Now, a Beetle to appeal to men
The Korea Herald/Asia News Network
NO CAR had more female appeal than the Volkswagen Beetle. But in an apparent move to woo more men, the 2013 Beetle comes with more aggressive styling and personality.
Volkswagen says women used to make up nearly 70 per cent of Beetle buyers. With the more macho Beetle, the carmaker aims to get the male-female ratio to 50-50.
Completely redesigned last year, the latest version abandoned the iconic arched silhouette, with the body getting longer, wider and lower. But the cheerful overall look is still unmistakably that of a Beetle.
The colour palette has also been toughened up, as harder hues - including a bold Tornado Red and a brighter yellow - replace the previous soft blues, greens and yellows.
The red one that I test-drove definitely offered a sexier feel than its predecessor - even compared with its high-fashion rivals such as the Mini Cooper and the Fiat 500.
The all-black interior, fitted with red leather seats, was a pleasant surprise, offering a sleeker, sporty ambiance - something you didn't expect in a Beetle car before.
Adding to its hip interior was the dashboard that wears carbon fibre, a recent hot material that also covers the upcoming BMW i3 electric car.
Considering the dramatic shift in styling, it is hard to understand why Volkswagen has only one engine choice in Korea - the 2-litre turbocharged diesel.
The TDI engine, pumping out 140 horsepower and a maximum torque of 32.6kg per metre, should please drivers looking for a compact car with better fuel ratings.
But the engine is not powerful enough to woo those who expect a sports coupe with an almost-Porsche-like styling, whether they are men or women. (In other markets, a turbo model is also available.)
In a disturbed urban ride, the car made little attempt to absorb sharp bumps, while struggling to chug up a steep hill.
Pressed on a highway, it responded with some reluctance. But the sport mode helped elevate the performance of the diesel engine.
To sum up my test-drive, I would say: "It looks a lot faster than it is."
The limited driving excitement may be the trade-off for its impressive fuel efficiency of 15.4km per litre, a 20 per cent increase compared to the previous petrol model.
The Beetle is a well-rounded small car and boasts a backseat and boot that are actually usable. But without a model equipped with more power, Volkswagen's experiment with a more masculine Beetle could remain a half-success.