Let's file this one under the header of cars I'd prefer not to write about. As much a fan of the iconic "original" as I am, especially ones from after 1967, I've never warmed up to these "new" Beetles. Or, in this case not one but two of the new "new" Beetles. To each his own. Give me the car these are based on, the splendid Golf ten fold before one of these silly clown suits.
Formulated by Adolph Hitler and designed by Ferdinand Porsche, the original Volkswagen Beetle or Volkswagen Type 1, was manufactured from 1938 until, incredibly, 2003. "The Volkswagen", or "People's Car" was an inexpensive and simple car mass-produced for Germany's new road network which eventually became known as the mythic, "Autobahn". With over 21 million manufactured the original Beetle was the longest-running and most manufactured car of a single design platform in history. In the 1999 Car of the Century competition, to determine the world's most influential car in the 20th century, the Type 1 placed fourth, after the Ford Model T, the Mini and the Citroen DS. The VW Bug was a big deal.
Many associate the original Beetle with Hippies and there's a good reason for that. The Beetle's affordability and rugged simplicity being the mechanical embodiment of the hippie philosophy of primitive subsistence. While that's counter intuitive given that if you were to truly "turn on, tune in, drop out" you'd forgo any mechanical convenience, you can't be of a certain vintage and not think these cars cool; Hippy culture be darned. My affection for these cars is probably more nostalgic than anything; growing up in the waning years of the Hippy movement, Beetles were everywhere when I was kid. Their simple lines do have a certain elan and back in the day you saw as many of these driven by families needing a cheap second car as those who were followers of Timothy Leary.
The last VW Beetle sold in the U.S. was in 1977. Beetle failed to meet U.S. emissions and safety regulations for 1978 new cars. VW continued to build original Beetles in Mexico and Brazil through 2003.
In the everything old is new again 1990's, for 1998, VW dropped this cutsey body on a Golf and created a car that was part homage to 1960's pop culture icon, right down to the built-in bud vase in the dashboard, and a modern sales wunderkid. The car was a hit and for more reasons than it being retro for there were certainly more buyers of what is known as the New Beetle who thought the car adorable than those who thought it a throwback. New Beetle was solid, modern automobile that set the standard among small cars for how well it protected its occupants in serious crashes, as measured in a frontal offset crash test at 40 mph conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The original Beetle didn't earn any safety kudos. In 1966, Ralph Nader told a Senate Public Works subcommittee that "it is hard to find a more dangerous car." New Beetle sold almost without change through 2011. Cute-as-a-button styling and all. All that said, I wouldn't be caught dead in one of these.
Like the 1998 Beetle, the new New Beetle, which is known as just "Beetle", shares its underpinnings with the VW Golf. Longer, wider, and having more of the original Beetles "paunch" than the '98 Beetle ever did, I have to wonder how I'd feel about "New Beetles" had VW came out with this car in 1998 instead. Too bad for I wouldn't be caught dead in one of these either by reason of association. I don't like '98 Beetles therefore I don't like these. These also have a flower vase in the dashboard if you're wondering. Like old TV shows like Happy Days that were retro to begin with, it's funny how what was a nostalgic conveyance becomes more famous than what it was based on in the first place. Show me someone who even knows the heritage of this car and I bet they'll point to a 1998 New Beetle and not an original.
If a hippy movement were to happen today, as hard as that would be to imagine, is there a 't a vehicle available today that would be the mechanical embodiment of what the original Hippies' ride allegedly stood for. The Toyota Prius might be the closest thing we have to that today but its complicated power train, the mantra of simplicity goes out the window. What's more, government mandated safety and emissions standards require even the most humble of automobiles today to be the equivalent of a NASA rocket compared to the original Beetle. Even cars that are twenty, twenty five years old are amazingly complicated. And trust me, those old complicated cars are something you don't want any part of, maaaaan. Makes me believe that if a Hippy movement were to happen today Hippies would be more in line with Timothy Leary's famous edict than the original Hippies ever were.