Taking its design cues from a legend, the new VW 21st Century Beetle, with its nostalgic shape, has recently taken its place in the South African car market. Back in 1938, the first-generation Beetle took flight and what followed was one of the most successful cars ever built, with over 21.5 million units sold worldwide. The original Beetle went on to achieve 'best-selling car in South Africa' for 11 of its 28-years in existence. In 2000, an update was launched, the “Millennium Bug” and this model was the first water-cooled Beetle ever made. Now, in its 75th year of existence, the new and improved 21st Century VW Beetle is a welcome update on the series and seems to have been deliberately designed to further ignite 'beetle passion' in our hearts.
Considered the 'spiritual successor' to the original, the 21st Century Beetle has kept certain design elements throughout, but with a modern twist. The new Beetle has half-moon LED garnished headlamps, is 150 mm longer, 80 mm wider with a sporty looking roof-line and wide set fenders. Its chrome-lined door sills and bubble-shaped bonnet is very similar to the original Beetle, although the bonnet is much longer. The biggest change can be seen at the rear, where contemporary headlights bring the model up to date and more emphasis has been place on the tail fin of old, making it more sporty-looking and hinting at aerodynamic functionality.
Looking inside, there's Beetle's classically styled and unusually high dashboard. A traditional looking glove box, elasticated door pockets and interior body-matching panels, together with a unique instrument binnacle with large speedometer and flanking gauges, all pay homage to the original Type 1 Beetle. That was the 'something old', now for the 'something new': There's a premium feel leather covered flat-bottomed steering wheel, integrated touch-screen and climate control. On top trimmed models, specifications include: a panoramic sunroof, key-less entry, navigation and impressive media/sound packages. The Beetle comes standard with an eight-speaker sound system, as well as an optional premium audio system that features concert quality sound options thanks to a Fender Premium Audio System. Boot space is at 310 litres which can be increased to 905 litres with the seats folded down.
The VW 21st Century Beetle range consists of two models: the 1.2 TSI Design and the 1.4 TSI Sport. The 1.2 TSI has a maximum power output of 77 kW and 175 Nm of torque. Power is driven to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission and the car can race from 0-100 km/h in 10.8 seconds. The 1.4 TSI pushes out 118 kW and 240 Nm, is the same engine used in the rest of the VW line-up and is also available with an optional 7-speed DSG transmission. Both engines return good economy which VW claims at 6.6 litres per 100 km.
On the safety front, the VW 21st Century Beetle is well-equipped. Brakes are assisted with all the usual ABS and EBD, as well as standard Electronic Stability Program and Hill Hold Assist. There are six airbags and VW's advanced Intelligent Crash Response System. This system will shut off the fuel pump, unlock the doors and switch on the hazard lights if the car is involved in a collision.
There are very few consumer-type vehicles out there that offer the heritage and character of the 21st Century Beetle. Buy a car like this and you will make a statement. It is different, nostalgic, eye-catching and now fully updated to suit a modern lifestyle. Pricing ranges from R252 900 for the 1.2 TSI Design and goes up to around R327 700 for the 1.4 TSI Sport auto. The new Beetle comes standard with a 5 year or 60 000 km Automotion Maintenance Plan, a 3 year or 120 000 warranty and a 12 year anti-corrosion warranty. (Prices are subject to change according to various factors so please consult your dealer for the latest price.)