Of my rich tapestry of friends, one of my favourites works as a salesman at our local Volkswagen dealer. He’s not my favourite because I went to school with him – because I didn’t. I rarely nip out for a pint with him and he doesn’t participate in football which is where I recruit the majority of my mates. He does however have a very large feather in his cap which demands attention – the fact he works at a Volkswagen dealer that allows him to drive a string of the very latest German metal.
He’s got a pretty good track record of what he’s ‘test driven’ too. There was the turbo’d EOS which although is a convertible, is manly enough thanks to the riot going on under the bonnet that we looked heterosexual. There was the beach trip with some bikini clad lasses in a special edition Polo that masqueraded as a 4×4 and ended up beached on a sand dune and the fact he lovingly waxes his Corrado seemingly every day makes it impossible not to feel drawn towards the VW badge.
My trust in his judgement was severely dented this week however when two of us were recruited by him to witness his latest test drive. I’ve been in a VW Beetle in the past, all driven by women and all with a tall roof that not only provided ample headroom, but also hid who I was from the watching world. Imagine then, my face when Volkswagen-dealer-friend turns up in a convertible VW Beetle in off-white – with the roof down. Essentially it looked as though he was driving a giant pearl.
One feature that did take my fancy though was the roof. Despite it being electric, it didn’t fold away in an overly extravagant manner, but merely rested on the boot. I doubt it does much for aerodynamics but it instantly made the Beetle reminiscent to a classic Porsche 911 Cabriolet and that’s no bad thing. Of course unlike the old Beetle and the 911, the engine is now in the correct place under the bonnet.
Whilst I’m not an old-Beetle fanatic I don’t frown upon those who worship them – of which there are many. Despite knowing the extent of this affection, it’s the amount of looks the ‘new’ version still gets despite the design being nearly ten years old that astounds me. I’ve travelled around either testing or being the passenger in a multitude of cars and none have had the nods of approval the giant pearl had. Of course that’s not to say that three men in any form of girly drop-top wouldn’t get starred at.
So let’s address the styling then. Unless you’ve been living in a dingy at sea for the last ten years, you’ll know that the new Beetle is curvy, chunky and not a million miles away from the shape of the original. It’s cuddly and cute and the most womanly of vehicles on the road today. The front looks like a happy, smiley face and the back looks like…well, a happy smiley face. The symmetry of the lines is simple but effective, with the identical front and rear wheel arches joined together by the curve of the roof. It’s one of the most recognisable car silhouettes ever – along with once again, the Porsche 911.
Despite it being girly, the roof and simple lines made such an impression on me I had to book in for a proper test drive. Although I’ve seen countless Beetles, it took the convertible to make me see what I’d been missing all these years. The drive is good, despite the Beetle being a heavy car (even more so with the safety reinforcements in the convertible) and the 1.8T engine shifted me along at a decent rate. The Beetle is not the most practical of cars, however if you view it as a coupe (which it essentially is) rather than a hatchback you’ll be more than happy.
After all, the new Beetle was basically a styling exercise that has turned out to be a roaring success. I mean what other car comes with a flower in a vase on the dashboard?! Your Volkswagen dealer can get you a new one relatively quickly, however the second-hand market tells you everything you need to know about owning a Beetle – you’ll struggle to get hold of one. It really is the Marmite of the motoring world, those that hate it stay away, those that buy one are so in love they’ll never part.
As for me, I hate Marmite, but I love the Beetle.