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Bargain Beetle breaks cover

New design: 15-inch wheel trims are the only external clue to identify the New Beetle 1600 model.

Volkswagen has expanded its New Beetle range with two new entry-level models

23 Jan 2002

VOLKSWAGEN Group Australia will introduce not one but two cut-price 1.6-litre Beetle variants, to be known nostalgically as 1600 models, as part of a revitalised New Beetle range to go on sale Down Under next week.

VGA says the New Beetle 1600, the entry level model in what it calls a better value 2002 Beetle line-up, will attract a host of new buyers to Volkswagen's second generation flower power hatch with its $29,700 sticker price.

Other specification changes introduced simultaneously across the range, including a new variant - known as "ikon" - available with either a 1.6-litre or 2.0-litre engine, are said to increase the New Beetle range's affordability.

In the absence of the V5-engined Beetle sold in Europe, the 2002 New Beetle line-up's performance leader remains the 1.8-litre Turbo.

"Clearly the New Beetle appeals to the hearts of many people now with a model priced below $30,000, Volkswagen is able to appeal increasingly to the mind as well," VGA managing director Peter Nochar said.

The New Beetle 1600 shares its 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine with the Golf GL, with 75kW at 5600 rpm and peak torque of 148Nm at 3800 rpm.

Externally, 1600 model New Beetles can only be identified by 15-inch diameter wheels compared to 16-inch wheels on all other models.

Inside there is different head restraints and a four-speaker radio/CD sound system (other models have six speakers).

The New Beetle 1600 does not offer power windows, centre armrest, cruise control or remote boot release like the $31,800 ikon 1600.

However, all New Beetles - including the 1600 models - come standard with air-conditioning.

VGA predicts its 1600 and 1600 ikon models will account for 51 per cent of New Beetle sales in 2002.

New Beetles powered by the well-known 85kW, 2.0-litre powerplant follow a slightly different path - the $33,600 base model is identified by standard 16-inch steel wheels, while the 2.0-litre ikon ($36,500) gains a sunroof, 16-inch Monte Carlo alloy wheels, remote central locking and cruise control.

Meantime, to cope with its 110 kW of power and 210Nm of torque, the $39,500 New Beetle Turbo features Electronic Differential Lock (EDL), Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR) and Electronic Stability Program (ESP), 16-inch Rave alloy wheels, front fog lights, leather seats (fronts heated), leather steering wheel, leather handbrake grip and in-roof storage.

Metallic/pearl effect paint, alloy wheels and an electric glass sunroof can be ordered as options across the range.

* In what looks like being another big year for Volkswagen, VGA remains on target to launch an all-new Polo range here by late April or early May.

VGA spokesperson Brad Leach said details of the new line-up would be ironed out in a meeting in Germany within a few weeks, but that a sub-$20,000 entry level Polo was still parts of VGA's plans.

Meanwhile, Golf will be the subject of "some fairly special limited-edition activity" around the time of next month's Melbourne motor show.

But the hottest Golf of them all - the Golf R32 (for 3.2-litre) - is not confirmed for Australia, at least not for 2002.

"R32 is in a holding pattern at the moment," said Mr Leach, who stressed VGA's R32 GTP race program was proceeding as planned.

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