Michael Fisher: Long overdue for a redesign, the iconic Volkswagen Beetle enters 2012 with sportier styling and a few new engine choices.
Kimbette Fenol: The Beetle's been lowered and widened, making it roomier inside.
Michael: This, along with the flatter roofline and the pushed-back windshield, give the 2012 Beetle its new look.
Kimbette: Entry-level Beetles get handsome 17-inch wheels. But these 18-inch wheels on our loaded 2.5-liter tester really stand out. Plus, I like the chrome strip on the running boards.
Michael: These optional dual glove boxes carry over a bit of the traditional Beetle identity, and so do the body-colored dashboard and door sills.
Kimbette: Other than the body-colored areas, the interior surfaces are soft to the touch, and the controls are easy to reach and manipulate.
Michael: There's a little more legroom and shoulder room here up front...and even the back-seater gets a little bit more headroom as well.
Kimbette: This 2.5-liter comes with a sunroof, touchscreen navigation and the premium Fender brand "live sound" audio system-and if you open up the glove box, there's a dedicated iPod connector, too.
Michael: Here, on the shifter, the plus and minus signs indicate the Tiptronic manual shifting override for the available six-speed automatic transmission -recommended if you want a sportier driving experience.
Kimbette: And if you go for the turbo, you can even add the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Michael: For 2012, there are two gas engine choices: a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder and a turbocharged two-liter 4-cylinder. This is the 2.5-liter. It delivers 170 horsepower with plenty of pep, 20 more than the previous model, and more than enough for passing or getting up to speed when merging onto a highway.
Kimbette: 2.5-liters come with a six-speed automatic with sport mode and Tiptronic shifting, which lets you manually shift gears.
Michael: Yeah. The automatic mode will get you a lot better fuel economy, but when it comes to using the Tiptronic to manually shift gears, well, that's a whole lot more fun and puts you more in touch with the car as you're driving it. You can also get a manual transmission standard on the 2012 Beetle, either a five-speed in the 2.5-liter or a six-speed in the Turbo.
Kimbette: At over 30 miles per gallon highway, fuel economy for this compact car is just okay. But if you crave a little bit more muscle in your Beetle, the 4-cylinder turbo engine produces 200 horsepower with nearly identical fuel economy.
Michael: Later in 2012, a 140-horsepower two-liter turbo-diesel model comes to the lineup, promising better fuel economy and plenty of low-end torque.
Kimbette: Some important safety features that come with the Beetle include electronic stability control and tire pressure monitoring. Standard dual front airbags are complemented with a combined side and curtain airbag system that protect only the front passengers.
Michael: Something to consider if you carpool or have kids.
Kimbette: Entry-point pricing for the Beetle starts at $19,795. Our loaded 2.5-liter starts at $24,195. Turbo models start at $23,395.
Michael: VW covers the powertrain for five years or 60,000 miles.
Kimbette: For comparisons, take a look at the 2012 Ford Focus five-door hatchback, starting at around $18,000. Or, for the more retro appeal, check out the turbocharged 2012 Mini Cooper Clubman, priced at around $25,000.
Michael: Recognizable anywhere, the 2012 Beetle has a modern appeal for a new generation.
Kimbette: Now it doesn't deliver the best fuel economy, but it does have the latest features, improved performance and of course the echoes of the original Beetle's styling that has kept it popular for decades.