7

10

Model

Beetle

Price

$29,990

The Numbers

1390cc, turbo and supercharged 4cyl, FWD, 118kW, 240Nm, 6.8L/100km, 0-100km/h in 8.3secs, 158g/km CO2, 1292kg

The Topgear Verdict

Yes, it’s kind of fun to drive, and we’d even live with one (the tinted windows version). But despite VW’s attempts to make it more masculine, it’s not a TopGear car. It’s still for girls.

2013 Volkswagon Beetle

Beetle customers traditionally include mid-life crisis aunties, sassy female characters as depicted in organic dog food commercials, aspiring actresses with cocaine addictions, even fascist dictators.

But now, Volkswagen is taking the Beetle to a new breed of customer, one dwelling in a traditionally unexplored, notoriously stubborn crook of the market. Men.

Volkswagen didn't beat around the bush with the old "New Beetle". Launched in 1997, it featured a vase on the dashboard, starred in Mandy Moore music videos and came in colours ranging from Koala Foetus Pink to Sunflower Petal Yellow (we made those up). There was even a Malibu Barbie edition. And that's something, regrettably, we didn't make up.

Thankfully, it was killed in 2011, after an alarming 14 years on sale. But there was no getting away from it: the New Beetle attracted women like a George Clooney sex robot all rolled in diamonds, rose petals and puppies.

But this is a new one. And, like Lance Armstrong circa 2004, it has an unusual amount of testosterone pumping through its veins. Beheld in these photos is the new Beetle. If you're the owner of a penis, VW wants you to test drive a Beetle as surely as they do women.

This one is 100 per cent new, too. As well as a subtle bootlid spoiler (which is standard in Australia), you'll spy a chiselled roof, looking like it was modelled off Rocky Balboa's jaw, but truthfully inspired by hot-rod, chopped-roof Beetle culture. Its styling is still somewhat feminine, but it no longer looks like an easter egg with meningitis.

The interior is also an inviting blend of inky leathers and soft charcoal-shaded things, as if made from the jackets of retired outlaw motorcyclists. You can still opt to have the dashboard and doors in the same colour as the exterior, which excites the eyes like a squirt of lemon. But thank any deity that will listen, the flower holder has been condemned to its rightful place - the bin.

There's only one engine on offer, though, and sadly, its kilowatt figure is hardly masculine - 118kW, and 240Nm, from VW's trusty turbo- and supercharged 1.4-litre. You can have yours in six-speed manual, or seven-speed DSG, with prices starting at a not-inconsiderable $29,990. But if you get the DSG, for an extra $2500, do get the optional, $1800 Sports pack. It adds GTI-like steering wheel shift paddles, chunky 18-inch wheels, sports speedo, and tinted windows. (So no-one can see you. Obviously.)

As for the driving bit, well, we really wanted to hate the Beetle. We wanted to spurn it for its gelatinous handling and Tupperware steering. But the reality is, it's good. Very good. Foot flat, it'll squat on the rear wheels with an unexpected aggression, the turbo whistling seductively with the windows down. 0-100 takes just 8.3 seconds. That's not much slower than a Toyota 86.

The suspension is tuned to swallow holes of crumbling bitumen and it does it very well, with a satisfying silky-but-heavy German thud. The trade-off is that, in fast corners, the Beetle rolls around a bit, but in a predictable, planted way, before breathing into gentle understeer, which won't jump out of the bushes and scare you thanks to lithe steering that lets you know what the front tyres are up to. If your mates butter you up in the pub with an excessive quantity of ales, you might even admit that it's kind of... fun.

And that makes us feel more unclean than a day at a garbage tip. Or Adelaide. Would someone kindly get us some Dettol… for our tongues.

Reviewed by: Dylan Campbell

Driven: June 30, 2013