What is it? The third-generation “new” Beetle promises to be both more practical than the curvilinear model its replaces. The track is 6 inches wider, the wheelbase is 6 inches longer, the overall length is 6 inches longer, and the roof is a half-inch lower. Gone are the odd top-hat friendly roofline and 10-yard pass dashboard, replaced by more conventional dimensions and proportions.
Three powertrains are available: 2.5-liter five-cylinder, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, and a 2.0-liter turbodiesel. The naturally aspirated five-cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower and 177 lb.-ft. of torque. VW estimates fuel economy at 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway with a five-speed manual. The six-speed automatic concedes 2 mpg on the highway, for 29 mpg. The sporty turbo spools out 200 horsepower and 207 lb.-ft. of torque. Highway fuel economy is estimated to be 30 mpg. The real miser is the 140-horsepower diesel. VW estimates 29 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, and 33 mpg overall.
All but the top-level 2.0-liter turbo model use a solid rear axle, which we found compromised handling in the new Jetta.
What’s new or notable? The larger dimensions show up in the new Beetle’s trunk and interior--both are much roomier than before. The change in proportions make the car more practical than its predecessor, whose first-impression charms could be dulled by ownership compromises. Up-level options include a panoramic roof that is 80 percent larger than on the previous model and a 400-watt Fender audio system with a subwoofer.
CR’s take: Like the new 2011 Jetta sedan, the new Beetle draws from a cheaper parts bin, with hard-plastic interior materials and a cost-cutting, solid-rear axle suspension on lower models. If you want a sporty car to take on the Mini Cooper, you’ll have to opt for the top-level Beetle Turbo.
When will it be available? September or October, 2011