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2012 Volkswagen Beetle Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle was new.


Performance: 8.0

The 2012 Volkswagen Beetle has two engine options, and each suits a particular buyer. The base model will interest shoppers who like the Beetle’s retro looks, but aren’t worried about performance, while buyers interested in the Turbo Beetle like its retro looks, but don’t want to sacrifice performance. Most reviewers say the engine options suit these buyers, but advise shoppers who want more power to go for the Volkswagen GTI.

  • "Ride, acceleration and handling: It gets very good marks in all three. Normal drivers, those of us who don’t imagine public roads as race tracks, will have no problems with this one." -- The Washington Post
  • "But it seems VW hasn't pushed this car's performance nearly as far as it could go. We like the 2012 Beetle but, in a perfect automotive world, we'd like to see a higher horsepower model with a firmer suspension, quicker steering and handling that plasters a big smile on our face. In other words, why not a 250-hp, all-wheel-drive Super Beetle?" -- Popular Mechanics
  • "Dynamically, however, the Beetle remains a fundamentally staid little compact. The 2.5 base model is more or less free from enthusiast pretensions. It isn’t fast, it isn’t eager to attack corners, and it isn’t exciting to steer down a twisty road. The Turbo is considerably better, but somehow it still falls short from the standard set by its GTI and GLI cousins. There’s a palpable sensation of VERY BIG WHEELS on all corners, the steering substitutes weight for feel, and the brakes won’t last long when the relatively modest 200-horsepower direct-injected four-cylinder is pushing the Beetle along." -- Left Lane News

Acceleration and Power

The 2012 Volkswagen Beetle has two engine options: a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that is mated to a five-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic transmission and a 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder engine that gets a six-speed manual or optional DSG six-speed dual-clutch automatic.

While test drivers say the base 2.5-liter engine with 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque suits the Beetle just fine, they’re much more enthusiastic about the Turbo Beetle’s turbocharged engine’s 200 horsepower, saying it slots between the VW Golf and GTI. This powertrain has ample power for highway passing and merging, and the Sport mode that comes with the DSG transmission makes it even more fun to drive. For more control, drivers can opt for paddle shifters on Turbo models with an automatic transmission.

Both the base and Turbo Beetles have low fuel economy ratings, but they don’t use as much gas as the 2010 New Volkswagen Beetle. According to the EPA, base models will average 22/29 mpg city/highway, while Turbo models will net a slightly better 22/30.

  • "But the turbo was more of a hoot on the highway!" -- The Washington Post
  • "The payoff of putting the city's construction zones behind us came when we switched the gearbox into Sport. In this mode, the transmission holds gears almost excessively, but we can't really complain, as the peppy S mode lives up to its billing. Our favorite setting was with the gearlever over to the right in sequential mode, since we could then hold gears as long as we pleased. Our car didn't have the optional sport steering wheel with shift paddles, and by the end of the day, we wanted those flappers at our fingers." -- Autoblog
  • "The main reason to step up to the forced-induction 2.0 is simple: It’s more than fast enough to keep up with traffic, while the 2.5 automatic faces some challenges in that respect. Our test route forced us to make a ninety-degree left turn from a dead stop onto a steeply uphill, 55 mph four-lane, and in those circumstances the base model simply felt overmatched, groaning along without generating much acceleration. The Turbo had no trouble getting up to speed." -- Left Lane News
  • "The Beetle Turbo is completely docile around the city and rides smoothly over the rough stuff despite its big 19-inch tires. But dig deep into the throttle to pass another car and there is serious lag time before something happens." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "Still, the Beetle is more about style and history than topping the performance or fuel-economy spec sheets." -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

You probably wouldn’t think that the 2012 Beetle is capable of tackling tight corners and making it out unscathed, but according to reviewers, the Turbo model is. In terms of handling capabilities, they slot it above the VW Golf and below the VW GTI, which is a nice compliment for a small car that is known for its German history and retro looks.

Few test drivers talk about the base model, but those who have say it’s fine for typical commutes to the office and highway voyages.

  • "The Beetle snaps to attention and motors at a quick clip. On a sliding scale of sportiness, the Beetle Turbo rises a few rungs above the standard Golf, but a rung or two below the GTI. (VW says the Beetle cannot encroach upon the GTI's territory as the most fun and involving car the brand makes. Boo.) Still, bend the Beetle Turbo into a series of curves and it is certainly fun." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "The sport suspension - and perhaps the rear spoiler - helped keep things very stable and trustworthy, with little susceptibility to crosswinds." -- Autoblog

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