- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

The New Beetle is actually the New New Beetle now, because it was updated and launched in September.

It now has a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that puts out a very torquey 150 horsepower (compared with the original 115 from the old four-cylinder). It’s still assembled in Puebla, Mexico, as are about 45 percent of the parts.

The transmission (It has a five-speed manual) is made in Argentina and most of the rest of the stuff comes from Germany, but about 10 percent of the components are made here.

Styling has been significantly changed and yet the original look and appeal of the Beetle manage to come out. Body lines are much sharper and angular at the wheel wells, bumpers are much higher, the headlights are bigger and oval, which actually looks a lot like the old 1960s cars.

Inside, the changes are subtle, with chrome accents to the instruments and air vents.

Another big mechanical (well, electronic) addition is standard traction control and ESP. This makes the little bug hold the road like a centipede going around a corner, which is — now that I think about it — a bug! Another neat feature is pinch-proof power windows, which won’t break your finger or your dog’s nose if you catch it in the window. This is a really great safety device and you’ll see it on all vehicles before long.

The test Beetle is Salsa Red with black interior, with a CD player with MP3 capability. With the exception of the windows, everything’s manual and works quite well.

The manual seats are easy to operated and you can raise or lower them with a ratchet handle, as you can with the shoulder belt D-rings.

The rear seat folds down to give you a huge cargo area and there are even dual vanity mirrors!

I know you’re saying “big deal” at this point, but bear in mind that all this stuff comes at a bargain price of $17,180, which is about 10-grand less than the average transaction price of cars these days.

Sure, this one has some options; namely, a power sunroof, premium sound system, cold-weather package and XM radio, all for a total of $1,765 extra.

This is a very pleasant and comfortable car to drive. It’s quiet and smooth and still handles extremely well while it soaks up those bumps that other “sporty” cars transmit right to your jawbone.

It’s roomy, too, and I was able to get a 9-foot banister rail into the car without leaving windows or the rear hatch door open.

Visibility out is exceptional and I actually like the long, deep dashboard layout although some people complain about having to look over the expanse of vinyl while viewing through the windshield.

I think the only real disadvantage of the design is the difficulty reaching the bottom of the windshield for cleaning.

The economics of driving it are good too.

Fuel mileage is 22 city and 31 highway, and regular gas is just fine, thank you very much.

Just for grins, I calculated what it would cost to drive 100,000 miles. With a purchase price of $19,560 and $8,000 worth of gas, your cost-per-mile would be 27 cents. That’s pretty good, considering a run-of-the-mill low-level luxury Toyota/Nissan/Ford/GM mobile costing you at least $30,000 and getting 25 miles per gallon overall would cost $8,600 in gas, so the overall cost would be 39 cents per mile, which is more than 50 percent higher.

It’s cute, which is both its chief advantage and disadvantage.

It attracts women by the busloads but doesn’t do much for the macho factor in males.

Guys just don’t buy these things and VW would love to come up with a way to crack that market.

The warranty is four years/50,000 miles and 12 years corrosion protection.

Contrast that with the original Beetle’s six-month, 6,000-mile warranty and no corrosion protection.

In fact, you were pretty much guaranteed to have rust the day you drove it home.

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