Is a 1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle Faster than a Ford Fiesta ST? (It’s Closer Than You Might Think!) [Video]

Is fifty years of technological advancement a recipe for some serious speed?

Look, we know the 1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle is slow. Despite the car’s other charms, speed was never a feather in the Beetle’s cap. Back in this car’s heyday, it’s naturally-aspirated, air-cooled 1.6-liter flat-four engine produced a figure of 60 horsepower. Not exactly stratospheric numbers, even by 1970s standards. But, on the other hand, it is a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive car with a four-speed manual transmission. And it’s light! While our long-term Ford Fiesta ST tips the scales at 2,700 pounds, the Beetle is much lighter. In fact, it weighs around 1,800 pounds – nearly half a ton less than the hot hatch.

TFL’s long-term hot hatch returns for another heated duel on the track. [Photo: TFLcar]
Mind you, it also lacks airbags, a real air conditioning system, big wheels, grippy tires, an infotainment system, or basically any other modern amenity you care to mention. It also lacks water cooling and a turbocharger. That allows the front-engined, front-wheel drive Fiesta to make 197 horsepower and 202 lb-ft of torque. In the grand tradition of Lotus founder Colin Chapman, though – “Simplify, then add lightness” – maybe the Beetle has a trick up its sleeve. Can it come anywhere near the Fiesta’s level in a drag race and on a hot lap? Watch the video above to find out!

Does the 1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle have a chance against the Ford Fiesta ST?

An unexpected result

You’d think pitching the Fiesta against the Volkswagen Super Beetle isn’t a fair competition. And you’d be right, since Ford’s hot hatch runs away from the leisurely Bug on the track. However, this is a contest of just how much faster the brand new Fiesta is than the Super Beetle. That’s where the surprise comes in – it’s not as big a gap as you might think.

The drag race yields a pretty clear cut result. In the hot lap, on the other hand, TFL’s Michael Curtis managed a 1:40 time against Andre’s 1:12 run in the Fiesta ST. Fifty years of turbocharging and technological advancement, and the Beetle was only 28 seconds slower.