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After a long run in its current form, Volkswagen has redesigned its Beetle for the 2012 model year. Sporting more retro cues than its predecessor, the Beetle can have either of two gas engines or a diesel engine, the latter of which gets an estimated 40 mpg on the highway. Competitors include retro hatchbacks like the Mini Cooper and Fiat 500. The 2012 Beetle arrives in dealerships this fall.
Volkswagen has combined retro and modern design cues in styling the 2012 Beetle. While the front represents an evolution of the prior generation, which was sold in the U.S. from the 1998 to the 2010 model year, the rear half draws heavily on the original Beetle with its flattened roofline and C-pillars that form an arc extending to the rear bumper. Those might seem like subtle changes, but they significantly change the car’s appearance.
The Beetle is also a bigger car, measuring 3.3 inches wider and 6 inches longer than its predecessor. Available features include 19-inch wheels, a panoramic moonroof and a rear spoiler. Volkswagen also plans to cater to customizers by offering numerous paint colors and wraps, as well as a “theme” model each year.
The prior-generation Beetle’s interior aged remarkably well, but it was time for an update, and the redesigned 2012 Beetle provides it. Premium cabin materials and attention to detail result in the kind of high-grade interior we’ve come to expect from VW. (The company didn’t deliver with its latest Jetta sedan.) Throwback features include dual glove boxes and optional auxiliary readouts — an oil temperature gauge, a clock and a boost gauge — that sit atop the middle of the dashboard.
Front bucket seats and a two-person backseat provide room for up to four people. Folding the split backseat expands the 10.9-cubic-foot cargo area. Available features include a touch-screen CD stereo, a Fender premium stereo with adjustable ambient lighting, a touch-screen navigation system, keyless access and push-button start, and bi-xenon headlights.
Under the Hood
The base 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine works with a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The 140-hp, 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder engine is clean enough to be sold anywhere in the U.S. while the performance-oriented turbocharged 2.0-liter gas four-cylinder makes 200 hp and works with a limited-slip differential. Both the diesel and turbocharged gas engine team with a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic.