VW Beetle 1.4T Sport Review

Volkswagen Beetle 2013

Better in every respect than the last VW Beetle, but more niched than ever. Ironically. Don’t let the “Sport” fool you.

VW Beetle 1.4T Sport review by John Beale

Let’s be honest, the last Beetle wasn’t exactly the best work VW has done. A bit a miss in terms of pricing, target market and terrible to drive. You see very few of them on the roads today, and they sure as hell were not the ‘people’s car’ of yore. The New Beetle wants to be radically different. Even the tagline, ‘Less Flower, more Power’ embodies VW’s positioning for the Beetle of shedding the female, frivolous nature of the last incarnation, and brings a more focused package, but is it?

Interior and exterior

Lower, longer and built on the Golf 6 platform, the New Beetle is different in looks whilst still being … Beetle. The round lights, bubble bonnet (Albeit longer) and now with tail fin, are still unmistakably Beetle. The interior has been totally redesigned, sharing parts from the group (Sound system, steering wheel, climate control), but design cues immediately remind you of the original Beetle. In the right colour, with the right rims, a guy can now drive the new Beetle Sport without having to hide behind the vase on the dash. Flat facia against the passenger with glovebox, instrument binnacle with large speedometer and flanking gauges are unique and give the Beetle great character. Also they removed that stupid flower holder from the interior. Good riddance!

Red sports leather seating was supportive, but don’t expect the rear seats to be anything else but space to throw your paraphernalia, Unless you recently started pre-school, you’re not going to fit back there. Thankfully the shallow boot (no engine in the back) is actually big enough to take larger pieces of luggage. Some options fitted to the unit were the panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and technology, navigation and media interface, but for some obscure reason I couldn’t connect my phone via Bluetooth.

The Beetle's engine and Drive

The 1.4T engine pushes out 118kW and 240NM, and is the same unit used in the rest of the VW group, to huge success. It’s an incredible little engine and does the Beetle justice moving it along at speed, as well as returns great economy when you drive with that mind. (claimed 6.6litres/100km) It’s no firecracker off the line, 0-100km takes 8.3seconds, but it feels a lot quicker (Sport in looks, but definitely not in performance). The gearbox shifts in typical notchy VW fashion, but it’s solid. Clutch action is also typical VW, which takes some time to get used to. The only problem with the little engine is that it can run out of steam through the rev band pretty quickly, leaving you without go, but mid range punch is commendable.

Again, the ride is firm (also thanks to 18inch Twister alloys), but doesn’t offer the dynamic ability when really pushing on. The tail starts to dance a little over undulating surfaces and can get the whole car out of sorts. Definitely not as planted as brother Golf. Steering is electronic, but does a good job of being both light and giving good feedback. Brakes are sharp and assisted with all the usual ABS and EBD, as well as standard Electronic Stability Program and Hill Hold Assist (which keeps you from rolling back on incline).

VW Beetle Conclusion

You either want the ‘21st Century Beetle, or you don’t. It’s going to speak to the individual who wants to make a statement, even in Sport guise, it’s more about the aesthetics than the dynamics, and spec it out that way can get pricey, when compared to the similar Mini Cooper S which does the same job, but is more dynamically capable.

There is little to fault … this time around. VW are definitely focusing on both the male and female market, albeit the singles without families. The new Beetle gives you more in terms of driver reward, better engines and unique interior. It’s different, eye catching and will make a solid every day drive, but is now so focused it definitely isn’t the people’s car it used to be.VW 

  • View the VW Beetle : New / Used
  • Competitors worth checking out: Mini Cooper S – 135kW/240NM – 295 868 (Sans options)

VW Beetle Price

VW Beetle Sport 1.4T Manual – 118kW/240NM - R317 000 (R350 650 as tested)