Home > Driven > 2019 VW Santana versus 1974 VW Super Beetle: 45-Year Generation Gap Between People’s Cars

2019 VW Santana versus 1974 VW Super Beetle: 45-Year Generation Gap Between People’s Cars

While driving the 2019 Volkswagen Santana 1.4 MPI Trendline for our recent Driven story, we realized that there’s a 45 year gap between it and the other volks (people’s) wagen (car) in our garage – our recently-acquired 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle 1303 S. Our test Santana is the base model with the 1.5 MPI Automatic Trendline and the 1.5 MPI Automatic Comfortline variants above it, while our 1974 Super Beetle was the mid-level model between the base model 1300 and the top-of-the-line 1303 LS variants. Despite this model disparity, we couldn’t help but make a fun comparison between the two cars.

As you can see from the specs comparison above, there’s several similarities and differences between today’s wagen for the volks and the ones made 45 years ago. While both cars are sedans, the Santana has four doors while our Super Beetle has two. While both have 4-cylinder gasoline engines, the front-wheel-drive (FWD) Santana has a 90-metric horsepower liquid-cooled inline-four with multi-point electronic fuel injection (MPI) at the front while our rear-wheel-drive (RWD) Super Beetle has a 60-horsepower air-cooled flat-four with a single barrel carburetor at the back. While both have manual transmissions, the Santana has a 5-speed while our Super Beetle has a 4-speed. While both are European cars, the Santana was built in Anting, China by SAIC Volkswagen Automotive Co., Ltd., a joint venture between Volkswagen and  Shanghai Automotive Industries Corporation (SAIC), while our Super Beetle was built in Wolfsburg, Germany by Volkswagenwerke AG, the original VW factory.

Our green 1974 Super Beetle has rear wheel drive (RWD) while the black 2019 Santana has front wheel drive (FWD).

A transverse-mounted 90-PS 1.4-liter liquid-cooled inline-four is at the front of the Santana…

… while a longitudinally-mounted 60-hp 1.6-liter air-cooled flat-four resides at the back of our Super Beetle.

Millennial Mismatch

Recent surveys have shown that today’s younger generation, who are often called Millennials, are not as interested in owning or driving automobiles as the older generations. While many of these Millennials may not want to learn the art of driving cars, they’d be surprised to know that both the Santana and our Super Beetle have three pedals (accelerator, brake and clutch) with the Santana’s pedals hinged from the top while those on our Beetle are hinged from the bottom. Even though the Santana is easy to steer with its electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) system, the large-diameter steering wheel of our Super Beetle makes its manual rack and pinion system steer almost as light and almost as easy.

Thick rims and electric power-assisted steering makes turning the 2019 Santana easy…

… while our Super Beetle’s thin-rimmed large-diameter steering wheel makes it easy to steer, too.

The Santana’s modern 5-speed has the shift pattern embossed on the plastic gear knob…

… while our Super Beetle’s aftermarket Hurst shift lever has a wooden gear knob…

… and the 4-speed shift pattern on the dashboard.

The base model Santana comes with standard cloth seats and headrests while our Super Beetle came with basket weave vinyl seats without headrests and a leatherette interior, which was the mid-level trim for European Super Beetles in the ’70s. The seats in both Volkswagen models are comfortable but the Santana’s bolstered and padded seats feel like you’re cocooned in them while our Super Beetle’s front seats feel like you’re perched on softly-sprung armchairs. Modern ergonomic science ensured everything’s within easy reach in the Santana while early anatomical studies used in car production means you need to reach for some of the control knobs in our Super Beetle.

The Santana’s ergonomic front seats feel like you’re sitting IN them…

… while the Beetle’s softly-sprung front seats feels like you’re seating ON them.

Three-point retractable seat belts for front passengers are standard on the Santana…

… while aftermarket 3-point non-retractable front seat belts with the Wolfsburg logo on the buckle were an added accessory for our Super Beetle.

The rear bench seat of the Santana is ergonomically-designed with seat belts, headrests, and ISOFIX anchorage…

… while the rear bench seat of our Super Beetle is just that – a sprung and padded bench.

Back to Basics

The Santana and our Super Beetle both represent basic cars that are designed to serve a defined purpose – to transport people and their stuff from point A to point B safely, reliably, and economically. However, the definition of “basis transportation” has evolved in the last 45 years and this evolution is manifested by the difference of the “basic” equipment fitted by the factory into each vehicle. But, as the saying goes, “The more things change, the more they remain the same”, some aspects of the wagen for the common volks tend to remain constant.

The Santana is fitted with 14 x 5J steel rims with plastic wheel covers…

… while our Super Beetle originally came with 15 x 5J steel wheels with chrome steel hub caps.

This small plastic switch electronically opens the rear trunk of the Santana…

… while the small plastic button at the bottom of the chrome handle opens our Super Beetle’s front compartment.

The Santana’s rear trunk can swallow 466 liters of luggage and other stuff…

… while our Super Beetle’s front compartment can hold 260 liters of stuff and other junk.

Today’s customer expectations, government safety regulations, corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, and global environmental issues have influenced the design of the modern people’s car. Engineers and designers look to the past merely for inspiration when injecting character into modern vehicles but have to comply with current regulations and forecast future trends when designing modern cars. While the principles of the internal combustion engine, self-propulsion and transportation is basically the same, the methods and efficiencies have far departed from the old, obsolete technology. Some features of the Santana retain the VW character that loyal owners will find familiar.

Image result for 2019 volkswagen santana interior

Left stalk behind steering wheel controls signal lights and high/low headlight beam…

… while right stalk controls the windshield wipers in both the Santana and our Super Beetle.

The headlight switch of the Santana is still on the dashboard to the left of the driver…

… like the headlight switch on our Super Beetle.

The Santana comes with two power-adjustable side mirrors…

… while our Super Beetle comes only with one chrome side mirror on the driver’s side.

Updated for Modern Living

As we delved further into our modern-versus-old Volkswagen people’s car comparison, we found some features and accessories in our two cars that are somewhat related to one another. We chuckled at how the technology of these features and accessories that we found inside these wagens has advanced to the point that today’s volks have taken them for granted. Some of the features are commonly found in all cars, old and new, like window risers and door pockets. It is how the design and function of these features have progressed that had us truly amazed.

The Santana’s battery is almost covered by the complex connector module on the positive terminal…

… compared to the exposed and short-circuit-prone battery connectors of our Super Beetle.

Cooling comfort in the Santana is provided by an A/C system with a 4-speed blower fan…

… compared to the single-speed mini propeller fan in our Super Beetle.

The Santana’s door sidings are molded plastic items with switches, speakers and drink holder…

… while our Super Beetle’s aging door card is plain and simple with a leatherette map pocket.

Our particular Santana test unit came with the optional Blaupunkt Philadelphia 865 infotainment system with AM/FM radio, CD/MP3/DVD player, satellite navigation, AUX, USB, and Bluetooth connectivity while our Super Beetle came with an aftermarket AM/FM radio cassette tape player with PLL synthesizer tuner and auto reverse (!) and other additional accessories when we got it, such as a single-speed electric fan and a Carmate Zax compass and thermometer that were attached using double-sided tape. It was just fun to see how far car accessories have progressed!

The Santana came with an optional Blaupunkt Philadelphia 865 infotainment system…

… while our Super Beetle had a still-functional aftermarket AM/FM cassette stereo.

Navigation in the Santana is aided by the Sat-Nav function of the optional Blaupunkt head unit…

… manipulated by this wired remote control pod…

… while navigation in our Super Beetle is aided by this Zax compass. Zax thermometer still works!

And, at the risk of sounding redundant, we’ll say it again: “The more things change, the more they remain the same!” Despite the 45-year gap between these two people’s cars, some things still remain constant. We hope you enjoyed our time-warped comparison between the 2019 Santana 1.4 MPI MT Trendline and our 1974 Super Beetle 1303 S, two authentic wagens for the volks from Volkswagen.

Vintage Beetle Instruction Manual is simple compared to the modern literature and CD-ROM that comes with SAIC Volkswagen products.

Santana Owner’s Manual and Maintenance Manual for the Philippine market is in English.

There may be myriad differences between the Santana and our Super Beetle…

… but they are both lovable volks (people’s) wagens (cars) throughout.

One comment

  1. Norberto Sison

    You forgot to include the luggage space behind the rear seats. Also, the increased luggage capacity when that seat is folded down!