2.0 TSI Engine Makes Them Great - 2012 Volkswagen Beetle Long-Term Road Test

2012 Volkswagen Beetle Long Term Road Test

2012 Volkswagen Beetle: 2.0 TSI Engine Makes Them Great

March 27, 2013

2012 Volkswagen Beetle

Earlier this week, my spouse and I drove different cars to the same destination resulting in the scene above. The GTI is his, while I had our long-term 2012 Volkswagen Beetle for the night. The lighting was poor obviously, but when the cars are side by side like this, the Beetle's extra width is striking. It's 1.2 inches wider overall with a 1.4-inch wider rear track, and it looks it.

I enjoyed what our modern Bug had to offer when I drove it to Albuquerque and back last year, but forced to choose, I'd end up with the GTI. Its bigger backseat and plaid upholstery tip the scales in its favor.

Yet, the thing that I enjoy most about both cars, and the one thing that makes them really great for me, is the 2.0 TSI engine they share.

This 2.0-liter four-cylinder is the oldest turbocharged and direct-injected engine in the sport compact class, and it's still the best. It doesn't matter that the gray GTI has the conventional six-speed manual and the black Beetle has the six-speed, dual-clutch automated manual gearbox (with a less aggressive shift program than I'd like). They both feel quick when you step out to pass in freeway traffic. There's a lot of mid-range torque with this engine, and it always takes me by surprise when I haven't driven the cars in a while. The Beetle's version of the 2.0-liter turbo makes subtly different sounds in these situations. Chris Walton called it once: It's like an old air-cooled VW.

The ratings on this engine (200 horsepower, 207 pound-feet of torque) are no longer that impressive alongside the competition in this class, at least not on paper. But as VW guys know, those numbers have always been on the low side. If you recall, we dyno-tested our old long-term 2010 GTI and it came up with 203 hp at 5,740 rpm and 214 lb-ft of torque at 2,960 rpm at the front wheels.

In addition to all that satisfying torque, you can still lay down respectable mpg on road trips if you're so motivated. This combination of performance and efficiency remains one of the very best in this price range. That's why it pains me that you can no longer get this engine in the Passat.

Erin Riches, Deputy Editor @ 16,051 miles


  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    I know that the 20V 1.8T in my '04 Jetta is a different engine and not just a smaller version of the current 2.0, but it is a fantastic engine. I have owned over 25 cars including a 2nd gen CRX, an '87 5.0 Mustang, a big block Chrysler, and a V8 Taurus SHO. The VW engine is easily my 2nd favorite after the 5.0. It rev's smooth, sound great, has lots of mid range torque, and gets good gas mileage. I would love to find a way to install one in my MG. When it's time for a new car I wouldn't hesitate to look at VW or an Audi with the 2.0T in it.

  • mercedesfan mercedesfan Posts:

    I've always liked the 2.0T from a driver's perspective, but hate that it sounds like crap. I don't think I've ever encountered a smoother, more responsive 4-cylinder in my life, but it has all the aural appeal of an old Mercedes diesel. The GTI is okay from inside because of the intake resonator tube, but roll those windows down and you're treated to total blah.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Wow - there are a lot of people who really don't agree with your assessment of the sound, mercedesfan. FYI model year 2010 was the only one with the resonator tube on the GTI. From '11 on it had the Soundaktor active-type device. Some guys don't like that and disconnect it, but I think it sounds fine...and overall the sound of my '11 GTI is one of the things I really love about it. The other half of the equation is that from 203/214 wheel horsepower, the numbers go to 230/265 with nothing more than a $600 reflash from a variety of reputable vendors, with no undesirable side effects, either. VW still has a couple of tricks up its sleeve that other manufacturers don't know about with this kind of engine, and it shows.

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    I am going to try and replace my commuter this year with something more exciting, and my top two choices are the Focus ST and the GTI. I haven't yet driven either, so I'd like your opinion, Erin. On paper, the Focus looks like the clear winner, but is it really? What makes the GTI better? Which one would you spend your $25-30k on?

  • mercedesfan mercedesfan Posts:

    @fordson1, I guess I should qualify my prior statement with the fact that I have yet to find a 4-cylinder that I think actually sounds good. The 2.0T is certainly one of the better offerings, but it still sounds like little more than an angry bee-hive un

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Well, yes - of course a V8 Mercedes sounds better than a GTI - it IS better. I mean, it's so much more expensive it MUST be better...?

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    I like the engine too. Not particularly romantic or exciting, but way more pull at all engine speeds than the numbers would suggest. Very drivable in all conditions.

  • gilchy gilchy Posts:

    Sound can also be attributed to direct injection, has that rattle. All around, it's the best 4-banger I've driven.

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