A global classic with a domestic twist
The problem with car companies having their cars imported as a CBU (completely built-up unit) from a faraway factory is that updates and changes often take excruciatingly long to get here. All too often, we don’t get the updates, upgrades, and new designs that other markets get, particularly the home markets of the many car brands out there.
Such was the challenge for Volkswagen Philippines. They’ve been operating since 2013, but their model line has largely stayed the same, and that goes for the one nameplate that propelled them to becoming one of the most recognized brands in the industry: the Beetle.
Recognizing that the current 21st century Beetle is already a veteran model (it was launched 6 years ago internationally), Volkswagen Philippines took it upon themselves to give it a funky new lease on life, and so they made the Beetle Club Edition.
Essentially speaking, the Club is based on the domestic-spec Beetle. Like the international models, it sports the same body shape and design, and has exactly the same mechanicals. Under the hood is the 1.4-liter turbocharged direct injection motor and a seven-speed dual clutch Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) driving the front wheels. The features list is mostly the same with 6 airbags, stability control, hill hold control, cruise control, multifunction display, among many others.
Where VW Philippines made some enhancements were in the visuals and some of the features. On the outside, they applied a few decals with the Club emblazoned on the doors with a few stripes, as well as a blacked out roof. The wheels are also black, creating a rather striking contrast with the white paintwork.
Inside, VW Philippines made two key changes. Much of the interior is the same like the manual airconditioning system, the color-keyed dashboard trim panel, the unique retro glovebox, and that rather unusual plastic flower holder. What was swapped out was their standard RCD audio system for a more modern 2-DIN unit. More importantly, the new touchscreen unit is far more user friendly and equipped with modern connectivity niceties like Bluetooth and a USB port. It even has GPS navigation and has DVD playback, though we would never recommend that when driving.
The other major upgrade is the seat material; the Beetle was reupholstered in black leather with red stitching. The feel of the driver’s seat has truly improved; it’s far more comfortable than before, a testament to the talents of our domestic leather craftsmen.
Driving the Beetle Club around is rather special. The Beetle itself is quite a head-turner, and the enhancements that build this Club Edition make it even more so. The DSG could still use with a few more updates to make it smoother in low-speed city traffic, but still, the Club feels quite sporty to tool around the trendier places in the metropolis, and that’s quite cool.
The suspension is quite good, and handles local tarmac and ribbed concrete very well. Parking is a breeze; just attenuate your senses to the audible parking sensors and you’ll park it in tight spots with great precision. The only thing I’m not a big fan of are the A-pillars; they’re quite thick for better rigidity in a collision, but they do get in the way of the view when cornering, especially around tight city bends.
Fuel economy is alright. This is a 158 bhp motor, but it’s still a 1.4-liter and, as expected, it performs efficiently. 9.4 kilometers to a liter in the city is the norm if you’re averaging 20 km/h (moderate traffic), and on the highway that bumps up significantly to 16.2 km/l (87 km/h average).
Where the Beetle Club shines is in the corners of an open road. The 1.4 TSI motor, while efficient, is very lively and willing to rev… well, after a little lag that is. Once you do get it in its preferred rev range for performance, it’s just a bag full of fun; and that goes for the DSG as well. And the brakes work very well to rein in the weight of the Beetle Club when taking corners, and the suspension does have a progressive, controlled feel about it.
I like the changes that VW Philippines made to make the Beetle feel much more special. The updates are quite neat and definitely useful, particularly the new audio unit. And the drive? Every bit as enjoyable as ever.
Engine:Inline-4, 1390cc, dohc, 16V, turbo direct injection, 7-speed DSG
Max Power:158 bhp @ 5800 rpm
Max torque:177 lb ft @ 1500 – 4500 rpm
0-100 km/h:8.7 sec.
Top Speed:203 km/h
Fuel Mileage: 9.4 km/l City / 16.2 km/l Highway
+:Lively and fun, better audio unit
-:Should have climate control, better fascia plate for 2DIN unit
Price as tested: PhP 1,890,000