Whether or not they’re willing to admit it, I believe every enthusiast has a soft spot for the legendary VW Bug. It’s just one of those cars that everyone recognizes no matter where in the world you are. Not only that, but it feels that everyone seems to have their own Bug story to tell. The Beetle has played such as large role in our culture, for some it’s been a faithful commuter, for others a weekend toy, a racer, a hot rod, a dune buggy, a movie star, and even a favorite toy for many children, myself included. I was reminded of this history during my week with the 2013 Volkswagen Super Beetle. I was eager to see how the new Super Beetle lives up to all this history.
When I first saw the car that I would be spending a week with, I couldn’t help but smile a bit because it was bright white – the same color as my Hot Wheels Super Beetle I loved as a kid. It was adorned with a perfectly positioned “Turbo” stripe along the side of the car, very reminiscent of the iconic Porsche stripe, and best of all, it informed people that I wasn’t driving just a Beetle – it has a turbo! This newfound aggressive personality of the Super Beetle doesn’t stop here, from the black roof panel to the 19” Tornado style wheels and hunkered down ride height; the Super Beetle certainly looks a lot more like a real sports car than the “people’s cars”.
The problem with this is that when one thinks about a sporty Volkswagen, the GTI is almost always first. So not only does the Super Beetle need to be a great hot hatch, it’s also going to have to break free of the feminine image left behind by its predecessor in order to carve out its place in this market. Unlike the GTI, the base Super Beetle comes fully equipped, in fact the only option available for the Super Beetle is the 6-speed DSG automatic, which my tester did come fitted with. It also comes with the 2.0L 16V turbo charged 4-cylinder putting out a healthy 210 horsepower, up 10 hp from the version in the current GTI. As we’ve mentioned here at Double Clutch before, the Volkswagen DSG transmission is absolutely phenomenal and I love its application in the Super Beetle.
While driving along conservatively the Super Beetle feels solid, refined and despite the noticeable turbo lag in first gear and a little harshness over bumps, it’s actually not a bad drive. However, click the DSG into Sport mode and the car transforms into one heck of a hot hatch. The Super Beetle takes full advantage of its horsepower and always feels like it’s begging you to push it just a little harder. Shifts are lightning quick and the sound emitted from the exhaust as the DSG downshifts is simply amazing. Spooled up on acceleration the turbo provides more than enough power to push you firmly back into your seat. Despite the front wheel drive orientation, the torque steer is very minimal and the steering offers just the right balance of road feel and resistance. The car just loves corners and feels tight and composed even when pushed through the twisties. Even with all this fun I still managed a very respectable 8.4L/100km.
Being a hatch, the interior of the Super Beetle is very practical; with the rear seats folded it has no trouble handling most household items. The rear seats, in the upright position, are a little tight for long hauls, but can easily fit two adults for a short run and offer plenty of headroom. Beyond the practically, I really do love the look and feel of the interior, Volkswagen has done enough inside this generation of Beetle to make it feel special while still maintaining its heritage. The dashboard layout, rear grab handles and arched windows are pure classic Bug. But the gorgeous red leather inserts in the seats, the selective use of red accent lighting, carbon fiber trim and center-mounted gauges leave no doubt that this is more than just a regular Beetle. The Super Beetle also comes with a Fender 400-watt sound system which I really enjoyed. It’s not all great inside the Super Beetle though; the seats, while beautiful, could be a little more supportive and in typical VW fashion are both completely manual adjusting. At this price point, I feel that power seats (at least on the driver’s side) should be standard.
Electric seats are not the only feature that I found obviously missing from the Super Beetle. I can’t help but feel that if VW could spend just a few dollars more to round out the feature set with a couple small things such as; automatic headlights, automatic climate control and a backup camera, it would make the Super Beetle a much stronger option in this category and even a little easier to live with. However, with that said, my tester clocked in at just over $34,000 and I do feel that based on its performance, style and overall fit and finish, it is quite a lot of car for the money
So, does the Super Beetle live up to its legacy? Well, it took me a little while to warm up to it, but on a curvy back road at dusk, in sport mode and the sunroof retracted, I caught it – I caught the Love Bug, and now I get it. The Super Beetle is a car that you could easily live with every day; it’s comfortable and efficient enough for a daily commute, roomy enough for grocery and Home Depot runs, yet on the weekends it’s powerful and sporty enough for you to have an absolute blast on the back roads, or even at the track. It’s that type of versatility that made the Beetle famous, and the new Super Beetle does a great job of carrying that legacy.
2013 Volkswagen Super Beetle Gallery