What even is a Beetle?
It used to be the People’s Car, but nowadays, it’s a bit too big, a bit too expensive, and not quite practical enough to really have a claim to that title. So, what’s a Beetle? If you ask me, it’s 100% about style and the Beetle Denim is a sign that Volkswagen has accepted that, too.
The idea for the Beetle Denim comes from the annals of Volkswagen history, from a Beetle in 1974 that was called the Jeans Bug. Amazingly, back in the ‘70s, jeans had only recently become socially acceptable and the trend was still fresh. Having become cool when James Dean wore them in Rebel Without a Cause, jeans were still associated with youth and revolt. By 1974, the Beetle was pretty long in the tooth and so VW wasn’t above cashing in on the trend to remain relevant.
The Jeans Bug was orange with blacked out trim (instead of chrome), a black “jeans” decal on the side and, last but not least, denim seat covers. In 1975, Volkswagen realized that this wasn’t even something they needed to do at the factory, so they started selling Jeans Bug kits. The kit gave you all the basic ingredients (except the Beetle) to make your own Jeans bug, something you couldn’t do with the new Beetle Denim.
That’s because the 2016 Beetle Denim is more than just a couple of parts that you could stick on yourself. Instead, it comes with a unique and very handsome paint color (Stonewashed Blue Metallic), denim-like seats, and a denim-like convertible roof. It also comes with non-denim touches, like the great 17-inch Heritage wheels (with Dark Blue Graphite painted accents) and a “blue brushed” dashpad. Despite my gripes about the Beetle not being cheap, the $25,995 price tag and the lack premium options fitted to it (regular stereo, non-electric seats, standard headlights) make this a “value offering” in the Beetle range. What makes the Denim stand out, then, is the attention to detail.
Over the course of the week that I had this car, I showed it to a number of people, and a few of them, upon hearing the concept, looked at me with the same skepticism that I would have expected if I’d told them I was getting a tattoo of Herman Melville’s face on my chest. Without fail, though, the Beetle Denim won them over.
There are a couple of reasons for that. First of all, the Denim’s color is genuinely nice and it doesn’t really call attention to itself as a special edition: there’s no big “denim” decal on the side, for example. And sure, the “denim” roof kind of looks like it’s made of the same stuff you have on your legs, but really it’s just an indigo roof that works well with the body color. The seats, too, are blue and denim-like, but again it’s hard to fault them because they’ve managed to avoid looking tacky. They aren’t a garish shade of blue and the fabric is still comfortable.
The first really jean-like thing that you can see is on the seat side. Look there and you find pockets that are riveted into place (just like on your pants!). The seat back pockets have a red cross stitched into them, too, just like the one on your butt. And finally, the seats have little red tags that says “Beetle” instead of “Levi’s.”
None of it is over the top, but it’s cute. When I showed people these little nods and styling cues, inevitably their expression softened and they were won over. And when the roof went down, they really got it.
Speaking of which, the convertible roof is maybe the Beetle’s best feature — this isn’t exclusive to the Beetle Denim, but it is relevant. It’s not just that the car is a convertible, but also that it manages to look good. Take a look at the nearest four-seater convertible. I’ll bet it’s ugly. This isn’t true of every convertible, but if you really take time to look at most of them, you’ll notice that the space between the back of the seats and the back of the car is way too long. It makes the whole car look awkward, like it’s been drawn wrong. That’s because the roof needs somewhere to go. But when you have a car like the Beetle you don’t have to hide the roof, so you don’t have that problem. With the retractable roof the Beetle, if anything, looks better.
That’s the greatest trick the Beetle Denim pulls. It looks good. Unfortunately, the looks come at a cost. The back seats are small. Some adult humans managed to squeeze into the back seats when I was driving the Denim, but they were fairly small adult humans and I was sitting farther forward than I really wanted to. Also, as a convertible, the Beetle weighs a little more. Although VW’s official calculations say that the weight doesn’t impact the fuel economy (25/34), I found it a little difficult to keep up with the official numbers, especially with the 1.8L TSI engine, which, like all turbos, drinks thirstily when you put your foot down. So, really, the things that make the Beetle Denim good are 100% about style, and, if you remember, I think that’s a good thing.
The Verdict: 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Denim Review
I won’t argue, even for a second, that the Beetle Denim is for everyone. It’s much too cute for some, it isn’t quite practical enough for others, and it doesn’t come as a manual, so enthusiasts won’t want it, but it breaks the monotony. It’s a genuinely charming, friendly, and good looking car.
The Beetle probably makes the most sense as a convertible, and if I were picking a convertible Beetle, I’d pick the Denim. If you want to pick it, you’ll have to pick it fast, though, because only 2,000 are going to be sold in America.
This review was originally posted on VWVortex.com
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