PUEBLA, Mexico — We're approaching the end of an era once more. Volkswagen is discontinuing the Beetle. It's strange, and a bit sad, to imagine the company without the model — again — that made it famous. This time it's going out with a bit of pomp and circumstance in Mexico, where Volkswagen brought us to experience the hatchback's Final Edition trim during Dia de los Muertos celebrations. Any discussion of the last Beetle does merit a review of the cars that got us here: the original air-cooled Bug and the follow-up New Beetle. The original hardly needs introduction, transforming from strange European curiosity to economy car phenomenon through the 1960s. But toward the end of its life, it was a victim of its unchanging design. The competition became more efficient, more comfortable, faster and safer. And of course, there was less reason to buy a new model when there were oodles of previous models on the used market that weren't that different from what was on the showroom floor. After the classic Beetle's departure, there was a long hiatus until VW revealed the Concept 1 in the mid-1990s, a bubbly contemporary take on the iconic design. And with massively positive feedback, the company launched a faithful production model for 1998. It rode a wave of nostalgia and arguably kickstarted the retro design craze of the 2000s that also gave us the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Plymouth Prowler, Chevy SSR, Ford Thunderbird, Mini Cooper, 2005 Ford Mustang redesign and even the revival of the Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger. In this climate of rabid retro fans, the New Beetle was a huge success. But it fell victim to the same trap of its predecessor. It never changed significantly enough, leaving it stale and outdone by competitors by the end of its 12-year run in the 2010 model year. That brings us to this generation of Beetle, which launched for the 2012 model year. It was completely redesigned with all-new underpinnings. It featured more aggressive styling, as well as fresh engines, even a punchy 200-horsepower engine like that in the GTI. The 2019 Final Edition we're driving marks the seventh year for the hatchback, and besides discovering whether this vehicle is still good, we also seem to have discovered why it's leaving us again. The Final Edition Beetle's uniqueness boils down to a flashier interior and exterior — that's it. Inside, this car's full up on every shiny chrome bit VW offers, coated with a candy shell of two exclusive colors: Stonewashed Blue (first seen on the Beetle Denim), and Safari Uni beige. The two colors reflect the blue and beige hues available on the 2003 VW Beetle Ultima Edition, the last of the air-cooled classic Beetles. If the nostalgia is lost on you, white, black, and silver are also available. The Beetle SE rolls on 17-inch multi-spoke wheels, and the SEL gets 18-inch retro-style chrome disk wheel covers. Inside, both SE and SEL trims get diamond-stitched upholstery, with the SE getting …
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