This is no ordinary bug; it has a cult following of millions globally, its own movie, and was the beacon of the peace movement in the 1970s.
Since its inception 76 years back, this German-born vehicle has accumulated its fair share of names across the globe. While some call it a turtle and others argue it is more of a ladybug, most have come to identity its distinct shape simply as a beetle.
Yet, it is rather ironic that Volkswagen’s Beetle became an emblem of peace during the 1970s hippie movement, especially considering its close association with former German dictator Adolf Hitler, whose idea was to have an affordable car to be made available for every German family back then, hence it being labelled as the “people’s car”.
Designed by Ferdinand Porsche — founder of the Porsche car company – the two-door car is easily amongst the most instantly recognisable automobiles around the world today. While it has obviously come a long way since in terms of technology and features, it has kept true to its iconic exterior shape and original intent to be a reliable car for the masses.
Running on a front-placed turbocharged 4-cylinder direct petrol injection engine, the Beetle 1.2L TSI was a welcomed surprise for me in comparison to my subdued experience with its earlier larger and faster 1.4L variant, specifically when it comes to road handling and driveability.
Zipping around the city traffic and our ruthless weather-beaten road conditions, its impressive seven-speed direct shift gearbox built with innovative dual-clutch technology provides a well-controlled drive across all gear shifts. Considering the engine capacity and shape of the car, the anticipated drag never occurred.
Rather surprising bearing in mind its’ not perfectly aerodynamic-friendly bubble shape, the bug has a very responsive throttle from a static position. With the ability to accelerate from 0-100 km/hour in a decent 10.9 seconds, it effortlessly delivers a top speed of 180 km/hour. It seems to deliver on its promise to “drive you happy” via its ability to serve up a maximum output of 105ps at 5,000rpm and a maximum torque of 175Nm within the range of 1,550-4,100rpm; providing an almost instantaneous push from the start.
Although it will clearly not outrun the field on the expressways, one thing that it does very well is in handling the tucks and turns along the urban roads. The pair of standard struts, tuned slightly on the soft side, comfortably makes its way through those pesky speed bumps.
Resting on two pairs of 215/60 R16 alloy wheels, it also boasts of electronically adjustable, foldable and heated exterior mirrors, halogen headlights, front fog lamps with static cornering light, front windshield wiper with intermittent control, as well as heat-insulating glass for side and rear windows.
On the inside, personally, I found the unadorned level dashboard particularly the front old-fashioned flip-up glove box – in addition to a second standard glove compartment — a nice sentimental touch to replicate the car’s predecessors’ styling.
The multi-adjustable steering column was a very thoughtful inclusion as this allows a flexible and comfortable driving position for everyone in the family. The leather seats provides firm support and keeps the driver in place during the turns, although the bucket-like seats at the back were not a favourite for the kids as they kept slipping backwards on the thrust. And I’m pretty sure Volkswagen’s remarkable designers will be able to sneak in a few more centimetres of legroom space at the back in its future releases.
Reflecting on its “people’s car” motto when it comes to fitting up the bug, interior features include the presence of two 12-volt sockets that allows for both front and rear passengers the added convenience of charging their phones and tablets. Other standard highlights include cruise control, foldable rear backrest, front centre armrest, front seats with height adjustment and a multi-function audio/systems display unit.
To keep everyone safe, the Beetle is incorporated with anti-lock braking system, brake assist, hill-hold control, electronic stability control, rain sensor, park distance control, IsoFix child seat system, combined side and thorax airbags for front passengers, and anti-theft alarm system.
Okay, some may argue that it’s RM135,888 price tag may not exactly be for “everyone” as in accordance to Hilter’s initial intent, yet if compared to its current peers in terms of performance, it is definitely amongst the more cost effective option within its target market segment.