Test Drive: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle volkswagen car test drives reviews
2012 Volkswagen Beetle. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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2012 Volkswagen Beetle

In 1962, if you were to tell Leo Fender, the man who created the Telecaster, Stratocaster, Precision Bass among others, that in 50 years, a) his guitars would still be the standards of the industry, b) his name would adorn the audio system in the third generation Volkswagen Beetle, and c) said Beetle would have its engine in the front, he probably would have looked at you like you had three heads.

This has all come to pass.

Today we’re looking at a 2012 Beetle Premiere +, one of several hundred introductory Canadian limited edition models offered at $26,575. It is fully loaded, featuring touch-screen navigation, Bluetooth, keyless entry with pushbutton start and a 400-watt eight-speaker w/subwoofer Fender audio system. Power comes from VW’s 170 hp, 177 lb.-ft. 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine; it sports a six-speed Tiptronic transmission and rolls on sharp 18-inch wheels.

Test Drive: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle volkswagen car test drives reviews
Test Drive: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle volkswagen car test drives reviews
2012 Volkswagen Beetle. Click image to enlarge

Considering the New Beetle’s sales pretty much flat-lined a few years into its production run (1998 to 2010), one might wonder why VW would bother to make Beetle version 3.0, which, by the way, is not called the New New Beetle. Just Beetle, thanks.

To answer that, the Type 1 Beetle, with over 21 million sold, remains one of the most important and most recognizable cars in the automotive pantheon. As such, Volkswagen knows the value of this heritage is immeasurable, so a fresh Beetle we have. Whether or not it sells a gazillion copies worldwide is largely irrelevant. They have the Golf for that anyway.

This 2012 Beetle is wider, longer and a little lower than the outgoing New Beetle, and is a better car in every way. The fresh shell is actually closer in profile to the original, yet manages to look crisp and modern, especially in Tornado Red and rolling on these stylish alloys. My tester got a universal thumbs-up everywhere I went, but VW’s insistence (hope?) that this more macho Beetle will draw a larger male audience is debatable. It appeared the fairer sex was more enthusiastic.

Inside, the old plasticky interior makes way for a high quality effort featuring a slew of retro touches – the most obvious being the body-coloured dash and door panels. The leather-wrapped wheel has a thin diameter rim (but not too thin), there’s an oval rearview mirror, and in lieu of the previous model’s flower vase, the dash has a cool top-hinged glove box just like in the Type 1. Another glove box lives just below.

The windshield is more upright and closer, so that crazy expanse of dashtop found in the old New Beetle is no more.

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