I’ve known the Bug since my childhood and seen many iterations go past, from the original Type 1 that rolled off the assembly line in 1938 to the early 2000s model to the current A5. It’s one of those cars that, due to its iconic aesthetic, you will always recognize even on a road full of Bugattis and Lamborghinis.

So I figured, why don’t I check out the new model and see how it’s evolved over a period of close to a century? The new model doesn’t look so much like a girl’s car anymore, and it comes with a very manly turbo, so why the hell not? I’m a fan of low-sitting sports cars with V8s, but I told myself it’s not gonna hurt to try the new Volkswagen Beetle.

Key figures

  • Engine: 2.0L turbo
  • Power: 210 hp
  • Torque: 207 lb ft
  • 0-100 km/h: 7.4 seconds
  • Top speed: 225 km/h
  • Price: From AED 128,000

Exterior

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One glance at the Beetle and you know immediately that this is a descendant of the massively popular, rear-engined Type 1. It’s still a rounded everywhere, from the bonnet to the roof to the posterior with rounded headlights accented by a half-ring of LEDs. It does look a little flatter than previous generations, which makes it the most masculine looking Beetle ever designed.

I reviewed the cabriolet version, so the beige retractable roof, in contrast with the racer red body, comes in handy in Dubai’s Winter months. I also appreciate the fact that unlike other convertibles where windshield rakes in over the driver’s head, the Beetle’s is a little bit more upright, giving you a more open-air feel than most others. You’ll also find yourself getting a lot of looks while driving this car, which says a lot considering this is not a raging sports car with a crazy body or screaming exhaust.

Interior

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I do not know if this is standard in all models – probably not judging from the results of a Google Image search for “VW Beetle interior” – but my car came with a light brown interior with gloss red accents to match the paint job. It’s very funky and inviting, which upon getting into the car for the very first time says you’re going to have a lot of fun driving the Bug. It’s still got the retro feel, with oversize gauges in front of the driver and in the center of the dashboard for oil temp, turbo pressure and a clock in the middle, but it features all the modern amenities you could look for in a 2016 model. Only thing I felt it lacked was power seats, even my 2006 Corvette had those.

The fit and finish is I would say standard, but I wish the components were fit together a little more snugly. I could hear a few weird sounds in the cabin while driving. The dash material could have been made with better plastics too, they felt a little Yaris-y, which is a shame since Volkswagen has long abandoned the people’s car positioning its name and gone up the luxury ladder.

The touch-screen entertainment system is hooked up to a string of Fender speakers, which makes driving the Beetle with the stereo at full blast a breeze. This should be very relevant if you’re that kind of person who drives on The Walk with the music way up like anybody cares. Having said that, drivers who just enjoy vibrant sound reproduction in the cabin will also find the Fender system more than sufficient for their standards.

Performance

Here we go. It’s not the first car that comes to mind when you think of fast cars, but I have to say, the Beetle is A LOT faster than it looks. Sure, it looks like a fun car to drive sort of carefree on a stretch of desert road, but the turbo-motor cabriolet is a quick and agile machine, and this experience lends a lot more scientific credence to the Herbie movie. With 210 horsepower and 207 lb ft of torque, this car can slug it out with the rest of the 2.0 pack, no doubt.

The front-wheel drive configuration inspires some confidence in the corners, although I wouldn’t push it due to the understeering nature of this setup. The steering is also just a little bit wobbly at higher speeds, which can pose a problem for some drivers who want a completely stable feel. The wheel is heavy enough that it should stay reasonably still on a stretch, but somehow a little wobble crops up when you reach about 100 km/h.

Overall, the Volkswagen Beetle and great fun drive with performance that can match or even exceed its looks. It’s a model that’s been perfected over a span of many decades and buying one does not only get you a car, but a piece of storied century-long success.

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