Volkswagen's Beetle Dune model should raise a smile amongst potential buyers, thinks Jonathan Crouch.
Ten Second Review
Volkswagen hopes to reinvigorate the lifestyle appeal of its Beetle with this trendy Dune version. It gets a higher ride height and more eye-catching looks and comes in fixed-top 'Coupe' and Cabriolet guises. It's a bit of fun - with a little practicality still thrown in.
The Volkswagen Beetle is renowned as an automotive style icon with, perhaps, the most well-known silhouette of any modern car. Original Beetles have been modified in small numbers over the years to suit specialist drivers' requirements and among the most famous of these are the 'Baja Bugs' vividly associated with west coast America. Now the spirit of those original conversions has been rekindled in the modern Beetle range with this model, the Beetle Dune. Engineered and styled to pay tribute to those off-road heroes, and with a ride height raised by 10mm compared with the standard car, the Beetle Dune is designed to offer a more vibrant dimension to the existing Beetle line-up.
Let's cut to the chase. No, this car doesn't offer quite as good an overall ride and handling package as you'll find in the Golf, but to compare these two cars is an irrelevance. You'll buy a Beetle Dune because it's a bit of fun and because there aren't too many compromises required in doing so. And that's all a million miles from the dull, sensible practicality of Golf motoring. Fixed-top 'Coupe' and Cabriolet Dune buyers get a choice of two engines, a 105PS 1.2-litre TSI petrol unit and a 150PS 2.0 TDI diesel. In both cases, there's the choice of either manual or automatic transmission. The 1.2-litre petrol variant makes 62mph in 10.9s en route to 112mph,while the 2.0 TDI improves that showing to 8.9s and 126mph, courtesy of lustier pulling power, there's 340Nm of torque.
Design and Build
Beetle Dune customers have a choice of Coupe or Cabriolet versions and a selection of five body colours complement the car's eye-catching styling. Parts of the dash and door panels also share the exterior body colour. The rugged looks are enhanced via 18-inch 'Mythos' alloy wheels, front and rear wheelarch extensions and bolder bumper designs. The intended more adventurous character is further emphasised by a large silver-framed central air inlet and a black honeycomb grille. In profile, the black wheel well and body extensions contrast with the paint colours. In addition, black side trim strips - stylised 'Beetle running boards' - and 'Dune' badging underscore what Volkswagen hopes is a more dynamic image. At the rear, there's a large spoiler and smart LED lights. Inside, extensive use of contrast 'Turmeric' stitching on the sport seats, plus a leather-trimmed steering wheel and parking brake grip help define this Dune derivative, while contrasting areas of the seat system, door trim panels, roof pillars and headlining are finished in black. Otherwise, it's just as any other Beetle would be, the large wheels plumply positioned beneath the flared flowing arches and a rear C-pillar that follows the contours of the original 1950s design. So there's something of the past, artfully mixed with a sporty vision of the future.
Market and Model
Expect to pay somewhere in the £21,500 to £25,500 bracket for 'Coupe' fixed-top versions of this Beetle Dune: there's a premium of around £3,000 to pay if you want the Cabriolet version. That means you'll have to find a premium of around £2,500 over the standard Beetle model in 'Design' trim - the car this one is based upon. Still, you get a lot of equipment for that. Among the highlights is the Composition Media system which includes a 6.5-inch touch-screen with Bluetooth telephone connection, a DAB digital radio receiver, a dash-mounted single CD player, an MDI (Multi Device Interface) that works via a USB connection, SMS messaging functionality and eight speakers. Standard-fit technology also includes a Light and Sight pack comprising an auto dimming rear-view mirror, plus automatic headlights and rain sensing wipers, while convenience is enhanced by ultrasonic parking sensors front and rear. As with all Beetles, buyers also get Climatic semi-automatic air conditioning that also cools the glovebox, a trip computer, power heated mirrors, electric windows and a hill-holder clutch to stop you from drifting backwards on uphill junctions.
Cost of Ownership
Sensible virtues probably won't be top of your agenda in selecting a Beetle Dune, but should they happen to be, then you'll need to be talking to your dealer about the 150PS 2.0-litre TDI diesel version, as it comes with all of Volkswagen's cleverest 'BlueMotion Technology' efficiency tweaks: low rolling resistance tyres, a battery regeneration system and a stop start system that cuts the engine when you don't need it in traffic or at the lights. As a result, it'll emit just 118g/km of carbon dioxide in manual Coupe form and can return around 65mpg on the combined cycle which will give a usefully long operating range from the 55-litre fuel tank. As for the petrol models, well the entry-level 1.2 TSI manages over 50mpg on the combined cycle and 126g/km in Coupe guise. And residual values? Well, for the time being, a Beetle is fashionable again - and that means this car will hold onto the money you've paid very well - better probably than a comparable Golf. Whether that'll continue to be the case long term will probably depend upon the vagaries of fashion.
If there was a danger of Volkswagen's Beetle getting forgotten in the lifestyle compact hatch market, this Dune version should remind potential buyers that it still has plenty to offer. Yes, there's a premium to pay for its trendier look, but potential buyers may not mind that if the fashionable changes hit the right note. It's a bit of fun - just as Beetle motoring should be.