fender strums in

Beetle is back: The new Volkswagen Beetle has taken almost two years to reach Australia and will kick off at $29,990.

Volkswagen rocks reinvented retro Beetle’s Aussie launch with Fender release

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Volkswagen logo15 Feb 2013

VOLKSWAGEN’S $29,990 plus-on roads price for its tardy new Beetle manual might be $2290 more expensive than its entry-level predecessor back in 2011, but the real surprise at the Australian launch this week came with the announcement of a Fender limited edition.

Out in June and priced from $33,490, the Beetle Fender – named for the iconic American electric guitar – will cost $2000 more than the Beetle 118TSI DSG dual-clutch automatic model on which it is based.

Only 200 will be imported from the Pueblo plant in Mexico that makes all modern Beetles.

While the latest four-seater Volkswagen coupe – just the third all-new Beetle in 75 years – has been nearly two years in the pipeline for Australia, fans of the convertible version revealed last November in America will have to sit tight for up to another two more summer seasons, until the slow-selling Eos expires in about 2014-5.

Volkswagen Group Australia marketing general manager Jutta Friese said keeping range complexity and confusion to a minimum was behind the decision to hold off on the Beetle Convertible.

“Volkswagen already offers two convertibles in the Golf and Eos,” she said. “We do not see the need to complicate that with another.”, In the meantime, the release of the Beetle Fender in Australia is meant to add gravitas as well as historical perspective to a model that – in its last guise – quickly fell out of fashion as a shadow of the ‘Typ-1’ rear-engined people’s car.

The Fender pays homage to the electric guitar maker synonymous with the rock and roll era that coincided with the original Beetle’s heyday.

The Fender is all shiny black with chrome trim highlights, sitting on 18-inch polished disc alloys, and boasting Sunburst Orange dashboard paint (as per the famous electric guitar), bi-Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights, a 400-watt audio upgrade, sports cloth/leatherette seats with specific stitching and ambient lighting.

These are above a comprehensive list of standard features that help offset the price jump from 2011 in the base Beetle, which include climate control air-conditioning, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a six-stack CD/audio/radio/MP3 player with auxiliary input, trip computer, front and rear parking radar, cruise control, power windows, remote central locking, electric heated exterior mirrors, fog lights with cornering action, a rear spoiler, chrome trim, a ‘retro’ glovebox, front centre armrest and 17-inch alloys.

Fixed-price servicing is also part of the Beetle deal for the first time, totalling $2623 for the first six years or 90,000km, in 15,000km intervals ranging from $375 to $430, with a one-off $638 fee at 60,000km/48 months.

Like all Oz-bound Beetles, the front wheels will be driven by a front-mounted, 1.4-litre TSI Twincharger turbocharged and supercharged direct-injection four-cylinder petrol engine, pumping out 118kW of power at 5800rpm and 240Nm of torque between 1500 and 4500rpm on 95 RON premium unleaded.

The seven-speed DSG – the only gearbox available in the Fender – is expected to account for the lion’s share of regular Beetle volume.

It delivers identical performance (0-100km/h in 8.3 seconds) yet better fuel consumption (6.4 instead of 6.8 litres per 100km) and lower carbon dioxide emissions (148 instead of 158 grams per kilometre) than the standard six-speed manual model.

In contrast, the last of the 2011 New Beetles were saddled with Volkswagen’s outmoded 75kW/148Nm 1.6-litre petrol or ancient 77kW/250Nm 1.9-litre TDI, with fewer gears and significantly worse efficiency.

Whether Australia will see any of the other drivetrain choices offered overseas is unknown.

Along with all-wheel drive availability, they include a pair of four-cylinder petrols (77kW 1.2-litre turbo and 147kW 2.0-litre turbo) and turbo-diesels (78kW 1.6-litre TDI and 103kW 2.0-litre TDI), while US buyers – who buy more Beetles than anybody else on Earth – are offered a 125kW 2.5-litre five-cylinder unit as well.

While the last New Beetle, sold in Australia for 11 years from 2000 borrowed VW’s PQ34 platform that also underpinned the Golf IV, Bora, Audi A3, and Audi TT among others, this one leverages the updated PQ35 architecture introduced in the 2003 Golf V and previous Jetta.

However, although the MacPherson strut front suspension has been maintained, the multi-link rear suspension has been binned on cost grounds for a simpler torsion beam axle. Like the Golf VII arriving in April, only higher-performance Beetles will gain the more sophisticated rear end.

Steering is by electro-mechanical rack and pinion, the front brakes are ventilated discs, and the rears are solid discs. Anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, electronic stability control, electronic differential lock, hill start assist and an electronic differential locking device known as XDL in VW-speak complete the Beetle’s control systems.

At 4278mm long, 1808mm wide, and 1477mm tall, the newcomer is 149mm longer and 87mm wider, but 21mm lower than before, while the 2524mm wheelbase grows by 8mm. Track widths are also correspondingly larger.

The result helped this car’s designers to fashion a more coupe-like silhouette that is meant to evoke the original Typ-1 Beetle’s proportions better than the outgoing car, as demonstrated by an elongated rear roofline, more upright windscreen, demarcated mudguard joins, rounder headlights and a much shallower dash panel.

Significantly improved interior packaging – an old-model bugbear – is the welcome upshot, with the two rear passengers being better catered for.

Divisive ‘90s motifs such as daisy vases have vanished, replaced by less flowery Typ-1 signature items like body-painted interior panels and a dash-mounted glove compartment lid return. Boot space rises from 209 litres to 310, aided by a split/fold rear seat.

Two feature packs that bundle personalisation options are available from launch.

These are the $2700 Tech Pack (bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime driving lights, keyless entry and start, folding mirrors and tyre-pressure monitors), and $1800 Sport Pack (18-inch alloys, tinted glass, additional instrument gauges and paddleshifts on DSG-equipped cars).

Some bright colours liven up the palette – yellow, blue, and red – while white, black, grey and two silvers hint at the latest Beetle’s suspected ageing Baby Boomer demographic – strenuously denied by Volkswagen, of course.

Chief Beetle rival will continue to be BMW’s Mini hatch, although the coupe market has burgeoned since the demise of the previous model, with similarly priced combatants from Honda (CR-Z hybrid), Hyundai (Veloster), and – of course – the high-riding Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ twins, also now firmly in Volkswagen’s sights.

Whether the latest Bug can eclipse the last New Beetle’s best annual sales effort of 1328 units (in its 2000 debut year) is unknown, for Volkswagen is keeping mum on volume expectations. Over its dozen years on sale it averaged 730 units.

, , , 2013 Volkswagen Beetle pricing*, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
118TSI$29,990
118TSI 7DSG (a)$31,490
118TSI Fender 7DSG (a)$33,490


*Plus on-road costs

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