THE most enduring car in the history of world motoring has only featured three new models in 75 years with the first selling a staggering 21.5 million units and the latest and third Volkswagen Beetle is now carrying on the tradition with much the same shape as the original all that time ago writes Bryan Longworth.
It is now well documented that the very first Beetle which was launched in 1938 was commissioned by a certain Adolf Hitler as “the people’s car” and designed by Ferdinand Porsche who was also responsible for designing the famous German sports cars that still bear his name.
VW introduced New Beetle in 1998 with production of the original model finally stopping in 2003 and New Beetle has now been replaced with the current Beetle which has a similar body and is designed with the object of creating more man appeal.
The latest Beetle which is built in Mexico is different from New Beetle in particular at the front where there is a longer bonnet and the extra width is quite apparent - the car is also longer and lower with a steeper windscreen moved back that makes it more akin to the DNA of the 1938 original.
There is also a larger cargo capacity at the back and this now ranges from 310 litres to 905 litres depending on whether the rear seats are up or down which is good news for owners because the sloping hatchback restricts luggage space somewhat.
I have just been taking a closer look at the latest Beetle which is related to the VW Golf with my test car being the Beetle Design with the 1.2-litre 105bhp petrol engine and the seven speed DSG automatic gearbox that cost £19,370 - Beetle prices start at £15,515 and rise to £24,795.
This is the smallest petrol powered engine but it provided an adequate output in all driving conditions with a top speed of 112mph, a zero to 62mph time of 10.9 seconds with a combined fuel consumption of 47.9 mpg and CO2 emissions of 137g/km.
The test car had a really nice feel about it and felt very solid with good grip especially when being driven on winding country roads and the interior is spacious and comfortable with the very effective new instrumentation now featured in other VW Group cars.
I like the new shape which also caught the eye of a female admirer who said it looked much better than the previous Beetle and a passenger said the interior looked old fashioned which will please Volkswagen because they have given the interior a retro look to match the model that lasted for three quarters of a century - yet another admirer liked the retro Denim blue paintwork which reminded him of his dad’s Ford Escort over 30 years ago!
Access to the rear seats is quite easy when the front seats are pulled forward with there being only two side doors although I prefer cars with four doors but this would not work with a car like the Beetle.
Despite what VW say in the Press literature I found that close parking situations were a bit of a problem at times because of the size and weight of the driver’s door and during periods of heavy rain a rear window wiper would have been useful.
Over the many years I have been a motoring journalist I have driven numerous models of the Beetle including quite a few of the original with the air cooled rear engine and with this latest effort VW designers have done a great job in producing such a satisfying car for owners who really enjoy their driving in a car like no other.
My Verdict: A worthy successor to the original evergreen Beetle.
Model: VW Beetle Design.
Engine: 1.2-litre petrol.
Output: 105bhp @ 5000 rpm.
Transmission: 7 speed DSG automatic.
Top speed: 112mph.
Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 10.9 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 47.9mpg combined.
CO2 emissions: 137g/km.