- We like...Cute and characterful
- We don't...Small boot, cramped rear cabin
Modern version of classic bug is impractical but also very cuteYou could buy a Beetle. Or you could own a sensible car. ‘Sensible’ means space for three passengers in the back and a couple of hefty suitcases in the boot, too. ’Sensible’ also means a car where the top of the dash isn’t over a foot wide.
Assess a Beetle coldly and it is very much an also-ran. Aside from its lack of space and duff interior packaging, it’s nothing special to drive. It runs on the same suspension as the previous (MkIV) VW Golf, which never rated that well for its supple ride or its lively responses. So in 2008, it feels well off the pace. Its 1.6 engine is noisy, not that responsive, or especially economical.
None of this matters, though. You buy a Beetle for the gladdest of reasons – just because you want one. They are just so impossibly cute that you either love ‘em or hate ‘em, and we’re firmly in the first of those groups. How can you not like a car that has a flower vase built into the dash?
While at launch nine years back the Beetle was self-consciously retro, almost too aware of what it was, time has mellowed it nicely. Aside from a nip ‘n’tuck to the body a couple of years back to file back its edges and tidy its lamps, it’s the same deal now as then. Which means touches we love, such as leccy window switches let side-on into the driver’s door. Like a radio that pops its volume dial cheekily out whenever you turn it on. And then there’s the not one, but two sunglasses holders set into the roof lining within the driver’s reach – one amidships, aft of the mirror, the other where the driver’s grab handle might otherwise be sited.
For the price, this feels one solid car: the fabrics and plastics feel pleasant and durable throughout. A grey/black cabin is best for keeping smart and, although dour, at least a bright choice of paint for the outside cheers things up. Note, though, that the sunshine yellow of our car costs extra even though it’s not metallic – which we think a bit mean of VW.
And getting comfy inside is assured thanks to a seat that ratchets up and down over a good height range and a wheel that moves every-which-way. Don’t expect to see where the car’s front or rear at all well, though. A set of parking sensors is a good buy if parking scuffs bother you. And there’s that huge expanse of dash.
After a while, it no longer seems as daunting as at first. It’s a car best enjoyed while pootling along and it’s actually light and sweet to drive as long as you don’t try to urge it along.
But the sense never entirely leaves you that you’re somehow sat too far back – almost as if driving from the rear seat. Talking of which, as we’ve mentioned it is definitely made only for two, and leg and shoulder room is tight. And, while the seat back drops to add space, the load area is oddly shaped and titchy.
While the petrol version’s not especially economical, it is £2400 cheaper than the diesel-engined one. And you’d have to drive far to recoup the extra outlay.
Flawed? Of course. But as a modern take on one of motoring’s great originals, its appeal is there to enjoy.
- Engines1.6 petrol
- 0-60 mph11.6sec
- Insurance groups9
Motors.co.uk value verdict: