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The third-generation, 2012 VW Beetle. The design team: Walter de Silva (Group), Klaus Bischoff (Brand), Exterior: Marc Lichte (team leader), Cris Lesmana, Nisan Kucam. Interior: Tomasz Bachorski (team leader), Ingo Brückmann. Colour and trim: Oona Scheepers (team leader), Susanne Gerken.

Inside, the Beetle has a clean, functional appearance. One cue from the original: the kaeferfach, or “Beetle bin,” which is essentially a second glove box located above the main one.

The VW Ragster Concept. This served as a model for the 2012 Beetle.

2012 Beetle: After 73 Years, The Third Generation

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Volkswagen has been producing Beetles since 1938. Of which, more than 22.5-million have been sold around the world. The first Ferdinand Porsche-designed generation had its run until 2003, when the New Beetle was introduced. The New Beetle was predicated on the design of the Concept One concept car designed in VW’s California studio by J Mays and Freeman Thomas, now both of Ford.

And now there is a new Beetle, the third generation, one with design cues that are clearly related to the 2005 concept, VW Beetle Ragster. After all this time, there is one thing that can be said about the Beetle: There is no other car that has had as consistent a design. There is no mistaking it for what it is.

About the 2012 Beetle, Klaus Bischoff, head of Volkswagen Design, said, “The Beetle is now characterized by a clean, self-confident and dominant sportiness. The car not only has a lower profile”—it is 58.5-in. tall, which is 0.5 in. lower than the New Beetle—“it is also substantially wider”—it is 71.2-in. wide, 3.3 in. wider than the New Beetle—“the front hood is longer”—as is the entire car, being 168.4-in. long, 6 in. wider than the New Beetle—“the front windshield is shifted further back and has a much steeper incline. All of this creates a new dynamism.”

While the interior of the New Beetle had cues that can be considered “cute,” the 2012 Beetle is more business-like (e.g., the tach, speedo, and fuel gauge are all placed centrally in a semicircular cluster). There is a use of metallic-like trim accents. And a somewhat retro touch is the use of high-gloss painted plastic on the instrument panel by the glove box (which may bring to mind interior treatments used in vehicles like the Chrysler PT Cruiser), although there is also a carbon fauxber surface, as well. The steering wheel is designed with a flat bottom, which is more racing-like than driving-to-the-amusement-park-like.

The interior is roomier than had been the case with the New Beetle, with the interior volume going from 81-ft3 to 85-ft3. The front legroom is up 1.9 in., and the front shoulder room increases by 2.5 in. In the back, thanks to the roof line extension, the headroom has been increased by 0.4 in.

Under the hood (yes, unlike the original, the engine is in the front) there is a choice of two engines at the start and a third in 2012. The two available engines are a 170-hp 2.5-liter inline five cylinder (yes, five) and a 200-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four. The 2.5-liter is mated to a six-speed automatic; the 2.0-liter gets a six-speed dual-clutch automatic (the DSG). Coming are a five-speed manual for the 2.5-liter and a six-speed manual for the 2.0-liter.


And the engine that is coming is a 140-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder TDI diesel that will be mated to either a six-speed manual or a DSG dual-clutch automatic. It is estimated to get 29 mpg city and 40 mpg highway (33 combined), the most-ever for a Beetle—even after 73 years.