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2012 Volkswagen Beetle 2.5 car review: Base bug

Headlights of the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle are set into rounded fenders.
Headlights of the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle are set into rounded fenders.
John Matras photo copyright John Matras Media LLC

Most reviews of the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle have focused to some extent on whether the Beetle is masculine enough for a self-respecting he-guy to drive. This one won’t, because everyone either believes it’s no longer a girl’s car—or so girly-girl that even if the front end were protected not by a bra but an athletic supporter, the All-American guy wouldn’t slip behind the steering wheel and would have doubts about a passenger seat.

John Matras photo copyright John Matras Media LLC
John Matras photo copyright John Matras Media LLC

So that aside, what is there to the Volkswagen Beetle that sets it apart from other cars. Well, how about its Beetlesque design? The new Volkswagen Beetle, as opposed to the Volkswagen New Beetle, has a flatter roof and a longer hood, and in profile looks more like the original Type 1 Beetle. The new Beetle is lower than the New Beetle but gains on rear headroom while the front seat loses the ability to seat Abe Lincoln wearing this stovepipe hat. The new Beetle bests the old New Beetle in width by 3.3 inches and in length by 7.4 inches.

Right now there are two versions of the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle, the standard Beetle and the Beetle Turbo, but a diesel-powered Beetle, a Beetle Cabriolet/convertible and the Beetle Turbo-eating Beetle R are all on their way. A review of the Beetle Turbo is available on CarBuzzard, and this follow-up is on the standard model.

The 2012 Volkswagen Beetle, like the VW Golf it’s based on, is powered by the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that’s the base powerplant for most of the VW line. It’s a sturdy engine with a broad torque range, though its fuel economy has been boosted by about ten percent. A six-speed manual is standard though our test model was equipped with the six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Our tester was also came with the Sunroof, Sound and Navigation package, which is exactly what it says it is. It also raises the bottom significantly over the base $19,795 starting price. Ad dining just the sunroof brings the price to $22,295. The Fender audio combined with the in-dash nav system raises the total to $24,095.

The tilt/slide panoramic sunroof of the new Beetle almost doubles that of the New Beetle, and black tinted with black surround it gives the Beetle a custom look and accentuates the new car’s lower roofline. The dark tint also blocks 99 percent of UV radiation and 92 percent of heat energy. It’s possible to leave the sunroof open even on sunny days without wearing a hat. The high roofline, however, means that the sun visor isn’t as effective blocking low sun from the side.

Volkswagen brings part retro and part personality inside by adding large body-color panels around the interior, and even to the spokes of the steering wheel. It’s funky and attractive and brightened up the interior of our Tornado red Beetle.

More Volkswagen reviews and news at

Perhaps it’s a Beetle tradition but a large centrally-positioned speedometer is flanked by a much smaller tachometer—something the original Beetles didn’t have at all—and an equally large fuel gauge to the right, omitting an engine temperature gauge. There’s a tray atop the dash with a rubber liner, good for change, pens and assorted junk, some of which would probably be better off in one of the VW Beetle’s double gloveboxes.

While the navigation system was easy to use, the audio system used an arrangement of rotary buttons on the color LCD screen that’s smallish compared to ever-growing screens from other makes. We didn’t come to terms with VW’s idiosyncratic radio controls but the Fender audio with its own Pioneer speaker technology, plus 400 watts of power and an additional subwoofer, gave particularly crisp reproduction of sounds and particularly in bass ranges.

The front seats are comfortable and supportive though don’t qualify a sport seats. The rear seats, with limited room between the folded front seat and B-pillar, are hard to get into and even more so getting out, and although the headroom is greater than the New Beetle’s, the new Volkswagen Beetle dissuaded our usual 6’ 1” seat tester from even attempting entry.

The trunk of the new Beetle benefits from the new roofline and longer body, growing significantly from 12.0 to 15.4 cubic feet. The rear hatch and 50/50 folding rear seat greatly increases the utility of the Volkswagen Beetle, though the seatbacks only hinge forward, making a step up in the floor the thickness of the seatback. The lift to the trunk, including the reach over the bumper, is higher than most cars.

Driving the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle 2.5L is similar, as might be expected, to driving the VW Golf 2.5L. The suspension is the same—MacPherson struts up front and a twist beam at the rear—and although it’s not the most sophisticated layout, Volkswagen engineers have made it, if not sporty, well controlled and smooth riding. Road noise is limited, enough so that the Fender audio can be enjoyed.

The sound of the engine is that of the typical five-cylinder engine. It’s quiet at idle and light throttle driving, but with foot to the floor, the five announces what it is with a dual-pitch engine noise as it accelerates. The engine isn’t overly powerful but the Beetle’s relatively light weight and sufficient torque allow enough acceleration that high speed merges won’t leave TLIBRETEP branded on the car’s rear end.

But for manliness, that’s personal. But it’s undeniable that the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle comes with oodles of personality with a lot of utility

2012 Volkswagen Beetle 2.5L w/ Sunroof, Sound and Navi, price and key specifications as tested

Body style/layout: 5-door crossover wagon, front engine/all-wheel drive

Base price: $24,095

Features: Power windows w/ one touch up/down, cruise control, leatherette six-way adjustable heated seating, trip computer, Bluetooth, Media Device Interface, panoramic sunroof, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, keyless access w/ push-button start, navigation system, Fender premium audio,

Automatic transmission: $1,100

Destination: $770

Price as tested: $25,965


  • Type: 2.5-liter 16-valve DOHC I-5
  • Displacement, cc: 2480
  • Block/head material: iron/aluminum
  • Compression ratio: 9.5:1
  • Horsepower: 170 @ 5,700 rpm
  • Torque: 177 @ 4250 rpm
  • Recommended fuel: regular unleaded
  • Fuel economy, EPA est.: 22/29 mpg city/highway
  • Fuel economy, observed:21.5 mpg

Transmission: 6-speed DSG automatic


  • Suspension, front/rear: MacPherson / torsion beam
  • Wheels: 18 x 8.0-inch alloy
  • Tires: 235/45R18
  • Brakes: 4-wheel disc; 11.3-inch dia. front/10.7-inch dia. rear
  • Steering: hydraulic power rack-and-pinion
  • Turning circle: 35.4 ft.


  • Wheelbase: 99.4 in.
  • Length: 168.4 in.
  • Height: 58.5 in.
  • Width: 71.2 in.
  • Curb weight: 2,983 lbs
  • Trunk volume, min/max: 15.4 / 29.9 cu. ft.
  • Fuel tank: 14.5 gal.


· Airbags: Front, front side, side curtain

· Anti-lock brakes: Yes Traction control: Yes Stability control: Yes Electronic brake-force distribution: Yes Brake assist: Yes

· Other: Crash Response System

Warranty:3-year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper; 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain;12-year/unlimited-mile corrosion


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