(A Little) Assembly Required: Playmobil’s VW Bug, Bus

Playmobil’s Volkswagen Beetle and T1 Camping Bus aim to satisfy children and scale-model car connoisseurs who enjoy the build process of a Lego set but seek the realistic representation of a diecast car. Admittedly, Playmobil’s 52- and 74-piece sets are not nearly as build-intensive as some of Lego’s most impressive sets (automotive or otherwise)—sure to be a let-down to potential buyers who enjoy the extended assembly process. 

That said, the two Playmobil VWs make up their short build times by way of their impressive attention to detail. Flip both models’ bodies over, and etched on the undersides are things such as rear swing arms, an engine block, the transmission, and more. The same goes for the exteriors, which even include an engine compartment lid that lifts to reveal a plastic-cast flat-four, complete with visible pieces such as the carburetor, accessory belts, and cooling fan shroud. Items such as the “Pope’s nose” decklid light and hood-mounted Wolfsburg crest give the Beetle’s exterior detailing just a bit of an extra edge over its Bus compatriot’s.

The interior of the T1 Camping Bus, however, takes the crown. Both VWs’ plastic dashboards are well-detailed, but the Bus goes one step further with a rear passenger compartment that features a folding table, a small sink with storage space and an additional fold-out table, a rear bench seat that folds into a bed, and more. Those on the lower end of the models’ 5-to-99-year-old age range will surely enjoy using the living quarters of the Bus as a play space for the included figurines. The rest of us are more likely to appreciate the attention Playmobil paid to such details. Maybe it’ll even serve as the spark that ignites the flame of eventual Bus or Beetle ownership?

That said, these toys aren’t completely free of flaws. Although kids may enjoy applying stickers to these VW’s various bits and pieces, adults such as your author found the process cumbersome and annoying (let’s just try ONE more time to get it on straight). Likewise, snugging the tires over the plastic rims proved a tedious affair. Although neither item is particularly expensive, both are still pricey enough—$39.99 for the Beetle, $49.99 for the T1 Camping Bus—to make these toys more than just a spur-of-the-moment purchase for many consumers. 

If engineering detail and an immersive build experience are what you’re after, then a Lego, such as the brand’s pricey Technic Land Rover Defender with its working transmission and transfer case, may better suit your needs. Similarly, those looking to forgo the building experience entirely may find more enjoyment from a diecast scale model. Consider these Playmobil VWs the goldilocks option: neither requires too much effort to build nor cost an excessive amount to buy, and both look uncannily like their full-size kin. For car-obsessed kids in search of a new toy, as well as adults who simply enjoy automotive scale models, Playmobil’s Volkswagen Beetle and T1 Camping Bus might just fit the bill.

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