Over the three years since the new Beetle went on sale, the range has grown to include more petrol engines but for the first time this year a diesel has come to the UK, making the car more acceptable to fleets in wholelife cost terms.
The 1.9TDI unit is the 100bhp pumpe duse (unit injector) engine found in the Passat, Golf, Bora and Polo, and produces 177lb-ft of torque at 1,800rpm.
Our bright red test car came with equally bright red interior trim, which contrasted with the typical Volkswagen black plastic bits and adds spice.
The huge flat dashboard top dominates the interior thanks to the tapering A-pillar and position of the front seats set to maximise headroom. Everything fits together with the usual VW precision and feels like it would last 100 years.
Despite sharing its underpinnings with the Golf, sticking faithfully to the traditional Beetle shape results in a two-door body with limited boot space, although the rear seats fold if necessary.
However, Volkswagen has made the best of this by designing an entertaining action to tilt the front seats forward and allow easy access to the rear. While the seat back tilts towards the front, the seat cushion jumps upwards and then forward to maximise the space in the aperture for rear seat occupants. Anyone who has witnessed the popular children's toy Buckaroo can easily imagine the effect.
The TDI engine does make itself heard on start-up – like most diesels – but it does not seem as subdued on the move as in other Volkswagens. And the noise at 60mph in fifth gear sent a nasty vibration through the rear view mirror, although this disappeared by the time it reached 70mph.
Not having much experience with the Beetle since its launch I was pleased to discover it was quite fun to drive.
Retaining the same profile as the original Beetle seems to have endowed the new one with a low centre of gravity, making light work of tight corners, and feeling sharp enough to make the most of the ample torque on offer. So the Beetle TDI has the performance to match its style, which will ensure its appeal to user-choosers who tend to travel light. But it does more to convince a shrewd fleet manager that it justifies its place on choice lists in the first place.
It returns 53.3mpg on the combined cycle and CAP predicts a healthy 39% retained value over three years/60,000 miles.
The fuel economy matches the five-door VW Golf with the same engine, while the residual value is rather better. Add to that the fact that the Beetle costs less than a Golf TDI and for those who like to be seen in a trendy three-door hatch the Beetle makes sense.
Price (OTR): £13,790
Engine (cc): 1,896
Max power (bhp/rpm): 99/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 177/1,800
Max speed (mph): 111
0-62mph (sec): 12.4
Fuel consumption (mpg): 53.3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 143
2002/03 BIK tax band: 18%
Annual BIK tax (22%): £541
CAP residual value (3yrs/60,000): £5,350/39%
Typical contract hire rate: £290