Meet the new 2013 Volkswagen Golf, Mk7 of the hugely popular small family hatchback. The new model, which goes on sale this October, is lighter, more efficient and more practical than the current car, and entry-level models are likely to be cheaper than equivalent Mk6 cars, too.
The looks have also changed, if subtly: for instance, the leading edges of the bonnet is lower, and the wheels are positioned further forward to give a shorter overhang. However, the characteristic rear pillar remains, along with elements that echo both the current Golf and its two predecessors.
The new Golf is based on the same platform, known as MBQ, as the Audi A3 and the 2013 Seat Leon; the same platform will be used for the new VW Tiguan and Touran, too.
The new Golf is 5.6cm longer than the current model, 1.3cm wider and 2.8cm lower, and its wheelbase is 5.9cm longer. Despite the increase in size, however, it's also 100kg lighter, thanks to the manufacturing methods for the steel used in its construction, plus a range of other weight-saving measures.
The reduction in weight, combined with a new range of engines, better aerodynamics and other efficiency improvements, mean CO2 emissions have been reduced by an average of 13.9% across the range.
New Golf engines and performance
The entry-level engine will be an 84bhp 1.2 TSI that averages 57.7mpg and emits 113g/km of CO2. There'll also be a 138bhp 1.4 TSI petrol with cylinder-deactivation technology (ACT), which shuts down two of the engine's four cyclinders when the power isn't needed, to save fuel – this model averages 58.9mpg and 112g/km of CO2.
The diesel line-up comprises a 103bhp 1.6 TDI that averages 74.3mpg and 99g/km of CO2. The Bluemotion version (which has the same engine but with extra efficiency-boosting features) emits just 85g/km of CO2 and averages 88mpg. A new 148bhp 2.0 TDI engine replaces the current 138bhp version; it averages 68.9mpg and 106g/km of CO2. A higher-powered 1.2 TSI, a non-ACT 1.4 petrol and a higher-powered diesel engine are expected to join the range later on.
The MBQ platform has been developed to accept five- and six-cylinder engines and four-wheel-drive, so these are all technically possible for the Golf, but VW hasn't indicated if any of these are on the cards. However, VW sources suggest a replacement of the high-performance Golf R is unlikely.
Two rear suspensions set-ups will be available. Golfs with power outputs below 121bhp get a lighter, simpler system; the rest get a more sophisticated system like the current car's. A new 'Progressive Steering' system that changes the steering ratio to boost low-speed manoeuvrability and reduce the effort needed to turn at speed is standard across the range.
From SE trim upwards, the car will have as standard a system that offers a choice of four modes – Eco, Sport, Normal and Individual – which vary the balance of performance, handling, air-con output and economy. Models with a DSG semi-automatic gearbox also have a Comfort mode.
Volkswagen says the Golf is also quieter.
New Golf 's interior
VW says the interior layout has improved, thanks to a longer, wider cabin. It says there's an extra 2cm of front seat travel and a 1.5cm improvement in rear legroom. Headroom has been slightly reduced but we've sat in the front and rear seats and fix-footers still have plenty of space to spare.
Boot space with the seats up has been increased from 350 to 380 litres and there's a wider tailgate opening that's designed to make loading easier. A two-position boot floor is standard and can be set almost level with the boot lip for easy loading.
The dashboard design is simple and fuss-free, and the centre console is angled towards the driver. There's a bigger range of adjustment for the seats and steering wheel, so more people should be able to get comfortable here, and there's a also a bigger gap between the brake and the accelerator pedals, which will reduce the chance of drivers pressing the wrong pedal. The gearlever sits slightly higher, so it's easier to reach.
All versions now have extra metallic trim.
New Golf's equipment highlights
The Golf will be available with a range of sophisticated features, including new infotainment systems and high-tech safety equipment.
Top-spec cars get infotainment systems including sat nav, a 64GB hard drive to store your music instead of using a plug-in device, and an internet hotspot.
Safety innovations include a fatigue-detection system, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and traffic sign detection. The new City Emergency Braking Function uses sensors to detect an imminent collision and automatically applies the brakes at speeds below 19mph. There's also a new system called Multicollision Brake that automatically applies the brakes after an initial collision in order to minimise any damage or injury in a second collision.
New Golf prices and specifications
Prices are yet to be confirmed, but trim levels will be S, SE (which replaces Match) and GT (sportier trim, lowered suspension). The three-door version of the new model will arrive in the UK at the same time as the five-door, and entry-level cars should be around £200 cheaper than the equivalent Mk6 models (the current Golf range starts at £16,425). Mid-spec models and above are unlikely to be cheaper than the models they replace, but they will come with more equipment as standard.
The current Golf Estate will remain on sale for the time being, though a Mk7 version is likely during 2013. VW has confirmed that a new Golf Plus, which has a taller, more practical body, is also due. A new Golf GTI is expected later next year, while the current Golf Cabriolet will retain its current shape until at least 2014.