|Design ★★★★☆ / Interior ★★★★☆ / Engine ★★★☆☆ / Fuel economy ★★★★☆ / Cost and A/S ★★★★☆|
No car had more female appeal than the Volkswagen Beetle. But in an apparent move to lure more men, the 2013 Beetle is equipped with more aggressive styling and personality.
Volkswagen says women used to make up nearly 70 percent of Beetle buyers. With the more macho Beetle, the carmaker aims to get the male-female ratio to 50-50.
Completely redesigned last year, the latest version abandoned the iconic arched silhouette with the body getting longer, wider and lower. But the cheerful overall look is still unmistakably a Beetle.
The color palette has also been toughened up as harder hues including a bold Tornado Red and a brighter yellow replace the previous soft blues, greens and yellows.
The red one that I test drove definitely offered a sexier feel than its predecessor, even compared with its high-fashion rivals such as the Mini Cooper and the Fiat 500.
The all-black interior, fitted with red leather seats, was a pleasant surprise, offering a sleeker, sporty ambiance ― something you didn’t expect in a Beetle car before.
Adding to its hip interior was the dashboard that wears carbon fiber, a hot material recently that also covers the upcoming BMW i3 electric car.
Considering the dramatic shift in styling, it is hard to understand why Volkswagen has only one engine choice in Korea ― the 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel.
The TDI engine, pumping out 140 horsepower and a maximum torque of 32.6 kilograms per meter, should please drivers looking for a compact car with better fuel ratings.
But the engine is not powerful enough to woo those who expect a sports coupe with an almost Porsche-like styling, whether they are men or women. (In other markets, a turbo model is also available.)
In a disturbed urban ride, the car made little attempt to absorb sharp bumps, while struggling to chug up a steep hill.
Pressed on a highway, it responded with some reluctance. But the sport mode helped elevate the performance of the diesel engine.
To sum up my test-drive, I would say: “It looks a lot faster than it is.”
The limited driving excitement may be the trade-off for its impressive fuel efficiency of 15.4 kilometers per liter, a 20 percent increase compared to the previous gasoline model.
The Beetle is a well-rounded small car and boasts a backseat and trunk that are actually usable. But without a model equipped with more power, Volkswagen’s experiment with a more masculine Beetle could remain a half success.
By Lee Ji-yoon (email@example.com