New Volkswagen Beetle

What is it?

Volkswagen has recently released images of its new generation Beetle, to be released next year. Whilst the first generation, released in 1998, was a modernised but instantly recognisable interpretation of the original Bug, version 2 represents an evolutionary step away from the classic profile, with a flatter roof and steeper front windscreen contributing to a chunkier look. The interior has also been rethought, sporty but much closer to other cars within the Volkswagen lineup.

First seen on a Habitus Living post, here.

What do we think?

The 1998 model was a seriously flawed vehicle. It looked a lot like the 1938 classic, sure, but its interior was compromised, with acres of dash required to overcome the heavily raked windscreen, it handled and performed poorly and it was expensive.

From the photos and various preview reports, it appears the second generation Beetle will remedy the ergonomics issues of its predecessor and is likely to handle and perform better too. It will not, however, be returning to the rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive engineering roots of the original. Nor will it be at all priced like it, instead adding a few thousand dollars to the current first generation range of AU$27,000 – AU$41,000.

Which brings us to the central question of the Beetle: to what does the new generation owe its popular identity – is it the curvy profile and rear-engine layout of the original, or is it its thrifty price-tag?

The original was cheap; an absolute bottom-end entry level vehicle, accessible to almost everyone in an era where cars were still seen as a luxury. Starting at AU$30,000, the new Beetle can hardly be thought of as the People’s Car. We could argue that this title has been given over to small cars like the Geely and Suzuki Alto, all with price-tags below AU$12,000, but this would be to miss the point of the original Beetle. Yes, its cult identity resulted from it being accessible, but it also had oodles of personality, that magical and elusive mix of a car that we love to inhabit but doesn’t cost the earth.

In an age of safety ratings, aerodynamics and consumer choice, we must sadly confess that perhaps the People’s Car is a thing of the past.

Author: Warwick Mihaly

I am an architect, writer, teacher and father.

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