Volkswagen Beetle 1.2 TSI

Is the new VW Beetle still an attractive choice with a smaller engine?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The VW Beetle 1.2 TSI offers the same retro charm and great handling of the more potent Sport model. Yet it’s also more efficient and affordable, and doesn’t lack polish or driving enjoyment. It still can’t match the Golf for practicality, plus it needs steering-wheel shift paddles and the DSG gearbox isn’t perfect. There are more efficient cars for the money, too, but it outshines them for character and individuality.

The Volkswagen Beetle 1.2 TSI is expected to be one of the most popular versions of VW’s latest interpretation of its classic model. It has the smallest engine in the range, and will be available in two trim levels: entry-level Beetle and Design.

Beetle spec is well equipped, including 16-inch alloy wheels, ABS, electronic stability control, hill hold and dual-zone air-conditioning.

Our Design trim car adds 17-inch white and chrome alloys, body-coloured mirrors and front foglamps outside. Inside, there’s Bluetooth connectivity, an integrated touchscreen, plus a leather flat-bottomed steering wheel and shift knob.

The new VW Beetle also gets twin gloveboxes (the top one opens upward) and exposed metal along the door tops and dashboard. The driver enjoys the convenience of steering-wheel-mounted trip computer and stereo controls, as well as a central armrest and comfortable cloth-trimmed seats.

We’ve already praised the 158bhp 1.4-litre twin-charged version of the new Beetle for its excellent dynamics and drivability. The smaller-capacity, 104bhp single-turbo engine offers better fuel economy and lower purchase price, but is it as good to drive?

It’s not as punchy as the 1.4-litre, but the 1.2 TSI has a great exhaust note and is refined on the motorway, although there’s a little wind and tyre noise above 60mph. Like the previous model, this new Beetle is built on the class-leading Golf platform, and it’s just as well mannered as the popular family hatch on the road. The larger alloy wheels don’t diminish the ride quality, which remains soft and absorbs bumps with minimal fuss.

The DSG twin-clutch gearbox isn’t perfect – it’s occasionally hesitant to respond and can be clunky during three-point turns and other low-speed manoeuvres. It’s better at higher speeds, like when you’re cruising on the motorway, and manual mode is the best choice for having fun on a twisty road. But if you really dislike DSG, a six-speed manual gearbox is also available.

The 1.2 TSI Beetle’s 47.9mpg economy and 137g/km CO2 emissions improve on the 1.4 TSI’s 42.8mpg and 153g/km. It also falls into insurance group 11E, while the 1.4 TSI sits in the higher 18E bracket. Plus, with prices for the 1.2 estimated to start around £16,000, it’ll be cheaper to get one on your driveway in the first place.

Yet the VW Beetle 1.2 is not a bare-bones, economy-focused hatchback with no driver appeal: it’s a great car, with plenty of power and distinctive looks to boot. It goes on sale later this year.

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