The Extra Mile: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle
Base Price: $19,795
Price as tested: $20,565
This week, we're driving Volkswagen's 2012 Beetle, a vehicle we last drove in 2008 after a successful re-introduction in 1998. Over the years, the new Beetle is staying true to form, which means it doesn't change much cosmetically and parallels the same marketing tactic that made its predecessor a worldwide success.
Initially developed during the reign of Adolph Hitler, German designer Ferdinand Porsche (of Porsche motorcar fame) was instructed in 1933 to develop Germany's "People's Car," that was well-built, low in cost and available to the masses.
Porsche thus settled on an air cooled, rear-mounted, four-cylinder for power connected to a 4-speed transmission. The combo allowed the Beetle to reach a top speed of 62 mph and operate in extremely hot weather.
When WWII ended, the Beetle began exporting to other countries, including the United States in 1949. That first U.S. Beetle featured a split rear window and during the 1950 era stayed similar in design with a few changes here and there.
By 1965s, sales boomed as the Beetle, sister Karman Ghia and big brother Microbus became cult proclamations and an everyday user reliable, low cost, car. By 1972, the 15th-million Beetle was sold, surpassing the total production of the Henry Ford's Model T.
Due to government regulations, 1977 was the last year of the iconic Beetle was offered for sale in the states, although other countries still sold them. Mexico kept building the "original," something it started way back in 1955 until the final Porsche DNA Beetle rolled off its assembly line in 2003 (a full six years after the re-introduction of the current, second generation Beetle).
Today, however, it's the "modern" Beetle that rolls off the platform in Mexico. In keeping with original Beetle marketing theory of affordability, our tester 2012 Beetle's delivered price of $20,635 is nearly identical to the 2006 I drove ($20,345) and the 2008 I tested ($20,575). Thus, Volkswagen's "non-inflationary" reality is most welcome these days, especially considering the second generation Beetle has improved over the 15 years of its existence.
Specifically, Beetle's inline five-cylinder 2.5-liter, 170 horse, 177 pound-feet of torque engine delivers 20-more horses than it did in 2008. Its front drive power transfer comes thanks to a five-speed manual - which our tester had - or an available six-speed Tiptronic automatic.
Outwardly, Beetle looks similar to the 2006 and 2008 models sans a few tweaks. Its circular outward theme, easily recognized worldwide, transfers to the inside where comfort and a large dose of "Beetle retro" welcome passengers. Also of note are the "baby" hubcaps with trim rings, another direct link to the Beetle of days gone by.
A breeze to drive, be it parking, merging of maneuvering a lonely country road, Beetle's fully independent front strut suspension united with a torsion beam rear helps stick the 17-inch tires in the turns. The brakes are noteworthy, as four-wheel ABS discs quickly bring Beetle to a stop.
The standard feature list is extensive for a $20K car, most notable air, cruise, all the powers, electronic stability control, brake assist, traction control, MP3, Bluetooth, and an eight speaker sound system. Your VW dealer will gladly explain all the additional standard features.
On the safety side, Beetles earn overall four-star safety ratings and a five-star in the side impact area.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 99.9 inches (up 1.1 inch from 2008), 22 city and 31 highway EPA (up from 2008's 20 city and 28 highway), 15.4 cu.ft. of cargo (up from 2008's 12.4), 2,939-pound curb weight, and a 14.5-gallon fuel tank.
Everywhere we went, people still love Volkswagen's Beetle. Our tester had no options, so if you want a low cost legendary automotive classic your new Beetle is waiting for you at the dealer.
Base price of the 2013 Beetle you ask?
Not surprisingâ¦$19,795. The choice is yours.
Likes: History, price, build, retro looks.
Dislikes: Needs a manual sixth gear, not much else.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated automotive writer).