In the wake of Dieselgate, which is costing VW some tens of billions of dollars, we can forget they build some darn fine driving automobiles.
The Beetle is one of them, and if doesn’t catch the current zeitgeist of crossover craziness, it also is a stark reminder that cars—you know, those low center-of-gravity conveyances—actually ride, handle, steer, accelerate and brake better than most all of the jacked up little hatchbacks that masquerade as SUVs.
Certainly those built using the brilliant modular MQB componentry underneath the Beetle’s surprising masculine curves. And to these eyes, it is much better proportioned than the current Minis, whose bodies often look like the bloated corpses of prior generation Coopers that have washed ashore after their container ship has run aground.
Inside, the body-colored dash facing (a brilliant Habanero metallic orange in the case of the test vehicle) gives the VW a summery, beach-ready vibe that is hard not to fall for. Controls are logical and well-weighted, and if most all materials are of an economical nature, the perceived quality is still very high. The newest infotainment system interface is decently responsive, though its screen resolution looks a bit low rent.
The Beetle certainly doesn’t drive that way; the chassis balances good ride with athletic, engaging handling and the steering is precise and quick. The 170hp 1.8-liter’s 184lb-ft of torque are readily accessed in the 6-speed tranny’s sport mode; normal sees the engine’s turbo lag become more of an annoyance.
The Beetle is quick: 0-60mph can be tackled in about seven seconds. Brake feel and power seem up to the task, meaning that the VW can play GTI when the mood strikes. The rest of the time it is a fetching little runabout that is also practical (its got a hatch) and friendly.
EPA ratings: 24/33mpg; 28mpg combined
Price as tested: $24,415
Here is what VW has to say.
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