2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Diesel
2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Diesel. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Lesley Wimbush

If anyone had told me a couple of years ago that one day I’d drive a new Beetle – and admit to liking it – I’d have voluntarily handed in my auto enthusiast’s card.

As popular as it was, the last new Beetle left me cold. The epitome of everything I despised in what have been derogatorily designated as “chick cars”, the new Beetle was “cute” in the most cloyingly annoying way possible. Cheerful, pudgy, soft and wallowing, with those vapid, saucer-like “eyes”, it was Honey Boo-Boo on wheels. From behind, it resembled a trundling hippopotamus with a pair of dinner plates pinned to its ample haunches.

And don’t even get me started on that bud-vase.

So imagine my surprise when the sheet was swept away at the 2011 New York Auto Show to reveal a “new” new Beetle, now no longer New, one with a sleek and pulled-together look that still paid homage to its namesake – without being a parody of the iconic Beetle. It’s a daunting prospect meddling with the identity of an icon that’s long been woven into the cultural fabric. “You don’t change a car like that on a whim,” said Director of Marketing Luca De Meo. The objective was to resurrect the spirit of the “people’s car” – indestructible and affordable and to reconnect with drivers’ emotions the way the original and much-loved Bug did, while bringing the vehicle into the 21st century in a global market.

The revised Beetle has a slightly more testosterone-boosted attitude aimed at dispelling forever the girlie-car image incurred by its bubble-headed predecessor. Longer, lower, wider, the massaged Beetle’s gained an infusion of sporty sleekness channeling the Audi TT with a touch of 911 thrown in. The lines are “more dynamic and sporty” with a pushed-back cabin reflecting the original Ferdinand Porsche design. The outline has been streamlined thanks to a longer hood, lower greenhouse and a wheelbase that’s been stretched by 150 mm. The lower, wider stance adds a touch of aggression, while its wider track increases stability.

Fragile masculine egos can breathe a big sigh of relief: the bud vase has been axed.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Diesel2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Diesel
2013 Volkswagen Beetle TDI Diesel. Click image to enlarge

Although I’d recently driven the brand-new drop-top Beetle (along the California coastline, no less!) this was the first time I’d taken a Beetle Coupe home with me.

Identical to the 2012 that was unveiled in New York, the 2013 model has seen no changes. My first impressions were favourable: despite my Highline trim press car’s white colour, there was nothing about it that screamed “chick car” and I didn’t feel like the stereotypical blonde once behind the wheel.

The interior is still cute, as befitting its character, but not annoyingly so. Doors close with that reassuring “thunk” that smacks of German solidity – but there are abundant inexpensive materials appropriate to its segment. Highly bolstered, sports-style seats are cloth-covered and manually adjustable. The infotainment screen is tiny – about the size of an embedded Garmin – but the nav system is simple and extremely easy to use. The centre stack is plain, though not unstylish. It features simple round knobs, complemented by circular brush metal trim surrounding the shifter.

There’s a kitschy, body-coloured, hard glossy plastic dash insert that adds to the retro atmosphere, with the same trim continuing on the spokes and hub of the steering wheel. Speaking of which – it’s a delightful little flat-bottomed number that fits perfectly in the hands. It features stereo volume, phone and information display controls.

There are a couple of cupholders up front, and one behind, but if you’re looking for centre storage – forget it. An armrest takes up space normally occupied by a centre console, and with it down, there’s no earthly way the hand-brake could be used. That’s no problem for me – I despise vehicle armrests (almost as much as passengers who insist upon using mine).

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