The Volkswagen Beetle: A Review

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

Talk Wrench’s first video: a postscript

If you haven't already, please watch our YouTube video where Will explains his love of the VW Beetle, I offer my first impressions behind the wheel and we galavant around the Welsh countryside.

If the video brought you here, thank you for watching Talk Wrench and please consider hitting the like and subscribe buttons on your way out.

Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I am about to deliver a dewy eyed sob story about 60s counterculture, or else unleash a crushing criticism of a comedy car, conceived in the midst of a Fascist dictatorship. The butt of many an automotive joke, but to many nothing short of a four-wheeled demigod, the Volkswagen Beetle continues to divide opinion amongst automotive journalists and social historians alike.

However, behind the ongoing argument about the Beetle’s relative cultural significance, the cars themselves, whilst built in huge numbers, have largely fallen victim to chronic rust.

Lest we forget that this 1974 example is to be 47 years old this year, and original examples such as this Super Beetle are becoming increasingly scarce.

Therefore isn't it about time that we redressed the balance, by actually revisiting the Beetle objectively, and take one for a drive.

In this day and age, we have mostly forgotten what a small car actually is, and even this 1303, the biggest of all the Beetles, measuring at only a touch over 13 feet and weighing in at a mere .87 of a tonne, the diminutive sounding 44 horse power becomes less of a hindrance than you might imagine.

It’s really a car that can clip along quite nicely if you hustle it, which makes for a rewarding driving experience, without the worry of losing your licence. Despite this example still utilising a steering box, the Beetle handles predictably and is surprisingly direct, communicative and eminently manoeuvrable.” The power, whilst not ample, comes courtesy of an air cooled, flat four, engine which provides a pleasing soundtrack perhaps more familiar to the motorcyclist than the driver.

In short, the Volkswagen is delightful to drive and above all very refreshing, especially in comparison to today’s cars, which cocoon you inside a womb of sound insulation, power steering and driver aids.

The ride is most kindly described as bouncy and while the VW rolls less than you would expect owing to the McPherson Strut front suspension fitted to the Super Beetle, a display of exuberant driving will see you and your passengers slide off of their vinyl seats onto the floor.

Speaking of the interior, the internal styling is typically Germanic insomuch as it is brutally simple, yet ages well. The black vinyl soft dash offered in the 1303 makes this perhaps the most grown-up and dare I say luxurious of all the Beetles, with less of the exterior colour creeping into an otherwise austere interior.

"the diminutive sounding 44 horse power becomes less of a hindrance than you might imagine"

If anything lets this car down, its the gear change which is a little wooden indirect, owing to the gearbox being located about five feet behind the lever that operates it. Despite the shifting experience akin to dangling a baguette in a bucket of spark plugs, the payoffs of the rear-engined layout outweighs the negatives, includes a spacious, flat floored cabin with ample room for adults to sit in relative comfort so long as you’re content to live with the aroma of petrol, which is quite heady with the windows shut.

To sum up then, the once ubiquitous VW Beetle has become a rarity that more of us car enthusiasts truly should treasure. While this will no doubt prove provocative, we’re all prepared to go weak at the knees when we see a 356 Porsche and while a Beetle is by no means going to be a 911 substitute, it most definitely offers little less than say a 912. I could quite happily drive this car every day and I wouldn't say that about many cars from the 1970s, even those very dear to my heart. The Beetle is therefore much more than simply a stop-gap that got a struggling post-war German economy back on its feet, or further still than a hippy icon, its a genuine driver’s car and a useable one at that.


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