A cult classic with a new engine | A car that performed great, was decent on fuel, and put a smile on my face
“WHITE PUNCH BUGGY, NO PUNCH BACKS!” My friend yelled this immediately after belting me on the shoulder. Quickly, I searched around in a panic hoping to identify the Beetle that was responsible for my pain. During field trips in high school, playing the ‘punch buggy’ game became a thing, and from that moment on, I despised Volkswagen Beetles as they were the cause of many a bruise on my arms.
I would always be asking myself, why would I want one of these? While I did always save judgement on Type 1 Beetles, I was never a fan of the ‘New Beetle’ that premiered in Canada for the 1998 model year. Some said that its looks were derived from the Type 1 Beetles, but just more modern. I was not convinced; it still did not pack the same charm as the older Beetles. Its soft and unimposing looks made it easy to quite literally become the butt of a few jokes in the car enthusiast world. Whether it be considered a ‘girly’ car, or a vestigial example of what the original Beetle should have evolved into, the New Beetle somehow did develop a following.
I never thought the day would come that I would ever have a Beetle as a tester, but that day finally came on one snowy afternoon in February. Thankfully, this Beetle had undergone some changes on the outside and inside compared to the older flower-vase-toting sibling. To reflect these changes (made for the 2012 model year), Volkswagen ditched the “New” prefix and simply left the legendary name “Beetle”. The 2015 Volkswagen Beetle essentially is a mature adaptation of the cult classic, all the while remaining faithful to the original styling of the Type 1. Getting into the Oryx White VW Beetle TSI, I felt a little hesitant at first. Will I become the laughing stock of Toronto traffic, or will I actually enjoy driving this car for what it is?
Once inside the 2015 Volkswagen Beetle TSI Comfortline, I was greeted with plush materials and very comfortable ‘Titan Black’ Vienna leather seats. Immediately I was astounded by how upscale this Beetle felt. Had I stepped into an Audi or a sub-$30,000 Volkswagen? Everything I touched felt top notch. The steering wheel, the dashboard, and even the climate control buttons felt great. I was ecstatic that VW had revamped the interior of the Beetle lineup. The only hard plastic that was present was the white dash trim that spanned from door-to-door, but it did not seem to bother me much since it was colour matched to the body paint, and gave the interior a nice contrast between white and black.
The Comfortline trim Beetle offers the upgraded interior package, as well as a 400-watt 8-speaker Fender audio system that thumped music throughout the cabin without any noticeable distortion. The bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights were a nice touch as well. One thing I immediately complimented was the optional ambient lighting setting that changed the colour of lighting surrounding the door speakers, the trim underneath the window, and the inner door handles. The ability to switch between red, blue, and white was a nice touch. Although, I would have liked the rest of the dash to follow suit; even though I could switch the mood to blue, the rest of the dash lights remained as they were, causing a bit of a colour clash.
Using a push-to-start button to fire up the car, the 1.8-liter TSI mill came to life without any hesitation. Although I found the 1.8 TSI to not be particularly quiet, the sound deadening on the inside of the Beetle prevented me from hearing any valve ticking while driving. However, during highway trips I did notice a whistling which sounded like it was coming from the panoramic sunroof, or potentially the frameless windows. Another quirk is that thanks to the antenna on the roof, the sunroof only opens about half way. This would be disappointing if I owned a Beetle, but seeing as my test week was in the middle of the winter, I didn’t complain.
In the snow, the Beetle performed competently. Thanks to ze Germans saying nein to fully disabling traction control, I was left with a bit of a challenge when trying to navigate through deeper snow. Luckily, later on in my test week the roads dried up and I was able to have a try at some twisty roads near my home. I was pleasantly surprised at the way the car was able to stay almost flat through the corners, all the while putting a healthy amount of power down to the front wheels. Seriously, for a car that’s not particularly low, there was minimal body roll.
As I mentioned earlier, the Beetle is powered by a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-pot that pumps out 170 horsepower at 6200rpm, and 184 lb-ft of torque between 1500 and 4750rpm. Keeping this car in the low range was where I had the most fun. All the torque down low and then staying flat for another 3000 or so rpm is what kept the Beetle transitioning so smoothly from corner to corner. Paired to a lovely 6-speed automatic with the available Tiptronic funciton, this Beetle felt quick and very planted on its feet. I did not suspect to have so much fun with it, but the Beetle really does pay homage to the old saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
During my test week I averaged a combined 8.4L/100km with a 60/40 highway/city split. Yes, I did have some spirited driving involved in this cycle, but it did not seem to affect the Beetle’s economy all that much. However, like any other turbo vehicle, if you stay in boost you’ll drain the tank in no time. When it came time to fuel up, I was pleasantly surprised that the 1.8TSI takes regular fuel rather than premium, despite being turbocharged. It seems its time I got rid of the thought that “If it has a turbo, it needs premium fuel”.
Throughout my test week, I didn’t witness anyone fall victim to the punch buggy game, but I did gain more and more respect for this real legend. While I was likely the butt of someone’s lame joke at one point or another during the week, I simply did not care. I was in a car that performed great, was decent on fuel, and put a smile on my face each time I drove it. The 2015 Beetle 1.8 TSI is the underdog in a world that has become too obsessed with looks and stigmas. Believe it or not, perform was something this Beetle did; every single time.
2015 Volkswagen Beetle TSI Gallery