I didn't spend much time in the Beetle Turbo but it doesn't take much time behind the wheel to appreciate VW's spunky 2.0-liter turbo four. The turbo spools up quickly -- all 207 lb-ft of torque are available at an insanely low 1700 rpm -- but progressively so acceleration is instantaneous but easily controllable. My only criticism after driving the Beetle is that, like the Passat, the throttle requires a fair bit of concentration and a controlled touch to take off gradually from a stop.
Since the Beetle and I didn't see the light of day together, I had some time to evaluate its interior lighting. The gauges are crisp and bright and the backlit controls on the thin-rimmed steering wheel make the little Beetle feel a bit more mature. The backlit controls on the center stack are easy to find and use at night but aren't so bright that they are distracting. The red accent lighting that peaks out under the body-colored window ledge and that frames the circular door-mounted speakers is less successful. It looks cool, but it doesn't throw any light so it serves no functional purpose. I can appreciate the coolness factor but I think it would be money better spent -- and this particular Beetle is nearly $30 grand -- if it also provided some ambient lighting for the doors and footwells.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
I was never really drawn to the Volkswagen New Beetle, mostly because I'm a 23-year-old guy and the car was known as, ahem, a vehicle for ladies. After all, it had a standard flower vase and optional petal-shaped wheels -- not for me. It's exactly those kinds of stereotypes that Volkswagen hopes to avoid with the 2012 Beetle, and the 200-hp Turbo model is the most dude-oriented of the bunch. The transformation has worked so well that I actually like the new car.
Much of the credit goes to the revamped styling, which is now considerably more muscular than the pert New Beetle. I'm also impressed by how much interior room has improved: I can now sit in the back seat without contorting my neck (I'm about five-foot-eight), and the cargo area is as capacious as any other hatchback. Even more alluring is the way this Beetle drives, thanks to the fact it uses many of the same mechanical bits as a Volkswagen GTI. The Beetle Turbo is a quick little car with decent handling to boot. I still wouldn't buy one, but I have at least gained some respect for the modern VW Bug.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
I was all prepared to write how swell the Beetle Turbo is considering that it's basically a de-contented, less expensive GTI. Only trouble is that it's not really cheaper than the GTI - a negligible $300 difference in base price. The Beetle has a hard dashboard with a rather unconvincing faux carbon fiber insert. It also lacks the GTI's LCD touch-screen and has cheap plastic shift buttons instead of the GTI's metal paddles. Of course, these will seem like small potatoes to someone who's head-over-heels in love with the Beetle styling, something the GTI will never be able to match. But I'm left to wonder about the wisdom of going to the dealership, looking at two very similar $24,000 cars, and driving away in the one that clearly has a cheaper interior.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I'm not buying into the idea that the Beetle is masculine. The last Beetle was just so effeminate that there was nowhere to take the design other than a little towards the masculine end of the spectrum, which still relegates this nameplate to chick car status in my mind. Sure, the 2.0t engine is available but the Beetle can't keep up with a GTI on a track and it isn't significantly cheaper than a GTI. It's disappointing that VW thinks it can sell a Beetle Turbo and GTI here at the same time but not a GTI and a Scirocco. While the Beetle does a lot of things well, I don't see what it has to offer that a Golf/GTI doesn't except more feminine styling.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor