Review: Volkswagen Beetle 1.2 TSI Sport, redefined with charisma

It was the first test car assigned to me within days of joining this publication and while I did not punch my fist in the air with excitement, having spent my childhood adoring Porsche’s 911, the Volkwagen Beetle offered the closest, most faint impression of the timeless silhouette I grew up admiring so I gladly relished it.

I won’t deny; before collecting the Beetle doused in Blue Silk, I pondered how it would make me feel and worse, how it’ll make me look in public. Let’s face it, as much as the Beetle was the “people’s car” when it was conceived more than half a century ago, in this present day, it appeals to, let’s just say a more “vibrant” demographic – and it’s not in any way a bad thing.

Perhaps it was the social or pop culture-induced, or maybe I was just being plain childish but I couldn’t help but think it would make me look or feel like Mandy Moore in her then 1990’s Beetle from the Candy music video almost 20 years ago – although, that Beetle was hideous, I’m sure we can all agree on that. Turns out, I was just being childish.

Pulling away from Wisma Volkswagen in Bangsar, within minutes, I realise how foolish I was to have thought any less of the Beetle than the capable car that it was. I was looking forward to the next highway exit and with every reason to. It should be no surprise, how potent the Beetle’s 1.2-litre TSI engine would be and while 103 hp may not sound like much, it packed a healthy 175 Nm of torque from as low as 1,400 rpm before peaking at 4,000 revs.

And that, dear readers, is the very sweet-“rev range”-spot the Beetle was kept in throughout the entire weekend it was under my watch. I was caught constantly reminding myself that it was a Beetle, the car hopeless alpha males have claimed should only be driven by females – what utter rubbish. Together with a snappy, 7-speed DSG gearbox, it offered the kinda accelerating performance that you wouldn’t expect from its friendly exterior. If it matters to you, 0 to 100 km/h takes just 10.9 seconds but it’s irrelevant to judge this car solely on its century sprint.

It’s hard to imagine this thing NOT entertaining and satisfying a wide range of drivers – from eager teens with well-off parents, young execs looking for something different or even the more mature with a liking for little hatches with no frills but plenty of driving pleasure and excitement. I say this because the Beetle wasn’t only amusing to whoosh periodically in a straight line, but it holds itself pretty well too.

It felt very neutral around the bends and very predictable and composed with ample steering feedback from its electromechanical speed-sensitive steering with pedal shifters to tell if you’ve gone just a little too far with your enthusiasm.

I may sound like I’m gushing with lust for the Beetle and to be honest, the reality isn’t too far from it. I may not be head over heels for the Beetle, but it was its surprise element that left such a positive impression. Looking at its pretty Bi-Xenon headlights and curvy exterior proportions, with more “semi-circles” than straight lines and a spec sheet that highlights its 1.3-tonne weight, it simply wouldn’t strike you as something to be taken seriously of but you’d be proven so wrong.

With all that load, the Beetles brakes did not disappoint either. I like how it bites without being too brash and abrupt before it allows you to easily modulate it. There’s not much to rant on its ride comfort; seeing how the Beetle manages to hold its own at high speeds and corners, it manages to find a balance between the right amount of stiffness and comfort.

On the inside, I must say I’m not a fan of the body coloured dash panels – thought I’d get it out of the way but who am I to say, to each his own. It isn’t by any means an eye sore, it’s just that I would’ve preferred a full black interior. Other wise, on the features and equipment front, the Beetle is rather well equipped.

You get a 6.5-inch touchscreen display with iPhone, Bluetooth, USB, Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Mirror Link connectivity. Ah and this is rather impressive; its got 8-speakers. For someone who likes listening to his music rather loudly, they did their job rather well by providing a comprehensive, surround sound effect. It’s no BOSE or Harman Kardon, but it won’t let you question it capabilities.

The seats deserve a mention too; wrapped in Vienna leather, not only were they comfortable to rest on, even for an extended period, it also complemented the Beetle’s driving dynamics by being rather supportive. The only gripe I had was the “pumping motion” required as you manually adjust the height of the seats. Not something you’d expect from a car that price but its only fair to note that the Beetle has seen a significant price reduction leading to this model. From where I was sitting, and I must say it was pretty far back with my long limbs and all, the safety belt still seem rather far from reach.

But the rest of the interior is all dandy. You wouldn’t be blamed for not expecting too much leg room at the rear but you’d be caught off guard. Not only was head and legroom aplenty for someone of 5′ 11″ in height, its roofline also provided plenty of ease for entry and exit out of the rear seats.

Not once did I hit my head, clumsily moving around, in and out of the car to get pictures. Oh before I forget, what really got to me was the storage compartments by the door handle – it wasn’t an enclosed compartment but instead your items are safeguarded by this suspender-like material with gaps at the bottom. I mean come on VW, you can do better than that.

Most of you looking at the Beetle and its price tag may think that perhaps the interior could do with a little more but you’d be wrong to think that you’ve been short changed in any way. This is as most of your money, goes to the important bits under the car because this Beetle has comprehensively got you covered on the safety front.

Let’s see, it comes with ABS and Brake Assist, Anti-Skid Regulator, ESC, Hill-Start Assist, Park Distance Control, ISOFIX and most importantly a total of four airbags. There is the Beetle “Design” variant to go along with the “Sport” we had – the Design goes for RM137,620.00 whereas the Sport costs RM148,620.00.

Both are on-the-road prices excluding insurance. The Beetle comes with a 5-year unlimited mileage warranty package, 5-year roadside assist with a service interval of 15,000 km. Other colours available for the CBU Beetle includes Pure White, Tornado Red, Blue Silk, Dark Bronze, Habanero Orange and White Silver.

After spending nearly a week with the Beetle, I had my eyes opened; I’d even say that there is a certain level of fondness for it – for how it drives, how much more well-rounded it is and how much more proportionate its built up to be compared to the hideous eye-sore from the late 1990’s.

It’s come a long way and the improvements it has undergone with the MQB platform deserves more credit than just being branded as just a chick’s car because it’s not. It’s well-equipped, comes with a sizable boot, easy on the eye and encourages some reasonable level of enthusiastic driving. Some can unreasonably gripe on the lack of two extra doors, but hey, look at how the 4-door Mini Cooper looks like – some designs just aren’t meant to be fettered with.



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