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2014 Volkswagen Golf

By Paul A. Eisenstein

On Sale: First Half 2014
Expected Pricing: $19,000 to $27,000






An all-new Volkswagen Golf goes on sale in the U.S. sometime in early to mid 2014 as either a 2014 or 2015 model. Three-door and five-door versions will be available, and a sporty GTI version will be offered.

While mainstream American buyers have tended to focus on Japanese compacts like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, a small but dedicated group of loyalists have long insisted the real benchmark comes to us from across the Atlantic.

While the Volkswagen Golf is a best-seller in much of the world in the U.S. it has long taken a backseat to the four-door Passat, reflecting the American ambivalence towards hatchbacks. But if our first look at the seventh-generation Golf during its debut at the Paris Motor Show is any indication it's destined to gain a larger following once it rolls into U.S. showrooms in early 2014.

The new Golf is 2.2-inches longer than the current Gen-6 hatchback, 0.5-inches wider and an inch lower. Those numbers, aided by some creative engineering on the new model, will yield increases in both front and rear shoulder, leg and elbow room and about an extra cubic foot of cargo space in back.

The Gen-7 Golf also follows an increasingly common pattern among manufacturers to shed weight wherever possible, mass being the enemy of both mileage and performance, as any good automotive engineer will explain. Considering the diminutive size of the Golf, losing 220 pounds compared to the outgoing model is no small feat. One reason is the increased use of high-strength steel, which has gone from 6 percent to 28 percent of the total steel used in the new Golf.

Also in keeping with industry trends, the little hatchback will deliver the sort of interior refinement you might have expected in a larger and more expensive model, such as the midsize VW Passat, just a few years ago. That means more soft-touch materials on the doors and instrument panel, for example, more richly grained plastics with sporty aluminum accents, and optional leather seating.

The European models shown in Paris were reasonably well-outfitted, as buyers there tend to see compact models as their family cars. So, to hold down costs, VW will likely have a shorter list of standard features here and plenty more options that could include adaptive cruise control, an auto park system and navigation. The base car will feature a 5.8-inch LCD display but that gets upgraded to an 8-inch touchscreen with navi.

Volkswagen officials have promised to upgrade the safety of the new Golf because the current model falls short of the coveted 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Not only has the maker beefed up the chassis with high-strength steel, but it will add a number of new safety features. Europeans will got a new system designed to automatically brake the Golf if the driver fails to react to an obstacle ahead. Considering the way U.S. insurance companies are praising that technology expect it to be offered as an option here, as well.

On the powertrain side, we expect similar engines to what we have today, including the base 2.5-liter 170-horsepower package and the GTI's 200-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder. And considering the growing demand, VW promises to maintain a diesel for the U.S. market, as well. 6-speed automatic transmissions are also likely, with 5- or 6-speed manuals depending on the model.

A high-performance 2.0-liter Golf R is also expected to follow, perhaps a year after the initial Golf VII launch.

As for fuel economy, VW has lagged the pack, except when it comes to the diesel. Don't be surprised if the new generation delivers numbers topping 40 mpg on the highway thanks to improvements in aerodynamics and powertrain, as well as the vehicle's lighter weight.

While pricing won't be finalized until closer to launch, we anticipate something close to today's numbers, starting at $18,790, though VW will likely add a bit to cover new hardware and software systems.

Will the five-door finally get its due? American buyers are slowly warming to hatchbacks considering their functionality and more modern looks and if anything could convince buyers to give one a try, the upcoming Golf VII looks likely to turn the trick.

800-DRIVE-VW
www.vw.com



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