Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Beetle juice

Volkswagen Beetle

During my career as a motoring journalist I’ve driven close on 2,000 different cars, so asking me to cite my favourite is like asking former Filipino president Imelda Marcos to pick a favourite pair from her collection of several thousand shoes.

Truth is, there have been so many great cars I have enjoyed down the years that I can’t play favourites.

Choosing my least favourite set of wheels is a somewhat easier task and I have been able to narrow it down to four: the decrepit old sit up and beg Ford Popular in which I learned to drive, the motorway lane wandering Daihatsu 4 Trak of the 80s, and the original VW Beetle, which was positively lethal when driven in the wet.

But let’s turn the clock forwards to today. Once easily classified as being bad or worst, cars right across the industry are good and even better.

There are strong visual cues to its ancestry but the present Volkswagen Beetle is a far different animal from the “people’s car” that Dr Ferdinand Porsche designed in the late 1930s at the behest of one Adolf Hitler.

For starters, the engine is now in the front! What’s more, with mainly subtle changes the one-time ugly duckling has morphed into a thing of beauty, especially in red or black.

The new car is longer, lower and wider than its immediate predecessor, with a more masculine and dynamic appearance.

Three standard levels of trim are available plus two special editions and there’s a wide range of innovative optional equipment on offer, including keyless entry, sat-nav, bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lights and a potent Fender sound pack that was designed in partnership with the famed guitar manufacturer of the same name.

1.2 litre, 1.4 and 2.0 petrol-engined versions are available along with a 2.0 litre TDI diesel. Just launched is a 1.5TDI with Bluemotion technology that can offer a 65.7 mpg combined cycle fuel consumption figure and carbon dioxide emissions of just 114 g/km thanks to the addition of a stop-start and battery regeneration systems.

As well as being economically and environmentally sound, the new Beetle has also been designed to be one of the safest cars on the road, earning a coveted five-star safety rating.

It’s a nice car to drive, with a truly modern cabin featuring good seats and ergonomically sound dials and controls.

In the 73 years since the very first VW Beetle hit the autobahn, more than 21.5 million units have been sold globally.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the car. No, I can’t cite is as my favourite car but I will say this, if I was wealthy enough to have a stable of cars, I’d reserve a space in the garage for this one.

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