Volkswagen unveils third-generation Beetle

The car features a new design and is the most fuel-efficient model ever released. It's scheduled to launch in the fall.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read
The new and improved Volkswagen Beetle.
The new and improved Volkswagen Beetle. Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Beetle enjoys a long and storied history. And now, it's moving into its third generation.

The Volkswagen Beetle is arguably one of the most recognizable cars on the road. First launched in the U.S. in 1949, the car was a staple in the country for 30 years. Over that span, Volkswagen sold nearly 5 million Beetles in the U.S. alone. After being discontinued, the Beetle was brought back in 1998. Through 2010, the New Beetle's sales topped 477,000 units in the U.S. All told, more than 22.5 million Beetles (first- and second-generation) have been built.

The latest Beetle, which Volkswagen is calling its third-generation model, features a new design that might surprise those who have grown accustomed to its iconic look. According to Volkswagen, the third-generation Beetle is "substantially wider, the front hood is longer, the front windshield is shifted further back and has a much steeper incline." In fact, the 2012 Beetle is 3.3 inches wider than its predecessor and half an inch shorter in height. The body is also 6 inches longer.

In addition, the Beetle comes with a panoramic top that's 80 percent larger than the previous option, and offers both a "turbo-charged TDI Clean Diesel and turbo-charged gasoline engines." The Clean Diesel engine, the company says, is the most fuel-efficient option ever available in a Beetle, offering 40 miles per gallon on the highway and 29 miles per gallon in the city.

On the tech side, consumers should find quite a bit to like. The 2012 Beetle comes standard with eight speakers. If customers opt for the premium VIII audio system, they will get an integrated CD changer, along with an SD card slot and touch screen. In addition, customers can opt for the first time to get navigation in the Beetle.

For better sound, customers can choose the Fender Premium Audio System, which delivers "an additional subwoofer and 400 watts of output power," Volkswagen said. For the first time, Volkswagen is also bringing keyless access to the Beetle, letting owners open the doors and start the engine without requiring an ignition key.

The 2012 Volkswagen Beetle is scheduled to launch in the U.S. in September or October. Volkswagen has yet to reveal pricing.