Hold your preconceptions. In the flesh, VW’s new Beetle has a stance and set of proportions that, in hindsight, perhaps the last generation should have had all along. The new, properly ‘Beetle-backed’ bug, gets away from the overly geometric forms of the previous generation car, in an impressive way. While it might look like a very mild update of the previous car, it’s a much more notable jump than from, say the R50 to the R56 Mini, because of the much more upright screen, elongated roofline and pulled-back DLO.
It’s a design that’s best taken in from the side-to-rear three quarters, where the squatter roofline and speed forms shine. It’s much less successful head-on. There’s now much less volume in the fender at the corner of the car as well a much flatter center section and greater plan shape, all of which improves the perception of volume. However, the chin treatment and LED lights give the car a real doe-eyed look, failing to endow the Beetle with the sense of masculinity its predecessor lacked and that VW is surely chasing. One wonders how this will with wash with male customers who VW surely wants to woo with this new product.
The A-panel really lets the design down in side profile and is a real regression from the solution found on the previous generation car. This panel is needed because the door shut line, A-pillar, hood and fender fail to meet in a logical way, yet the cut line between it and hood fail to follow the angle of the pillar. And worse still, as the door shut and fender meet, the panel runs out to a horribly sharp, weak feeling point – one that feels very ‘un’-VW.
The interior’s a bit of a disappointment too – with none of the originality of the previous car. There’s the de rigueur for this market gloss upper IP panel (the Fiat 500 and Citroen DS3 have much to answer for), which suggests VW is now definitely following rather than leading in this space. Yet some of the details such as the push-pull handle glovebox, as well as a notable hike in perceived quality, stand out. Frameless doors create a sense of special-ness and orientate this new Beetle towards a more sporting, coupe space.
Despite these issues, the Beetle’s design hangs together. It has an impressive three-dimensional, less rotund quality than the previous model. The biggest, most apparent difference, is a move from static object form, to an automotive speed form, via proportion, line work and stance. With its new set of proportions, forward-leaning stance and chopped roof, it’s a little reminiscent of American hot rods. So, is there a chance of the new Beetle being seen as cool again? Let us know in the comments below.