What are you driving?
Unless you've managed to completely ignore the images, then this is clearly a Volkswagen Beetle. The shape may have transmogrified from the lithe and egg-like original to the sharper coupe-like current generation, but there's not a person on the street that can't tell you what it is. The reason we're test driving the Beetle in 2017 is because Volkswagen updated the model. Here we have the most expensive model in the 10-car line-up, the R-Line version powered by the 150hp 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine, which is mated to six-speed DSG automatic gearbox.
Below the R-Line are the entry-level Beetle and then the Beetle Design, with prices starting at €23,510 on-the-road. The 2.0 TDI engine produces 110hp in anything other than the R-Line car, while petrol power comes courtesy of 1.2- and 1.4-litre TSI units, producing 105- and 150hp respectively. The standard Beetle gets a unique leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated and electrically adjusted door mirrors, cruise control, air conditioning, Bluetooth and USB connectivity plus electric windows. It rides on steel wheels with plastic covers, which we doubt many Beetle buyers would ever consider.
The Design model adds plenty of detail niceties, including body-coloured additions to the dashboard, 16-inch alloy wheels, auto wipers and lights and a larger infotainment screen, while the R-Line cars gain tinted rear windows, sports front seats, 17-inch alloys, highly distinctive exterior styling (including a boot spoiler and black detailing), dual-zone climate control and Park Distance Control. At the time of writing, there are also 171 'Innovation' packs offered specific to the model with a bundle of tempting equipment for reasonable outlay. Now doubt those will be updated for the fast-approaching 172 period.
Name its best bits
I reckon the updated Beetle is the best-looking 'New Beetle' yet and the R-Line additions certainly add a much-needed dose of muscularity to proceedings. And while I approve of having a divisively coloured car for our photographs, I think the Beetle R-Line would look even better in something like white or red. Each to their own on that of course. I don't believe I am the intended target audience of the Beetle, but I appreciate it for what it is, which is a distinctive alternative to the likes of the MINI and even a three-door Volkswagen Golf. Really, it's best to think of it as a coupe. Do that and you'll not quibble with the relatively small boot for the size of the car. Though, don't expect sports coupe dynamics here. The Beetle seems set up for comfort above cornering alacrity and there's nothing at all wrong with that. Powered by the diesel engine, it's a surprisingly long-legged cruising machine, too.
Anything that bugs you?
If you are seriously considering buying a new Beetle I strongly urge you not to step into the facelifted Volkswagen Golf while you're in the showroom, as it's a far more polished product with the latest interior technology and a greater sense of quality. The Beetle's infotainment systems and DSG gear shifter betray the model's age in comparison, even if the Beetle's cabin has much more personality than the Golf's. Likewise, the venerable 2.0-litre TDI engine is less refined in this installation. I'd suggest that the 1.4-litre TSI option better suits the car's demeanour, but clearly the diesel is more economical on longer journeys.
And why have you given it this rating?
The Volkswagen Beetle is not for everyone. Sure, it's cool and quirky and will make random strangers smile at you on a grey day when everyone is stuck I traffic, but if you put your sensible hat back on you'll have to admit that, for the same money, you could buy a very nicely equipped Golf indeed. We would, though we also salute those of you that would call us boring...
I want to know more
If there is anything specific you'd like to know about the Volkswagen Beetle that we've not covered, feel free to send us a question via the Ask Us Anything page.