By Len Ingrassia
For The Daily Item
Sales of this year’s newly fashioned Beetle say it all and the folks at Volkswagen must be thrilled with the result.
The iconic bug has surpassed 2012 totals and sales are headed north.
And the secret to its success may just be its new-found masculinity. What?
Noticeably absent is the dashboard mounted flower vase. In its place is a plethora of stylish cues aimed at attracting male drivers of all ages while not offending their female counterparts.
Convertible sales are on the rise for the VW lineup too and the re-introduced TDI model — turbo-diesel-inline — is one of the reasons.
Its predecessor, a 1.9-liter TDI was available from 1998-2006 when diesels were less attractive and U.S. consumers seemed to lean more toward hybrids. While still true, VW is betting long term that its diesel cars will offer a competitive advantage.
A red convertible TDI I tested for a week got the attention of quite a few passers-by as the nostalgic bug continues to win over consumers.
Seems as though everyone I ran across either owned one earlier in life and recalled a story, or wants one today. How can you top that for marketing?
There are three engines to choose from and 11 model variations ranging in base price from around $20,000 to $30,000 with an automatic or manual transmission available in all.
The base engine is a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder gasoline engine. Next is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder, also gasoline powered, followed by the 2.0-liter TDI diesel. Up to 41 miles per gallon is achievable with the diesel while the others deliver in the mid 20s.
Some of the TDI’s economy is gobbled up by diesel fuel that averages about 40-cents per gallon more but, even with the higher price, the diesel delivers better fuel economy overall.
Behind the wheel, the six speed manual gearbox provided ample control over the 140 horsepower delivered to its front wheels.
While no sprinter, the diesel provides steady power and maintains highway speed with ease. Sixth gear will hold speed on level surfaces but downshifting is needed on inclines.
The power convertible top retracts in nine seconds including windows down yet takes 15 seconds to return to its upright position.
While dashboard layout is straight-forward and gauges easy to read, the multimedia interface screen is too small for driver viewing especially when using the navigation screen or phone settings.
Another marketing advantage for Volkswagen is the lack of competition in its Beetle class although the Fiat 500 is close and also shares the same “fun” factor.
And that is really what the Beetle is all about. Top down driving delivers a relatively quiet and firm ride. Turbo whine is mild and the electric steering holds the car firm while turning with ease.
Len Ingrassia is an automotive columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.
2013 Beetle Convertible TDI
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo clean diesel, four-cylinder
EPA mileage per gallon: 28 city, 41 highway, 32 combined.
Base price: $29,195
Model as tested: $29,990
Assembled: Puebla, Mexico. U.S./Canadian parts – 12 percent; major source of foreign parts, Mexico – 35 percent. Country of origin, engine and transmission – Germany.
Crash test ratings: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the Beetle four out of five stars for overall crash protection with five stars for side impact and four stars for frontal crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded
the Beetle its highest rating of “Good” for side impact, roof strength, frontal offset crash and rear impact protection and marginal for its newest small overlap front test (numerous cars receive this rating)
Warranty: 3 year/36,000 miles bumper to bumper; 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain; 12-year corrosion perforation; 3 year/36,000 mile scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance.