2019 Beetle Design 1.2 TSI (105 PS) 6-speed manual Although no longer available to special factory order, the Beetle still holds sufficiently strong appeal to seek one out on the open market, with this particular combination of Design trim level, 1.2TSI petrol engine and 6-speed manual gearbox providing an attractive prospect…
LAST TEST: VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE DESIGN 1.2 TSI
Anyone with an interest in VWs and their ear to the ground will have heard the kerfuffle in mid-September about the cessation of production of the Beetle. Bizarrely, though, virtually all the ‘news’ stories in the popular press, radio and social media were referring to the original Beetle, the air-cooled rear-engined Type 1 Volkswagen which actually passed into history a great many years ago now.
Indeed, production of the original Beetle Saloon ceased here in Europe as long ago as January 1978 (Cabriolet until January 1980), although the model lingered on in Brazil and Mexico for local consumption until the end of July 2003, by which time 21,529,464 had been built.
A few Mexican examples made their way over to the UK by special order in recent times, mostly through the Bristol-based company Beetles UK, and avid Beetle aficionados will be quick to point out that a very few Beetles were actually built here in the UK, from parts, by a company based in Pershore, Worcestershire.
What was really happening, of course, was a poorly informed media frenzy that had been stimulated by the launch in the USA of a special edition model of the latest ‘New Beetle’, ahead of its final production date, for the US market, in July 2019.
In fact the ‘current’ model had already been removed from the order books in the UK as of February 2018. Although it is still listed for sale it is now only available from dealership stock, or secondhand, rather than factory order and so this road test will also be somewhat of retrospective as well as an assessment of this particular model.
So, forget all the hackneyed news features covering the three H’s – Hiltler, Hirst and Herbie – that is all very old news. What we are talking about here is the second generation of the ‘New Beetle’. While the original air-cooled rear-engined Type 1 VW Beetle dates back to the pre-war years, the first generation of New Beetle originated in 1998 when the production version of the Concept 1 that had been shown in Detroit in 1994 went on sale, first in the USA.
Based on much the same platform as the Mk 4 Golf, it was initially quite successful, soon acquiring instant recognition and an enthusiastic ownership and surviving until a completely revised version based on Mk 5 / Mk 6 Golf (PQ35) chassis and running gear was introduced in both Saloon and Cabriolet forms. This later / current version, first revealed at the Shanghai Show in April 2011, went on sale in the USA and Germany from October 2011, and mainland Europe from November 2011, with the first UK versions arriving in April 2012.
Featuring what is generally considered to be more ‘masculine’ styling and updated equipment and safety features, the 2011-on Beetle was a re-invention of the previously popular retro-style concept, but with the styling revised to achieve a somewhat more mature and dynamic appearance, rather than the almost caricatured ‘cute and cuddly’ lines of the first New Beetle.
Designed to broaden its appeal to a more masculine audience, it was reprofiled and restyled, longer, wider, lower and larger inside than its predecessor, with the roof line extended further back to provide better head and legroom for those in the back, and with a more upright windscreen and dashboard arrangement.
Its chassis and running gear were also updated – essentially using much the same suspension and engine options as the Mk 6 Golf although, somewhat ironically, considering all its technical updates, it featured many more design cues based on features of the original classic air-cooled Beetle than did the New Beetle before it. Depite all the effort to reinvigorate the concept (no pun intended) it has to be said that the latest model didn’t have quite the same ‘wow’ factor as the first ‘Newbie’ and there are some who are actually surprised that it lasted as long as it has. Clearly, though, Volkswagen is now rationalising its model range in the interests of global-scale economies of production and to make way for new electric models.
So, this road test may well be our last comprehensive feature on the model, although in fact it was no longer referred to as New Beetle, that title now reserved exclusively for its predecessor, the second generation Beetle more properly called just Beetle or occasionally Beetle Coupé in the case of the hard-top model.
Initially only one model was available here in the UK, with the mid-range Design trim level and the 160 PS 1.4 TSI petrol engine and 6-speed manual gearbox, as road-tested in our October 2012 issue. The UK model range then expanded with the addition of 140 PS 2.0 TDI and 200 PS 2.0 TSI engines, both available with either 6-speed manual or DSG transmission, along with a 105 PS 1.2 TSI with 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG and a 105 PS 1.6 TDI BMT with either 5-speed manual or 7-speed DSG.
Three primary trim levels were available – Beetle, Design and Sport – while the 2.0 TSI also came with Turbo Black and Turbo Silver special equipment versions, and there was a special edition Fender (as in car audio) model, with 140 PS 2.0 TDI and 6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG transmission. A Cabriolet version was also available with the same range of engine options and trim levels, as well as special 50s, 60s and 70s retro-styled special editions.
With the bubble having burst, though, the most recent model range was somewhat reduced, with basic Beetle, Design, R-Line and Dune trim levels and various permutations of 1.2 TSI (105 PS), 1.4 TSI (150 PS) 2.0 TDI (110 PS and 150 PS) engines and 6-speed manual gearbox, or 6- or 7-speed DSG auto transmission.
Even the standard entry-level Beetles came with a reasonable level of equipment, with semi-automatic air-con, DAB radio, 6.5-inch touchscreen and multifunction computer etc although it only has 6.5 x 16-inch steel wheels with trims, while the mid-range Design trim level was upgraded with 7.0 x 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone preparation and an RCD 510 DAB CD/ radio with MDI multi-device interface (for connecting an iPod or similar). It also has front fog lights, rear Isofix preparation, an alarm, leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel and body-coloured door and dashboard panels.
R-Line adds special features like 8.0 x 18 alloys, a styling pack, gloss black trim, tinted glass, rear spoiler, twin tailpipes, sports dials, 2-Zone climate control, cruise control and the top-of-the-range Dune features raised ground clearance and a special ‘pseudo-off-road’ styling pack with wheelarch trims etc.
Our test car, finished in the optional extra (£575) Ameleva blue metallic, is the Design model in conjunction with the 105 PS 1.2-litre TSI engine and 6-speed manual gearbox, although the 7-speed automatic DSG transmission is an option, costing an extra £1460. This trim level can also be combined with the 150 PS 1.4 TSI and 110 PS 2.0 TDI engines.
Although the engine is of such modest size, just 1.2-litres, this is the turbocharged four-cylinder unit with two valves per cylinder, more suited to torque rather than rpm. While it is modestly powered, with its maximum output of 105 PS developed at between 4500 rpm and 5500 rpm, it produces a reasonable torque of 175 Nm (129 lb.ft) delivered over a wide range between 1400 and 4000 rpm and so feels quite responsive as well as tractable and flexible. For the 6-speed manual version, Volkswagen quotes a 0-100 kph (0-62 mph) time of 10.9 seconds and a top speed of 112 mph, figures which are strangely reminiscent of the Mk 3 Golf GTI, along with a combined economy figure of 52.3 mpg and CO2 emissions of 126 g/km.
Clearly, there’s no real problem with putting that sort of power down and so our performance figures for this model with the slick-shifting 6-speed manual gearbox easily live up to expectations, with a standing start 0-60 mph time of 10.5 seconds and capable of accelerating up to typical motorway speeds of 70 and 80 mph in comfortably under 15 and 20 seconds respectively.
It may not be the smoothest or most refined unit, but it’s tractable, flexible and able to carry a high gear without any particular problem, so that it also returns good fuel economy. Our overall average figure of 42 mpg was very reasonable indeed for such a small petrol engine in a fairly large car and we were able to extend this to over 58 mpg when driving very steadily at 60-65 mph on a long motorway trip at modest speeds, giving a potential range of well over 500 miles.
Those are the sort of numbers you’d have only expected from a diesel engine not so very long ago and the 1.2 TSI is a better bet if your driving is mostly short journeys mainly in the low-speed urban environment where the TDI with its diesel particulate filter (DPF) might not operate as efficiently and can clog up if the car is only used for low-temperature short duration driving. As well as having a gear-change indicator, to promote fuel-efficient driving, the Beetle also comes with a multifunction computer to monitor fuel consumption on both long and short-term memories, as well as other useful information. Its predecessor had only a ‘cold engine’ light to inform the driver of engine temperature and left you to figure out the fuel consumption manually.
While the previous New Beetle was based on the Mk 4 Golf platform, and was competent enough, using the previous PQ34 suspension and brakes, the current model has the same MacPherson strut front end and torsion beam rear as the Mk 5 / Mk 6 Golf, both of which were considerably enhanced, and its handling is now very safe and predictable.
These lower-powered models may only have the torsion beam rear, rather than the superior multi-link rear suspension which was available only on the high-performance 2.0-litre models, but it is perfectly adequate for normal road use. In truth, most drivers would never know the difference if they weren’t told about it, and if the torsion beam is good enough for the latest Polo GTI then it is plenty good enough for a Beetle with little more than half the power. Of course, it also has a lot less to go wrong with it than the complex multilink arrangement and is much less likely to suffer from problems with misalignment in the long term.
While the Beetle 1.2 will never be considered a performance car, we are always obliged to explore the handling envelope beyond the normal levels and assess the car’s full dynamic ability during brisk driving over fast bumpy roads and through sweeping bends. It will never be appropriate to venture out for a track day beyond the pace of a lunchtime parade lap, but the Beetle handles confidently and predictably. It also provides reasonable ride comfort and refinement over rough and bumpy roads, with the long spring travel combined with well-matched springs and dampers providing a well-controlled ride quality.
The Design model comes fitted with 7.0J x 17-inch Orbit alloy wheels, shod with 215/55 R17 tyres, the high profile aiding the ride comfort by soaking up sharp irregularities, without too much loss of steering or handling precision.
Strangely, this particular design with its retro styling echoing that of the classic car, looks rather like a wheel trim, perhaps even more so that the actual wheel trims used on the 16-inch steel rims of the basic Beetle, but it’s very much a matter of taste. There are several more conventional designs of alloy wheel available on the options list. Our test car was fitted with Ventus Prime tyres from Hankook, a brand that – while it might once have been considered a budget option – is now well up amongst the premium names, providing an excellent combination of qualities in terms of both handling, longevity and predictability in the wet. Also good news is that the Beetle comes with a spacesaver spare wheel and tyre, so much better than a so-called ‘Mobility’ inflation kit, and goes some way towards preserving boot capacity.
Compared with many other ‘designer’ cars, where practicaility has been compromised in favour of style, the load space is actually a strong point of the Beetle. The wide-opening tailgate-style lid provides easy access to a boot volume of 310 litres which can be increased to 905 litres when the standard 50:50 split-folding rear bench seat is folded down, although there is a rather awkward step to cope with and the rear seat backs don’t fold completely flat. As with any three-door car, the trick is to leave the seat belts looped around the seat backs when they are laid flat, and then use them to pull the seat backs up into the upright position.
You do have to reach across to gain access to the boot space so be careful when loading heavy objects – as is so often the case with modern models, the upper surface of the large painted rear bumper area remains vulnerable to scratching and is just calling out for a protective plate, so take car when loading and unloading.
Our test car was also fitted with the £400 option of ultrasonic front and rear parking sensors, along with an optical parking display on the infotainment screen, a very worthwhile provision on any car with such an unusual shape and blind spots at every extremity.
While thoroughly modern in all its equipment, the stylish interior provides many subtle design cues derived from the original classic air-cooled Beetle, with the large painted surface of the dashboard finished in body colour. It also has a glovebox arrangement that looks similar to that of the classic car. In fact it has a dual mode, with the retro-style glovebox in the face of the dash having a lid which opens upwards, rather than down, while a second – more conventional – storage space below the dash opens with a downwards motion. The front centre armrest provides extra storage space and there are pockets on the backs of the front seats, although the net-type door pockets are of only limited use. Both the driver’s and front passenger’s seats come with seat height adjustment and easy-entry sliding mechanisms to aid access to the rear seats. Trimmed with Anthracite cloth upholstery, they were very comfortable over long distances, despite the apparent lack of contour shaping, while the height and reach-adjustable steering column also aids the comfortable driving position.
As well as a pair of large air vents, the Beetle Design trim level comes as standard with Climatic air-con, although for our test car this was upgraded to the (£610) 2Zone air-con system with automatic air recirculation, an option which (quite incidentally) also includes cruise control. Switches for the airbags, hazard and parking sensors, along with two 12V sockets, are found in the centre console below the dash, with chrome trims around the air vents, instrument cluster and radio surround adding an element of retro styling. The multifunction steering wheel is leather-trimmed, with body-coloured inserts, with the gearknob and handbrake lever also trimmed in black leather.
The central console panel houses the standard-fit Composition media system with 6.5-inch colour touchscreen, DAB digital radio and dash-mounted 6-CD auto-changer, with 8 speakers, SD card reader, music playback provisions, connection to external multimedia, MDI with USB port and Bluetooth ’phone preparation.
The test car was upgraded to the (£665) Discover Navigation system, with Car-Net ‘Guide and Inform’ which provides internet access to a host of useful – and sometimes not so useful – information, as well as Car- Net App-Connect which allows compatible smartphones to display on the touchscreen. Perhaps its most valuable asset, though, was the (£575) Fender Premium Soundpack which provides fantastic sound quality from its 400 watt output, eight speakers plus subwoofer and also includes some attractive ambient illumination around the door speakers and lower door panels. Its only downside is the intrusion from the large plastic housing for the 20cm subwoofer, almost the size of a wheelarch, into the driver’s side of the rear boot space, requiring even more careful loading.
A range of other optional items include RNS 315 and 510 satellite navigation systems, keyless entry, start and exit, a Light and Sight pack (auto-dimming rear view mirror and rain-sensing wipers) bi-xenon headlights, and the aforementioned parking sensors.
Priced at £20,145 basic, and £23,675 as tested, this Beetle Design 1.2 TSI may no longer be available to special factory order, but there is still nothing on the market which provides the same combination of sophisticated modern equipment and characterful retro styling, while also reasonably practical for everyday use. It’s well worth seeking out amongst dealership stock, as an ex-demo or on the nearly-new secondhand market.
It is certainly one of a kind, and with this particular combination of trim level and sprightly but fuel-efficient 1.2 TSI engine, along with good driveability, it represents a very practical proposition, providing ample performance with excellent fuel economy, and a very special presence on the road.
Whether we’ll see a further incarnation of the model is far from certain, although there are suggestions that there will be a fully electric version at some time in the future. Maybe the long and distinguished story of the VW Beetle isn’t over yet.
‘Although the engine is just 1.2 litres, with its modest output of 105 PS developed at between 4500 rpm and 5500 rpm, it produces a torque of 175 Nm (129 lb.ft.) Over a wide range Between 1400 and 4000 rpm and so feels quite responsive as well as tractable and flexible, with a standing start 0-60mphtime of 10.5 seconds and is capable of averaging 42mpg…’
‘Many design cues are derived from the classic Beetle, with the large painted dashboard in body colour…’
Facts and figures: Beetle Design 1.2TSI (105PS) 6-speed Manual
|Model:||Beetle Design 1.2 TSI 6-spd manual||Beetle Design 2.0 TDI 6-spd manual||Beetle Design 1.4 TSI 6-spd manual||Beetle Cabriolet 2.0 TDI 6-spd DSG||Beetle Luna 1.6 5-spd manual|
|Power output, PS/kW||105/77||140/103||160/118||150/110||102/75|
|Maximum torque, lb.ft./Nm||129/175||236/320||177/240||251/340||109/148|
|Maximum speed, mph||112/80||123/198||129/207||123/198||111/178|
|30–50mph (third gear), sec||50||40||52||39||57|
|30–50mph (fourth gear), sec||85||70||63||–||87|
|50–70mph (third gear), sec||58||47||48||59||64|
|50-70 mph (fourth gear) sec||78||54||61||–||83|
|50–70mph (ﬁfth gear), sec||109||74||86||–||115|
|50–70mph (sixth gear), sec||158||111||93||–||–|
|Overall fuel consumption, mpg / l/100km||41.9/6.7||52.3/5.4||37.8/7.5||48.9/5.7||33.2/8.5|
|Unladen weight, lb/kg||2897/1314||3075/1395||2996/1359||3364/1526||2833/1285|
|Power/weight ratio, PS/ton||81/80||102/100||119/118||100/98||81/79|
|Test publication date||Nov ‘18||Mar ‘13||Oct ‘12||May ‘17||Mar ‘06|
PRICES Saloon / Cabriolet
Beetle 1.2 TSI (105 PS) 6-speed manual £17,750 / £20,800
Design 1.2 TSI (105 PS) 6-speed manual £20,145 / £23,195
Design 1.2 TSI (105 PS) 7-speed DSG £21,605 / £24,640
Design 1.4 TSI (150 PS) 6-speed manual £22,090 / £24,995
Design 2.0 TDI (110 PS) 5-speed manual £22,240 / £25,275
Design 2.0 TDI (110 PS) 7-speed DSG £23,700 / £26,735
R-Line 2.0 TDI (150 PS) 6-speed manual £24,760 / £27,705
R-Line 2.0 TDI (150 PS) 6-speed DSG £26,365 / £29,065
Dune 1.2 TSI (105 PS) 6-speed manual £22,210 / £25,590
Dune 1.2 TSI (105 PS) 7-speed DSG £23,670 / £27,035
Dune 2.0 TDI (150 PS) 6-speed manual £25,005 / £28,500
Dune 2.0 TDI (150 PS) 6-speed DSG £26,610 / £29,860
|Overall length/width/height (inches) 168.9/71.9/79.6/58.6|
|Overall length/width/height (mm) 4288/1825/2021+/1488|
|Wheelbase 99.4 in, 2524 mm|
|Track, front/rear 62.3/61.2in, 1581/1553 mm|
|Turning circle 35.4 ft, 10.8 m|
|Unladen weight 2897 lb, 1314 kg|
|Total permitted weight 3880 lb, 1760 kg|
|Permitted trailer load; with brakes|
|Permitted trailer load; without brakes|
|Luggage capacity, seat up/folded|
|Wheels and tyres 7.0J x 17 alloys 215/55 R17 UK|
|Displacement 1197 cc|
|Bore and stroke 76.5 x 86.9 mm|
|Power output* 105 PS (77kW) @ 4500-5500 rpm|
|Maximum torque* 129 lb.ft. (175 Nm) @ 1400-4000 rpm|
|Compression ratio 10.5 :1|
|Valves per cylinder 1 inlet, 1 exhaust|
|Overall test value 41.9 mpg, 6.7 l/100km|
|Economical driving 58.1 mpg, 4.8 l/100km|
|Urban cycle 42.2 mpg, 6.7 l/100km|
|Extra urban cycle 60.1 mpg, 4.7 l/100km|
|Total 52.3 mpg, 5.4 l/100km|
|Fuel required Unleaded 95 RON|
|Fuel tank capacity 12 gallons, 55 litres|
|CO2 emission 126g/km|
|Maximum speed||112 mph 180 kph|
|0–50 mph||7.8 sec|
|0–60 mph||10.5 sec|
|0–70 mph||14.7 sec|
|0–80 mph||19.1 sec|
|30–50 mph (3rd gear)||5.0 sec|
|30–50 mph (4th gear)||8.5 sec|
|50–70 mph (3rd gear)||5.8 sec|
|50–70 mph (4th gear)||7.8 sec|
|50 – 70 mph (5th gear)||10.9 sec|
|50–70 mph (6th gear)||15.8 sec|