VW’s 2012 Beetle: The Triumph of Bland

2012 Beetle, white

Nobody seems to be neutral
about the new Beetle, even though its design is about as indifferent as you can get. Kind of like the new Jetta, but with bubbly fenders and a squashed roof.

The company’s announced aim was “to essentially go after the MINI so far as market positioning and price offerings.” But this car has nothing like the MINI’s flair; maybe it will have some of its performance.

It appears to me that VW’s most important objective was to counter the image of the 1998-2010 New Beetle as a “chick car.” I owned one of these, because it had a good turbo engine and was a beautiful design. It turns out that two-thirds of the buyers of that car were women—which never caused me any embarrassment.

The new car is being pitched as more “masculine,” but why would you dismiss two-thirds of your base to appeal to the boy racers, whom you won’t get anyway? From its beginnings, the Beetle has always had a niche appeal. More testosterone won’t get you that.

Volkswagen Scirocco, frontAnd VW further muddies the marketing waters by making this thing into another mutation of GTI or Scirocco (Europe only; see at right). The engine choices are okay, but the diesel (to come) with 29/40 mpg could be the standout. Still, can you imagine many of these being sold in the U.S.?

The base engine, from the Jetta, is a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder with 170 hp. Optional is a 2-liter turbo four, rated at 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque, with optional 6-speed dual-clutch tranny and electronic differential.

It’s also got a big sunroof, lots of amenities, better handling and a sharp retro interior. No bud vase.

The original U.S. Beetle in the 1950s was cheap, fun, and easy to maintain. And it was quirky. This car is the essence of non-quirkiness.

Do you like the 2012 Beetle? Are you man enough to drive one?


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  1. My 1968 Beetle was a mainstay for me for many years, until I pulled the hopped-up engine and put it in a Camper, where it serviced me for a number of additional years. There was never anything pretentious about bugs, just simple transportation. The only thing that really sucked was the lack of heat in the winter and having to rely on a krazy gasoline heater. It’s even more interesting to consider the two other incarnations of the but– The VW THING and the Karman Ghia 2-seater. Truly the basic BUG design has been one of the best and most enduring trasnportation designs of all time.

  2. Well, Bryce, they did have all these problems but not at the same time, you know! There are still lots of the old cars here in Mexico, and people keep them running because they are cheap, easy to repair, and there’s a large supply of parts. Some are beautiful.

    Regarding the testosterone issue, the latest, dumbest sexist slam at the New Beetle is by someone named Jon Druker, who defends his manhood by dissing everything about the 1998-2010 car and its “sissy” male drivers. So of course he endorses the new 2012 anti-chick car and what he claims was the marketing push behind it: http://www.thecarconnection.com/marty-blog/1058777_2012-vw-beetle-marketing-says-its-not-a-chick-car.

    Worst of all, he’s trying to be cute about it.

    Happy Easter, and God save us all from the auto blog writers. Me included.

  3. A real beetle would have the drivetrain at the other end as that was the main difference between it and normal cars.Early bugs were easy enough to repair but needed constant repairing and tinkering to be kept chugging along slowly holding up other traffic,The only area VW excelled at was slippery road traction.The rose tinted specs of nostalgia cant mask the real beetle driving experience slow noisy progress poor brakes and lights,comfort straight from a nazi death camp ,torsion bar fight on twisty roads that cause rollovers engines that couldnt take hot weather at all and sieze in the middloe of nowhere no parts available anywhere except at main agents,garage mechanics who refuse to attempt repairs or do attempt and make things worse because they cannot under stand how the bloody thing works and cant or wont read a workshop manual that was the main reason evryone learned how to fix bugs noone else would touch one

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