The 2012 Volkswagen Beetle is clearly the rebellious type. After all, its predecessor, the New Beetle, just concluded one of the longest production runs of any modern car, introducing new generations to the Beetle mystique. A predictable sequel would have received minor updates without messing with the New Beetle's fundamentally friendly formula. But VW gave the 2012 Beetle a significant overhaul, giving the new car an edgier look.
Volkwsagen likes to talk about the latest Beetle's "more masculine" nature, but we don't see why they have to bring gender into it. The 2012 Beetle should appeal to a broad audience. It's less of a rolling nostalgia machine this time around, and more of a focused vehicle. Here are five reasons why we like the 2012 Volkwsagen Beetle.
1. No more flower vase
If the New Beetle had a defining feature, it was the plastic flower vase that came stuck in the dashboard. It wasn't uncommon to see a New Beetle puttering around town with a daisy in that vase and a teenage girl behind the wheel. So maybe VW's got a point with the "more masculine" argument, because there's no flower vase in sight. Instead, there's just a straightforward dashboard with Volkswagen's typically meticulous attention to detail.
2. Stronger styling
The New Beetle certainly cut a distinctive figure on the road, but we couldn't always tell if it was coming or going. There was something overly upright and symmetrical about its bubbly shape, as though it had skipped its scheduled appointment with the wind tunnel. VW made the exterior shape much more dynamic this time around, widening the rear fenders and introducing sharper angles for the nose and windshield. If you squint really hard, you might even see an homage to the iconic sports car the Beetle inspired all those decades ago - the Porsche 911.
3. Excellent engine lineup
Don't dismiss the base 2.5-liter 5-cylinder engine just because a lot of automotive journalists grumble about it. The truth is, this rumbly little engine is full of character, not to mention torque. We think it's pretty endearing. And if you want more vigor, the Beetle supplies it in the form of VW's ubiquitous "2.0T," a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that pumps out 200 horsepower and gets decent fuel economy to boot. It's easily one of the best engines in this price bracket. And if you're looking for amazing fuel economy, there's the Beetle TDI with VW's efficient turbodiesel engine that's surprisingly peppy and capable of getting more than 40 mpg.
4. Sophisticated driving character
Technically, the 2012 Beetle is a tale of two suspensions, as the base 5-cylinder model shares the Jetta's comfort-focused setup, while the turbo gets the GTI's more performance-oriented ride. But in real-world driving, both Beetles exhibit uncommon grace and refinement over a variety of surfaces. While the Beetle's handling isn't on par with the gokart-like Mini Cooper, it's entertaining enough, especially with the Turbo model's independent rear suspension. Some may find the Beetle's curvaceous styling a bit toylike, but its driving character is anything but.
5. Useful back seat and hatchback
Unlike just about every other stylish two-door in this price range, the Beetle is actually a real car when it comes to hauling people and stuff. The back seat has adult-sized space that's marred only by limited headroom. If you fold down the rear seatbacks, there's 30-cubic-foot of cargo space. The 2012 VW Beetle might have an edgier look, but it's still the people's car - and that's good news for "volks" who care about more than just good looks.