Agreed, a dedicated full blown Hybrid, maybe with a 3cyl motor up front, would have sounded good, though history shows 2 door hybrids are not particularly successful in sales. Or slap in the Golf R's powertrain and also take it racing.
Currently it's as if VW just snapped on a coupe body to the Golf chassis/motor and called it a day. The original New Beetle design captured a person's playful imagination and showed it's success in that it lasted for around 13 years without a major redesign. That's something the current Gen would probably not be able to do. And dreary describes the Beetles interior whereas the previous New Beetle was a cheerful place to be in.
That's not to say the first new Beetle was perfect by any means but, like you infer, the enthusiasm from the creators and from the customers who bought them was there.
I'm not a big Beetle fanatic myself, it's just deep observation. Though I really want to test drive the Turbo S asap, looks awesome.