I used to remember playing Car Town game as a kid and as a teenager. There were many cars in it which won my admiration and some of the races for me as well but then one amongst them stood out. It was the Volkswagen Beetle. I was really amused with its design and form, more so with the name which was associated with a bug. Well now is my chance to really drive the bug. It so happened that recently in Thane, I happened to see the Volkswagen Beetle and it was stuck in a traffic jam. However the car itself was the reason for the traffic jam as many of those didn’t realize that we actually now get a Volkswagen Beetle in India off the shelf. This made my grey cells work overtime and I realized that I have never actually driven one. If its in India, then it has got to be reviewed by us. After approximately 3 days, the iconic yellow color Volkswagen Beetle was there in our office parking lot. So out foraying in the urban road within the small bug buzzing along.
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To say the least, this car hasn’t evolved over the times. It has got that typical swooping bonnet with a curvaceous bonnet lid. The circular head lamps do seem from a past era and this adds to the charm of the car. So retro yet modern looking. The Veedub logo sits right atop the bonnet. The turn indicators are housed just below the head lamps.The air dams are split by enclosures for fog lamps.
The outside rear view mirrors have small turn indicators embedded in them as well. The puncture resistant 195/65 R15 “Houston” alloy wheels of this car give it a planted feel and enhance the wheelbase of 2,502mm. Its ground clearance however is a cause of worry as it only stands at 120mm and there are chances that it would scrape at most of our speed breakers, if not driven carefully.
This two door model looks the same classy and elegant thing that it even resembles the front look. If it weren’t for the somewhat huge glass area at the rear, one would definitely be mistaken as to which is the front and which is the rear. The tail lamps are also circular units and have the reverse lamps enrolled into them. The rear bumper features fog lamps.
This is one small car and unlike the other hatch backs, doesn’t pretend to shower you with lots of space. Squeezing my 6 foot 4 inches frame into this small car was sort of hectic for me. The worst thing was to fiddle with the tilt and telescopic steering wheel and struggle to find myself a comfortable driving position. Very uncomfortable and I would suggest you to stay away from this car if you are even a millimeter taller than 6 foot. With a 6 footer in the front, forget about rear seat passengers and if they happen to be from the Snow White and 7 Dwarfs family, then they would be happy at the rear.
If you are a single young man with a high disposable income, you would be fine with the sunflower vase sitting in the dashboard. The interior quality however seems somewhat down from what we expect from Volkswagen. They don’t seem as solidly built. The Volkswagen Beetle in India that I had with me as a test mule had clocked more than 10,000 kms and it was already showing signs of wear. The dashboard seemed to have some inconsistent panel gaps and there was some rattle noise coming in from somewhere at the back. There are many features offered in this car though. Some of them are keyless entry, dual zone climate control AC, heated front seats, cruise control, 2 DIN music system with aux and USB input and rear parking sensors(totally unnecessary since this car is quite small after all).
The AC blower speed was upto the mark and very noiseless in its operation even at the highest setting. There are many storage spaces however the boot is seriously laughable at only 214 liters. Access to the rear seats is by flipping up down the front seats, very ungainly especially if you are doing this in front of a crowd(which would certainly be there since you are driving a Volkswagen Beetle).
Handling and ride quality
The Volkswagen Beetle in India is one of the last generation of Beetles which have been sold world over and for 2011, a new model is rumored to be on the anvil. This particular last generation has been developed on the MK4 platform which was earlier used by the Volkswagen Golf/Jetta. This is a front wheel drive car and yes, it doesn’t need 4 wheel drive even as an option. The car did feel surefooted enough. The turning radius of the car is only 5.3 meters and it does make for a nimble handler. Don’t expect it to corner like its on rails but then it would handle most of the everyday handling chores.
The ride in the meanwhile can be described as choppy. The Beetle rides on Independent McPherson struts and coil springs combination. This means that at low speeds, typical of German cars, the ride is a bit harsh however once the speeds climb up, the car gains a sort of stability. It is very stable even in triple digit speeds. Engine noise and wind noise is also very nicely muted.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
The Volkswagen Beetle in India is offered with only one engine option. It makes do with the 1984cc , 4 Cylinder petrol engine pumping out 116 Ps @ 5400 rpm whereas the torque output is 172 Nm @ 3200 rpm. The transmission offered is the 6 speed triptronic gearbox. The electrically assisted power steering is a delight to use but then doesn’t weigh up sufficiently once the speeds rise.
The gearbox however feels a bit lazy and the engine also seems to be very happy going in an unhurried manner. I would have been more than happy if Volkswagen could have provided this car with a TSI engine as it is offered in Europe. Sometimes the down shifts in the 6 speed auto would take some time and overtaking ventures would have to be carefully planned and executed.
Putting performance into words, the car goes from 0-100 kmph in only 11.2 seconds and goes on to cover a top speed of 178 kmph. For such a small car, Volkswagen India have kitted it well. It offers all wheel disc brakes along with ABS, EBD and stability control. To add to the safety quotient, the car is offered with 4 air bags, seat belt pretensioners, collapsible steering wheel, side impact bars, crumple zones, seat belt reminder, door ajar warning and child locks. Safety in a small car couldn’t get better than this, would it?
Ohh, I forgot that I am writing this article for the common man who would eventually ask what is the mileage of a Buggati Veyron. Just for the records, don’t expect the Volkswagen Beetle in India to be like a Suzuki Swift in terms of fuel efficiency. It does 9.2 kmpl in the city whereas on the highway, the figure rises to 13.4 kmpl. The reason is its weight of 1356 kgs coupled with the auto transmission. Didn’t I tell you that this car badly begs for a TSI engine?
The Volkswagen Beetle in India isn’t marketed as a car for the masses which is actually its status in homeland Germany. It is introduced in India with the view that it would promote the Veedub badge, more so like a brand building exercise. It is a sturdy car though quality of the materials over time may be doubtful, features list is long, has a small foot print and then the Volkswagen badge(it is desirable for some, not for me). But then desirability comes at a price, doesn’t it? The Volkswagen Beetle price in India is Rs 21,34,385 (ex- show room, Delhi). There is only one fully kitted variant available and this car comes as a CBU, hence there is no question of asking if it’s the base variant or the high end one. Volkswagen India have no plan of manufacturing this car in India as of now and hence the high price would continue till god knows when.
Technical specifications of the Volkswagen Beetle in India
Engine details: 1984 cc 4- cylinder petrol
Maximum Power: 116 PS @ 5400 rpm
Maximum Torque: 172 Nm @ 3200 rpm
Valves Per Cylinder: 4
Transmission details: 6 Speed automatic
Front Suspension: Independent McPherson struts
Rear Suspension: coil springs
Steering Type: Electric Power assisted with tilt and telescope
Turning Radius: 5.3 m
Front Brake Type: Ventilated discs
Rear Brake Type: Solid Discs
Top Speed: 178 kmph
Mileage-City (kmpl): 9.2
Mileage-Highway (kmpl): 13.4
Fuel Tank Capacity (litres): 57
Emission Norm Compliance: BSIV
Tyre Size: 195/65 R15
Alloy Wheel Size: 15 inch
Seating Capacity: 4
No of Doors: 2
Boot space: 214 liters
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