2012 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0T Turbo review: 2012 Volkswagen Beetle 2.0T Turbo

I should note that the initial batch of launch models of the Beetle Turbo lack the trio of auxiliary gauges pictured in VW's promotional pictures, giving oil temperature, a stopwatch function, and boost pressure readouts. In their place, our tester featured a recessed, rubber-lined storage area with space for two full handfuls of ketchup packets.

However, the 2012 Beetle's interior isn't all serious business. Accent lighting that surrounds the door speakers and trim can be set to glow red, white, or blue. The dashboard's plastic finish is available with paint that matches the exterior of the vehicle in color. Our tester was not thusly equipped, the finish having instead a carbon fiber look that didn't annoy me as much as I thought it would.

I was, however, annoyed by the secondary Kaeferfach glove box integrated into the upper dashboard--which is too small for anything but, perhaps, an actual a pair of gloves. Likewise, I found myself raging at the center armrest, which was always in the way, and its integrated storage bin, which was also pretty much useless for actually storing things. Fortunately the main glove box is reasonably spacious.

We don't know what VW expects us to fit in here, but it can't be very large!

Fender splendor
That main glove box is where you'll find the MDI digital audio connection with swappable pigtails for connecting USB portable storage devices or iPod/iPhone devices with a 30-pin dock connector. iPhone owners may not appreciate having to reach to the far end of the dashboard to hide the phone away before every trip. However, iPhones, as well as BlackBerry and Android devices, can be connected to the Beetle's premium audio system via Bluetooth for audio streaming and hands-free calling. I was pleased to see that the Beetle's audio system displays artist and song title metadata when streaming audio from a device that supports this function.

The optional Fender audio system is easily one of the best in its class and a must-have for 2012 Beetle buyers.

Speaking of premium audio, our test Beetle came equipped with the optional Fender stereo system, which is branded after and developed with the guitar and amplifier manufacturer. It is rare that a stereo in a nonpremium car earns the right to call itself a "premium audio system," but this Fender system does just that. I can honestly not think of anything negative to say about this car audio rig. The system's eight speakers plus a discrete subwoofer tucked in the rear storage area are darn near unflappable, outputting almost no distortion or rattles at reasonable volumes (and probably beyond). More impressive was the Fender's system's ability to bring out the best of almost any genre. Whether it was the unique vocals of an indie starlet, the pumping bass and stuttering synths of electronica, or the heavy bass and staccato bark of hip-hop, the Fender audio system sounded fantastic without needing constant tweaking of sound stage modes or EQ levels.

With the premium audio, the Beetle also features a color touch screen for navigating the various audio sources, which include the aforementioned Bluetooth and USB connections, as well as AM/FM radio, a single-slot CD player, and satellite radio.

You can also upgrade to a hard-drive-based RN 315 GPS system with snappy performance and well-rendered maps. However, the Beetle's navigation options do not include traffic data and I found that the points-of-interest database was missing a number of popular San Francisco restaurants. I was pleased to see that VW doesn't lock drivers out of selecting a destination while in motion, so I didn't need to pull over to find the nearest gas station.

In sum
If you're looking at a 2012 Volkswagen Beetle, you should seriously consider the Turbo model for $23,395. (Let's face it, the 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine didn't exactly win us over with its power and efficiency in the 2011 VW Jetta, so we don't expect it to suddenly be spectacular in the Beetle 2.5.) Next, you'll have to make a decision on the gearbox. The six-speed DSG automatic adds $1,100 to the bottom line and is a solid choice both for drivers too lazy to row their own gears and for those looking for sharper, faster shifts.

With the power train sorted, you'll want to decide on your car tech. The $3,000 Sunroof and Sound package adds the Fender audio system and a power sunroof. Trust me, you definitely want that. For $1,600 more, you could have the Sunroof, Sound, and Navigation package that adds the RN 315 navigation system, leather seating surfaces, and car-body-colored dashboard panels. I'm not enamored of the sophistication of VW's navigation system or the prospect of a colorful interior; you could just use your Bluetooth-paired smartphone to navigate.

If you do decide to add Navigation, that will bring you to the same as-tested MSRP of $29,865 (including a $770 destination charge) that our Tornado Red Beetle Turbo arrived carrying.

Is the Volkswagen Beetle cool again? I think so.

Before you sign for your Bug, you'll likely want to test-drive a few other models. However, if you're the kind of driver who looks at the 2012 Beetle 2.0T and thinks, "That's a good-looking ride," you'll find that there are few cars on the market that can match its odd blend of style and performance. If you don't mind driving the same car as the kid from Twilight, the Volvo C30 may be a good alternative, but Volvo's packaging structure makes it easy to end up spending a lot more money to get the options you want. The Mini Cooper S Clubman will also appeal to fans of Euro-retro styling and zippy performance, but it is also a smaller vehicle and more expensive than the similarly equipped Beetle.

Actually, one of the closest competitors to the Beetle is Volkswagen's own 2011 GTI two-door hatchback. It's about the same size, offers similar passenger and storage volumes, and is more conservatively styled for those who aren't fans of the Beetle's bulbous aesthetic. Fully loaded, the GTI offers better performance and fuel economy, but lacks the Beetle's Fender premium audio system. Whether you value speed or sound more will be the determining factor in which of these VWs comes out on top.

Tech specs
Model 2012 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo
Trim Sunroof, Sound, and Navigation package
Power train 2-liter turbocharged gasoline engine, FWD, 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission
EPA fuel economy 21 city, 30 highway mpg
Observed fuel economy 19.8 mpg
Navigation yes
Bluetooth phone support yes
Disc player single-slot CD
MP3 player support analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, MDI with USB and iPod connectors
Other digital audio satellite radio, Bluetooth audio streaming
Audio system Fender-branded premium audio, 8 speakers plus subwoofer
Driver aids n/a
Base price $23,395
Price as tested $29,865

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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