2013 Volkswagen Beetle 1.2 TSI Malaysia Test Drive—One-On-One With An Icon
It wasn’t known so much for being a ‘Beetle’ when it was first born. The German carmaker called it the Volkswagen Type 1, a car that would deliver the peoples’ demand for an efficient, economical, and practical vehicle.
If you bought a Volkswagen Type 1 (a.k.a. the original Beetle) in the 1930s, you’d have it in rear-wheel drive, with an air-cooled engine at the back, good build quality, with relatively good power and ride comfort; a trend that lasted right up until the noughties.
‘The New Beetle’ saw first light in 1997, when it was introduced as a replacement for the original some 60 years later. But it had its flaws; despite spending a decade in showrooms and having a near infinite amount of engines to choose from, sales weren’t particularly brilliant, and men sort of stayed away from it while women drivers began to want nothing else but.
Today, ‘The Beetle’, is a throwback to its roots. Ditching the singular gender sales pitch, and is now quite a different animal; at the rear is nothing more than a wide boot, the front sits an engine with forced induction, seven cogs make up a dual-clutch gearbox, and the wheels at the front – rather than the rear – do all the spinning. Yes, yes… the New Beetle of the early noughties had similar arrangements, but it’s being discounted because its designs welcome daisies and sunflowers on the side. Anyhow…
Visual cues accounted for and commended, where today’s Beetle stands against its original in terms of delivering good power, ride comfort, efficiency and build quality comes to question. Aesthetically, the ‘icon’ really is back. But what happens after you turn the key?
Performance and Economy: A charm you’ll grow to love
If someone didn’t tell you a 1.2-litre engine (TSI or not), powered the Beetle, you’d easily mistake it for a 1.6-litre, at least; there’s loads of power, and it really is hard to accept it all coming from a tiny 1.2-litre TSI engine.
THE MATHS: Specifically, you get a 1.2-litre TSI four-cylinder turbocharged engine (no twincharge). Paired with a quick-shifting seven-speed DSG transmission, maximum output from the Beetle’s mill is set to 104HP at 5000RPM, while a maximum torque is 175Nm available from a very low and impressive 1550 – 4100RPM.
What that means is, you get a whole 175Nm of torque right from the moment you put your foot on the pedal almost, never needing for you to dip your foot too deep to find the quick acceleration you want; 10.9 seconds to 100km/h and a top speed of 180Km/h to be precise. And that’s a good thing.
THE DRIVE: It’s exactly the kind of power you want from a city car that’ll happily venture into cross-country trips. Volkswagen really has nailed the 1.2 TSI with superb performance.
ECONOMY: If you drive it well enough, you’re easily in for a good >6.0/100km. Volkswagens are generally very good with fuel efficiency, and the Beetle is no exception. Driving it hard here and there will result in >7.8l/100km, and that’s a completely acceptable figure for the kind of zippiness this car boasts.
OVERALL: There’s an absolute charm about the way this engine performs. As a Beetle owner, you can quite proudly nip bigger displacement engines up the behind, and boast that you’re only on a 1.2. It’s a bang-on combination of good acceleration and fuel economy; a definite benchmark for other car makers to follow.
Exterior styling: A good throwback to an icon beyond reproach
How do you comment on an icon? It’s a shape only available to itself, and isn’t comparable to anything else. We can however compare it to its previous self, the ‘New Beetle’ (1997).
The New Beetle we reckon wasn’t designed to accommodate anyone with male genitals. It’s downright impossible to see a man drive the New Beetle without having a laugh.
The Beetle (today) allows both genders to proudly claim ownership of it. It takes its design language very much from the first generation of Beetles, and isn’t predominantly a female-only car.
There is however lots of head-turning qualities about the Beetle’s exterior design; there were too many instances with passerbys stopping to stare with pointy fingers outlining its shape in some way.
That said, I didn’t quite find the appeal of its supremely boring headlamp cluster. Daytime running lights weren’t LEDs, and should’ve been without question.
OVERALL: Say about it what you like, The Beetle is an icon, and is therefore beyond most criticisms. It’s styled to complement a lifestyle and adheres to gender equality. The boring headlamp cluster could’ve used a couple of LEDs for a fresher look, but the rest of it is just perfect – A design that’s only available through itself, and has no competition.
Interior design: “…it’s not bad – I just wish it was better”
Inside, it’s all pretty to see. Where it lacked however, was in its equipment offerings and build quality; important to remember here that this is a Beetle – Germany’s idea of the people’s car – and isn’t of the premium quality that we may find ourselves often illusioned with.
Even still, it’s not bad – I just wish it was better.
Matching the dashboard colour with the exterior paint was a nice touch and we clearly see the reasoning behind it (it’s a lifestyle complement), but using hard plastics throughout were more of a discomfort than anything else; not exactly the kind of materials you’d expect to find in a car that costs RM139,888.
LACKS: The Beetle also lacks quite a few things for a car of such value; no electric adjustable seats, no USB or Bluetooth connectivity for music, no auto headlamps, no mobile connectivity to make or receive calls (there’s a button that says ‘Phone’, but that just mutes the stereo, for obvious ‘independent’ reasons); it runs very short when compared with cars of similar value.
HAS: To be fair to the Beetle’s list of equipment, it did have a multi-function display, cruise control, a six-CD changer with radio, iPod/iPhone adapter cable, ISOFIX seats, ESP, ABS and auto wipers with rain sensors, to name a few things.
OVERALL: For the price you’d pay for a Beetle, the level of equipment offered seemed to run short. While everything looks pleasing on the inside, don’t expect too much room from the rear seats. Nothing more than small children or your shopping bags can fit there. What the Beetle did have however, were hints of an easier life (auto cruise, rain sensors, and park distance control), that didn’t quite seem to complete the expected experience.
It is, as expected, a slight case of style over substance. But, who cares when you’ve got that many people making pointy fingers at your car and nodding in approval?
Ride comfort and handling: Smooth city roads, nothing less
As a city driver than transitions well into a weekend road-tripper, there’s just too much intimacy with the road and its bumps and cracks; clearly not the most comfortable ride from Volkswagen.
The stiff suspension does have its benefits on speedier highway driving, with the car being very comfortable at speeds in access of 120km/h.
Annoyingly, the Beetle is a pretty wide car, and its large wheel arches paired with a tiny rear-view mirror made reverse parking more of a hassle than I liked to deal with. And, it’s two-door arrangement means you sit really far ahead of where the seatbelts are; there’s a long stretch to reach for them.
The noise cancellation inside was good, and the seats were comfy enough for us to neglect, while the audio system played pretty quality tunes.
OVERALL: It’ll be long before you send your Beetle wrong in a corner. But, that aside, there’s too much stiffness from its suspension and too much width to happily live with for long. Smooth city roads and a little more patience ought to do the trick.
Verdict: One-on-one with an Icon
Despite its faults, there is only one car that offers you a shape like it. Personally, I dig its looks; not for myself – for want of something more aggressive. But, it wouldn’t be far off to see this in my dream fleet, albeit in its 2.0L TSI form.
The 1.2L TSI engine really is something to appreciate in the way that it delivers its power from such a small displacement, and saves you tonnes of fuel in the process.
For here and now, as practical a decision I can make to stay away from the Beetle and use the RM139k on a Ford Focus and a fancy camera to appease my new hobby, my girlfriend will happily sell all her hobbies, and mine, before drop kicking me in the nuts for mentioning the words ‘practicality’ or ‘Focus’, for what is now known as ‘Her’ Beetle. This car’s a cult hit.
It’s just a thing to have, to suit the lifestyle you live. And you can’t get it for anything less than RM139k, a relatively affordable price to pay, when you consider that this Beetle has a turbocharger, a DSG transmission, a one-of-a-kind design, and a bag brimmed with ‘cool’.
SPECS: 2013 Volkswagen Beetle 1.2L TSI
Engine: 1.2-litre TSI (turbocharged) four-cylinder
Transmission: Seven-speed DSG
Power: 104HP @ 5000RPM, 175Nm of torque from 1550RPM
Performance: 0-100km/h in 10.9s, Top speed: 180km/h
Fuel consumption: 5.9l/100km (>6.0l/100km real world)
Key features: Dash pad painted in body colour, awesome power for a 1.2 TSI, very cool styling