Bottom line: The 2012 Beetle is a viable alternative to the Fiat 500 and the BMW-sponsored Mini Cooper. VW’s insistence on keeping and substantially updating the Beetle will be welcomed by Beetle lovers worldwide.
Ride, acceleration and handling: It gets very good marks in all three. Normal drivers, those of us who don’t imagine public roads as race tracks, will have no problems with this one.
Head-turning quotient: The 2012 Beetle is not as cute as predecessor models. That is both good and bad. Those of us who wanted a less frilly, more robust Beetle applaud the changes. Those who believe that a flower vase has an appropriate place in a passenger car will be unhappy — it’s been expunged.
Body style/layout: The 2012 Beetle is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive subcompact car available in several iterations, including a Beetle Turbo. Volkswagen clearly is serious about keeping this one going. The company plans to introduce a diesel-powered Beetle in 2013.
Engines/transmissions: There are two engines — including a 2.5-liter, 20-valve in-line five-cylinder model (170 horsepower, 177 foot-pounds of torque) and a turbocharged 2-liter, 16-valve in-line four-cylinder version (200 horsepower, 207 foot-pounds of torque). The five-cylinder model is attached to a standard five-speed manual transmission. The turbocharged four-cylinder version currently gets a six-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually. A six-speed manual gearbox is coming soon.
Capacities: There is comfortable seating for four adults. Cargo capacity is now a reasonable 15.4 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 14.5 gallons of gasoline. The five-cylinder engine takes regular-grade fuel. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine requires premium.
Mileage: In real-world driving, both versions got about 20 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. But the turbo was more of a hoot on the highway!
Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (vented front, solid rear); four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance and electronic brake-force distribution; electronic stability and traction control; side and head air bags; and post-collision safety system.
Pricing: The 2012 Beetle Turbo currently starts at $23,395. Dealer’s invoice price on that model is $22,459. The base 2012 Beetle starts at $18,995. Dealer’s invoice price on that model is $18,235. There are options aplenty, plus a $770 destination charge on both cars, all of which will add to the cost of your bottom line.