Despite receiving a less than rapturous press reception, the previous-generation Beetle (discontinued in 2010) found over a million buyers. Just goes to show what a little nostalgia can achieve.
This new Dune is the latest Beetle to dip into that well of goodwill. It tips its hat to the Type 1 Baja Bugs that competed in long-distance desert races 50 years ago, but it’s not a serious off-roader: you don’t even get four-wheel drive. The standard FWD layout is retained to keep weight down.
Still, the Dune looks the part with 10mm higher suspension, greater width between the wheels, and wheelarch extensions. On top of that there are new bumpers, LED taillights, a tea-tray sized rear spoiler and chunky 18in ‘Mythos’ alloy wheels. Not everyone will like the look, but in the optional Sandstorm Yellow paint at least it’s undeniably striking in the metal.
Better yet, it’s surprisingly adept on the road. Thanks to that widened track and nicely weighted steering the handling hasn’t been corrupted by the hiked ride height. There’s plenty of grip and much less body roll than you might expect.
The equivalent Golf whips it on ride quality, which could be down at least in part to the 18-inch wheels, but the suspension damping is very well judged for British B-roads and the drive is nicely settled at speed.
British Dune buyers will be able to choose between a 104bhp 1.2-litre turbo petrol and a 2.0-litre 148bhp diesel. Our 1.2’s throttle response was predictably average, a cross that many small-capacity turbocharged engines have to bear, but once spinning it displayed a hearty quality, no fear of revs and impressive economy.
There aren’t many differences between the Dune’s cabin and that of the standard Beetle, but there are some neat tweaks to label it as a premium model. That exterior colour wraps around into the cabin, the seats get well-executed stitching and the multifunction leather steering wheel has a 'Dune' insert to remind you what you’ve bought and arguably generate pangs of envy among Golf or Scirocco owners.
The rest is classic Beetle, with a roomy front, decent visibility and a comfortable driving position. There’s not so much space in the back but the 310-litre boot will cover most beach trip requirements, at 310 litres.
The Dune isn’t something you’d buy with your head. You’re paying £2395 over the cost of the similarly equipped Beetle Design and getting nothing extra in terms of practicality. With a family and an occasional need for some light off-roading you’d be best opting for a Fiat 500X or Mini Countryman.
But what you are getting in the Dune is something a bit different – and for many that’s something worth paying for.
2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune 1.2 TSI 105 Dune
On sale: Now
Engine: 4 cyls, 1197cc, petrol
Power: 106bhp at 5000-5500
Torque: 129lb ft at 1400-4000rpm
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Kerb weight: 1486kg
Top speed: 110mph
Economy: 54.3mpg (combined)
CO2 rating/BIK tax band: 122g/km, 21%