Road test: A Volkswagen Beetle for men
You have to hand it to Volkswagen.
The company is axle deep in the middle of a global automotive ascent that hinges on mainstreaming and Americanizing the schnitzel out of its sedans, the Jetta and Passat. Yet at the same time, albeit with a hefty reliance on the corporate parts bin, Volkswagen manages to put together one of its most unique and balanced models in the entire fleet.
That effort is the 2012 Beetle.
Volkswagen went to some lengths to make sure this new Beetle is not the "New Beetle" that debuted in 1998. That car looked like a pile of bubbles, and women flocked to it in higher percentages than almost any other car on the market.
A color palette that offered hues like light green, sky blue and a darling shade of yellow did little to draw those of us with an XY chromosome pair into the showroom. It probably didn't help that Volkswagen made a sparkly pink New Beetle convertible to help celebrate Barbie's 50th birthday.
So for the 2012 Beetle, VW wanted men, the kind to whom a Mini Cooper or Volkswagen's own Golf might appeal.
To get them, designers popped some of the previous version's bubbles and curves. They leveled out the domed roofline and hood, and stretched that hood out longer. These modifications moved more of the visual mass toward the rear of the car, giving it a more coupelike profile.
Inside, the Beetle shuns its formerly bulbous and circularly dominated layout altogether.
Everything the front passengers can see and touch comes straight from Volkswagen's Jetta. This is a welcomed improvement, and the tasteful mainstream design should help in the effort to appeal to a wider audience.
The front seats are roomy, comfortable and thickly bolstered. The rear seats do exist, but there are only two of them and they don't provide much legroom for taller passengers.
The rearview mirror is comically small, an unfortunate amount of wind noise cuts through the frameless doors when you're on the freeway, and the rear passenger windows don't open or vent.
The highlight of the loaded, $25,965 Beetle 2.5 I tested was the tinted panorama glass roof that slides open about a foot. Other options included keyless entry and push-button start, heated leather seats, 18-inch alloy wheels and a six-speed automatic transmission.
Powering the Beetle 2.5 is a 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine that Volkswagen uses in a variety of its vehicles. Its 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque are routed to the front wheels by way of a five-speed manual transmission or the optional six-speed automatic.
The Beetle 2.5 with the automatic is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency at 20 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on highways. In 250 miles of testing, I averaged 24 mpg.
Both engines are refined and plenty strong for a car this size once they're high into their acceleration. But each is plagued with a lack of the low-end power that you want when passing or entering on-ramps.