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Showroom - Volkswagen Beetle: Squishing the New Beetle

November 2011, by Tariq Kamal - Also by this author

The Beetle hasn’t undergone a real redesign since 1998. That year, the introduction of the New Beetle set off the retro-futuristic design craze and captured the hearts of veteran Punch Bug drivers — not to mention the much-sought after youth market. It was a huge success, but was it really a great car? With its bubble shape and miniscule backseat and trunk, many fleet managers must have dismissed the New Beetle as a novelty ride.

The 2012 Beetle (it’s new but no longer “New”) may not have been designed with commercial applications in mind, but it’s certainly a more viable fleet option than any of its predecessors. Built upon Volkswagen’s Golf platform, the 2012 Beetle is wider, longer and shorter than the 2011-MY. Those dimensions, combined with a new shell, offer a more refined appearance, and the stylish interior completes the look.

That relationship to the Golf brings with it an additional blessing, as well as a curse. The blessing can be found under the hood of the Turbo editions, which are outfitted with the Golf GTI’s 2.0-liter, four-cylinder gem of an engine. The curse is the Golf’s uninspiring base engine, which lacks power and manages only 29 miles per gallon on the highway.

The base edition is available only with a five-speed stick, but it boasts a long list of standard features, including power locks and windows, eight-speaker stereo and 17-inch wheels. The mid-level 2.5L Beetle comes with premium interior fabric and floor mats, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, heated and adjustable seats and other comforts.

Beetle Turbos come equipped with a rear spoiler and sportier wheels, seats, upholstery and more. The 2.5L and Turbo editions also offer “Sunroof, Sound & Navigation” packages, which include options ranging from upgraded stereo and GPS to 19-inch wheels and a sport-tuned suspension.

With price points ranging from $18,995 for the base model to just under $25,000 for the top-of-the-line turbos, the 2012 Beetle will draw few fleet buyers away from more functional compacts such as the Civic, Corolla or Focus. But it is a fun car with serious style points, and it could give the Fiat 500 and MINI Cooper a run for their money.

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