It seems as though the Volkswagen Beetle has run its course, having enjoyed another two decades of popularity. Production of the Beetle has officially come to an end, with the last models rolling off the assembly line in Mexico today. The 2018 Beetle 2.0T will probably be the last of its kind, for a while. Last year 15,000 Beetles were sold in the US, half as many as 2016 and nowhere near the heights it achieved with the initial relaunch.
That’s not to say that it is a bad car. On the contrary: Volkswagen is a great brand, the car is reliable and the features (including the upholstery, the color of the dashboard and upper door trim that mimics the exterior, awesome entertainment system capabilities and excellent ergonomics) are great. The DSG transmission is smooth. The car is light and fast, roomy and stylish for its size.
The biggest downfall is that driving a Beetle is not really about the experience. It’s about the spirit of the car as an icon – a car that is fun to own, fun to look at. It’s about nostalgia, not about the driving experience. For example, the 2018 model comes with a larger 2.0T turbocharged 4 cylinder engine, which doesn’t really live up to the hype (generating about 174 hp – whereas the same engine can put out 220hp in a GTI). It doesn’t feel as premium as other cars in the same price range and it’s a little nose-heavy.
It appeals to the hipster market and of course, those of us old enough to have owned the original, but it is not a cheap and cheerful car. A limited edition R-Line version rolled out at selected dealerships in South Africa in 2018 with a R419 500 price tag.
There are plenty of new (and vintage) Beetles for sale on Gumtree and their popularity among collectors has not waned. We don’t know whether or not we’ll see another Beetle model rolling off the assembly line. Hopefully, if we do, it will offer a lot more than the cute factor and return to its roots – cheap, fun and for everyone.