2012 Beetle Turbo Review:
One word describes my week in the new Volkswagen Beetle Turbo – disappointing.
I loved its looks, handling and ride, but there were issues.Foremost, the fit and finish. The lower glove box door didn’t latch, so it hung open until I attached duct tape. Even then it took two pieces to hold it in place. I haven’t had this sort of problem in at least 10-15 years of car tests.
Second, it was cold the week I drove the Beetle and even with the climate control fan on 4, the highest setting, my feet were cold until about 20 minutes into my 25-minute commute. I put my hand by the floor on the driver’s side and felt precious little air movement from the hard-working fan.
Third, I’m 5-5 and with the driver’s seat adjusted for driving comfort it was a struggle to reach the seatbelt every time I climbed in the car. The huge side window means the belt is located far rearward of the seat.
Fourth, the tested Beetle Turbo – loaded with a sunroof, stereo upgrade and navigation system, the top-priced model at $27,995 – didn’t come with automatic lights. At this price it’s standard on most cars.
This all made me more sad because the Beetle is such an icon and so distinctive in its looks.
From a driving perspective there’s much to praise.
On dry pavement the Beetle was a blast. It’s wide, and like the Mini is easy to scoot around corners and handles with flair. There’s no body lean in turns and it’s fun, light and easy to drive.
The MacPherson struts up front and multi-link rear suspension give the car not only good handling, but good ride. This rides on a short 99.9-inch wheelbase, but rides like it’s stretched a little more. It’s solid with a sporty feel, but it does not punish riders.
We had a couple of inches of snow during my test drive and that didn’t help the Beetle. Despite its traction control, it struggled for grip in the moderate snowfall. Stability control is standard as are four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes.
Beetle’s base engine is a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder that makes 170 horsepower. That would be sufficient for fun driving, but the Turbo version adds a 2.0-liter I4 with turbo and intercooler and boosts the power to 200 horses. A 6-speed manual transmission comes standard and would make best use of that power.
The red test car added a 6-speed automatic for $1,100 that numbed the acceleration through about 40 mph. After that it came alive. Naturally if you tromp the gas pedal below 40 the Beetle will spring to life, but you really must mash the pedal for that power.
I got a solid 24.8 mpg and the EPA rates the Turbo at 22 mpg city and 30 highway.
I liked the VW interior’s look and feel, except for the lower glove box. Gauges are all easy to see and read and there are minimal buttons and knobs, all logically laid out. The test car added a 5-inch navigation screen mid-dash with big buttons around it. However, the radio knobs are smaller and a bit tougher to turn when wearing gloves.
VW adds three color (red, blue and white) choices for ambient lighting on the big rings around the stereo speakers in the doors. That’s fun. The giant panoramic sunroof overhead comes with a fairly thick shade, which you’ll want in summer.
Climate control knobs are big and easy to use. There’s push-button start and a 12-volt plug for extra gadgets. The test car came with a nice Fender sound system and a manual tilt/telescope steering wheel with radio, trip computer and cruise control buttons on the hub.
Seating was snug, but comfortable, the test car featuring black leather seats. They provided good support and the driver’s seat had a pump handle to raise and lower it. The seat back angle is easily controlled with a knob. This Beetle also featured three-speed heated seats, a comfort while you are waiting for the car to heat up.
Front seat room is fine, but the rear seat will only be useful for small children, and you won’t want to fuss with a car seat back there. Under the big hatch in back is a nice-sized trunk, rated at 15.4 cubic feet. While the rear seat backs fold down they do not create a flat hauling area in back.
After a $770 delivery fee, the test car hit $29,865. But remember this is the top level Beetle. A base model starts at $18,995 and moving up to the 2.5L model only moves you to $19,795. Adding a sunroof bumps it to $22,295, but again, this is a giant sunroof. The base Turbo lists at $23,395.
Mark Savage welcomes your questions and comments regarding new vehicles at Savageonwheels@yahoo.com.