1st Place – VW Beetle Turbo

2013 VW Beetle Turbo
2013 VW Beetle Turbo
2013 VW Beetle Turbo
2013 VW Beetle Turbo
2012 Fiat 500 Abarth
2013 VW Beetle Turbo. Click image to enlarge

Perhaps Dave summed it up perfectly when getting out of the VW. “This car is in a different league. It feels twice as expensive as the others.”

And so another pricey Volkswagen wins another Autos.ca shootout. Keep those forum posts and letters coming!

This is clearly a case of getting what you pay for. Personal styling preferences and “chick-car” status notwithstanding, it is no great surprise the Beetle Turbo wins out. It shares most of its bits with the GTI, a car I consider pretty much unparalleled when it comes to combining driving fun, refinement, quality, comfort, and utility.

While this 2.0L direct-injection turbo-four has a fairly modest 200-hp rating, it sure feels strong, and the six-speed twin-clutch DSG transmission is a paragon of smoothness. Upshifts and downshifts are immediate and seamless, and playing with the paddle shifters is a joy. Gotta’ love the little farty-woofs on upshifts.

Attacking the bends in our back-road test loop, the Beetle was the most composed and had the best steering. No muss, fuss, or aberrant chassis issues here. Point the car into a bend and it confidently carves a graceful arc, not to be upset by mid-corner bumps. It was highly entertaining watching from behind as the Fiat darted about nervously and the Veloster’s dramatic arse-end created some drama of its own for Mike as he hammered it through a tight and bumpy right-hander. Through all this the Beetle’s ride remains quiet and supple. Conversely, the Veloster crashes and shudders and the Fiat, bless its entertaining little heart, does its very best to send you off course with its pugilistic combination pitches, bobs, torque-steer, and tramlining.

The Beetle was the only car in this trio whose stability control could not be defeated, which will be an issue for hot shoes who want to track this car. But I suspect there will be precious few of those. I would be more concerned about needing to get wheel-spin when trying to get moving in deep snow or on glare ice.

The V-Dub’s interior is an interesting mix of the retro and new. While the non-turbo Beetle’s dash expanse is painted body colour, giving it a cheery and old-time feel, the Turbo gets faux carbon-fibre, which to us looked a bit overdone. Some of the surfaces and plastic bits are not of the highest quality, but where it really counts VW got it right—the seats, steering wheel, shifter, armrests and wonderfully clear instruments. Compared to the previous-gen New Beetle, the back seats are a revelation, although headroom will still be an issue for taller folks.

The back seats don’t fold completely flat, but again, much better cargo space than in the “old” New Beetle. Surprisingly, the Veloster was the champ in this department. Not surprisingly, the Fiat was the chimp.

Upright and relatively thin A-pillars give the Beetle decent forward visibility, and it aced the highway portion of our test—its dead-eye tracking and relaxed long legs making this the ride you’d want for an extended journey.

When VW launched this Beetle last year, they expected it to attract more of the male demographic. Maybe. The Turbo Beetle certainly gets some more attitude with its nice 18-inch alloys and rear spoiler, and you sure can’t argue with the driving experience, but are hot-shoe drivers going to buy this over the GTI?

Maybe if they put Red Bull on their Cap’n Crunch. -PB

Pricing: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle Sportline
Base price: $30,425
Options: $1,290 (Technology Package), $675 (Connectivity Package)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,365
Price as tested: $33,855

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