Beetle with a fist

Can a 200hp motor help increase the macho appeal of VW's fashionable icon?

WHAT'S NEW?

When we first drove Volkswagen's latest generation Beetle last year, we found the entry-level 1.2 TSI version sufficing for cat-walkers _ the most probable buyer target of the car.

This week, we are back with VW's iconic shape, only now there's an engine offered on the opposite end of the model range: 2.0 TSI sporting a 200hp 2.0-litre petrol-turbo motor.

Since the Thai Volkswagen importer still has no interest in selling the new Beetle, we had to turn to the Thai grey market for one.

While BRG provided us with the 1.2 last year, this time the 2.0 is courtesy of Eton Import which is priced 2.65 million baht. That's 400-500k more than what both independent importers are asking for the 1.2.

Which brings us to the question: is there really any point in spending more money for a go-faster Beetle?

WHAT'S COOL?

Black interior helps increase masculine appeal.

The decision by VW to fit that fine petrol head from the Golf GTI and Scirocco siblings into the Beetle is certainly good news for those needing a dose of punchy performance.

There's absolutely no shortage of power _ be it in the city or on the highway. And the harder you stab the throttle, the nicer the sound of the engine becomes. Plus, the dual-clutch automatic shifts quickly and smoothly.

Because the Beetle 2.0 needs to cope with more performance, VW has replaced the torsion beam rear suspension of the 1.2 with a more sophisticated multi-link layout resulting in good stability at high speeds.

And since this is a range-topping Beetle, there are 18-inch alloys, rear spoiler, chromed door sills and classy black interior _ effectively giving the car a sporty and masculine touch.

WHAT'S NOT?

In spite of a rewarding performance and a suspension makeover, the overall driving characteristics don't give a truly positive result on the move when keenly driven.

The steering isn't that sharp upon turn-in and feels numb at all times. The car doesn't feel engaging to drive and sort of acts like a buffer zone between the road and driver.

Worse is the ride which feels too lumpy over low-speed road imperfections and is quite noisy at high speeds.

BUY OR BYE?

On one hand, a peppy performance for the Beetle makes sense because it helps reduce the feminine feel of it. After all, this VW could be considered a formidable alternative to the Mini Cooper S, which is not only slightly less powerful but dearer than the Beetle 2.0.

But it's the Mini that offers a considerably better driving experience overall, if you place driving fun over day-to-day comfort.

But if you insist that the Mini is too compromised and that easy road manners should also be part for real-world driving, then the answer should be the Vee-dub.

Just that it isn't called a Beetle. What we are recommending instead is the Golf GTI or the sleeker Scirocco sibling, which retails officially in Thailand at practically the same level as the Beetle 2.0, yet offers a better combination of driving fun and comfort.

If you really want a Beetle, it works best as a cat-walker in ample 1.2 guise. Say what you like, but we'd say bye-bye to the Beetle 2.0.

From left: 
- Rear end has a multi-link suspension. 
- Chromed door sills enhance visual appeal. 
- The 200hp turbo engine makes a nice sound when pushed.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor