Volkswagen Beetle

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I was fascInated to discover that the new Volkswagen Beetle, while perhaps not quite so terrible as its predecessor, is still by a comfortable margin the worst car VW makes.

We’re only in the spring but it’s still the worst car I’ve driven this year. My interest springs from two sources. first I wonder if being useless is part of Beetle DNA. The original was a terrible car with no performance, no brakes, no anything of much use in fact, save sadly indestructible build quality which meant they lasted forever. When VW decided to revive the name in 1998 it was obvious it could not build a car that was so thoroughly lousy again, so instead it designed one so boring that the only thing more likely to send you to sleep was having a piano dropped on your head.

Is it really a coincidence that the new Beetle follows in these traditions?

But the other reason I’m fascinated by this Beetle is that I really didn’t know that Volkswagen in 2012 still knew how to build cars like this. From the company responsible for the class-leading Up!, Polo and Golf comes a car lacking not only any charm but, more shockingly still, any trace of its stable-mates’ abilities.

To be fair it’s not disastrous in any speciic way, but that’s hardly a recommendation. The Beetle feels slow, has mediocre handling, poor ride quality and a shape optimised for providing discomfort to those travelling in the back.

The question is, why is it this way? I am quite confident that it is not because it’s the best Volkswagen can do. You only have to look at other models it makes for similar money to know that. Which leaves the slightly sour-tasting suspicion that the Beetle has been made to be only as good as it needs to be.

Let’s face it, this is not a car that’s going to be bought by serious drivers. nor, I would venture, anyone with even a passing interest in how well a car gets from one place to the next. It is a car bought for its looks alone and in the presumption that the customer will care little or less about anything else. But I still think VW could, and should, have tried a little harder with it. as it stands it appears to be taking advantage of a fashion victim clientèle, which, for a company capable of scaling death-defying heights of engineering excellence, is perhaps a little inelegant.

FACTFILE
ENGINE: 1.4 litres, four cylinders, petrol
TOP SPEED: 129mph
PRICE: £19,470
POWER: 156bhp at 5800rpm
FUEL/CO2: 42.8mpg, 153g/km
www.volkswagen.co.uk

Andrew Frankel