The new, seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf was unveiled early last month in Berlin, but more models were added to the lineup at last week's Paris Auto Show.
And while complete details weren't forthcoming, VW Group executives offered some hints on what we'll see when the 2014 VW Golf debuts in the U.S. around November 2013.
In Paris, the company revealed the new Volkswagen GTI hot hatchback, which will come to the U.S., along with the VW Golf BlueMotion, the uber-economical model with a small 1.6-liter turbodiesel that we won't see.
The Golf is by far Volkswagen's most important model globally--with almost 30 million sold since 1974--although in the U.S., the compact hatchback is outsold by the Jetta compact four-door sedan.
First deliveries of the European model start next month in Germany.
But U.S. buyers will have to wait for the 2014 VW Golf for another year--meaning the 2013 models sold here are the carryover model on sale since 2010.
The European models of what we'll see as the 2014 Volkswagen Golf are 2.2 inches longer, half an inch wider, and 1.1 inches lower than their predecessors.
Their rear legroom, shoulder room, and elbow room are all increased compared to the outgoing Golf, and cargo space rises slightly as well (by 1 cubic foot).
A standard electronic parking brake cuts cabin clutter and adds interior space.
A 5.8-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash is standard, and ordering the navigation system brings that up to an 8-inch screen.
Interior finishes include soft-touch plastics, abundant aluminum trim, and optional leather upholstery.
The mix of standard and optional features to be offered on U.S. versions is still being finalized, but the European model offers several new capabilities not found in previous Golf models.
Optional features on European versions include adaptive cruise control, a new automatic parking system, and selectable driver profiles to alter the car's performance settings.
2014 Volkswagen Golf
2014 Volkswagen Golf
On the highest trim levels, a 3-D touchscreen in the dash reacts to hand movements in front of it--reducing distraction by removing the need for the driver to focus on hitting an icon on the screen.
Automatic braking in Europe
Volkswagen has also added Front Assist with city emergency braking, which will automatically brake the car to a stop from urban speeds (below 30 mph or so) if it senses the car is about to collide with an object directly ahead.
Volkswagen has worked hard to make its new Golf meet all current and projected safety standards, anywhere in the world.
Today's Golf is not a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, nor does it receive a 5-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Lighter, more efficient
The European models of the new VW Golf are roughly 220 pounds (100 kg) lighter than the outgoing car, with the base model in Europe weighing in at just 2,600 2,300 pounds.
2014 Volkswagen GTI concept
And that's despite being designed to meet new, more stringent U.S. crash-safety tests and offering more standard and optional equipment. (U.S. models will be heavier, though.)
Volkswagen says that the weight reduction alone can add cut fuel consumption by 0.3 liters per 100 km, which in U.S. terms would be roughly 3 mpg when the car is operating under conditions in which it would return 40 mpg.
It's more aerodynamic, too, with a drag coefficient for the European model of 0.27--respectable for a hatchback--that improves significantly on the previous Golf's 0.31 Cd figure.
Part of the weight reduction comes from a new steel-forming process that VW plans to roll out to all plants building the new Golf and the many other vehicles that will share its basic architecture (known internally as MQB).
Ulrich Hackenberg, head of development for the Volkswagen brand, said the sheet steel is heated to 1750 degrees Fahrenheit (950 degrees Celsius) before it is stamped into body panels.
Because the steel becomes more rigid as it cools, the company can use thinner steel--saving weight--in a process VW calls "warm forming."
The process requires added space in the stamping process, both to pre-heat the steel and then to cool the stamping press after each part is created.
While warm forming adds cost to the assembly process, Hackenberg said, the new VW Golf still costs the company less to assemble because its part count is reduced and because Volkswagen doesn't need to use much more expensive high-strength steels in so many place.
2014 Volkswagen GTI concept, 2012 Paris auto show
Range of gasoline engines
As in the current model, the new 2014 VW Golf and GTI will offer a choice of at least two different gasoline engines. So far, none have been specified or rated for power or fuel efficiency.
But the Golf needs a bit of a boost in fuel efficiency if it's to stay competitive in the compact hatchback class. That's especially true because Ford is selling far more hatchback versions of its fun-to-drive Focus than it expected, in a segment traditionally dominated by four-door sedans.
Today's Golf offers a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that puts out 170 horsepower with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic, while the current Volkswagen GTI comes with a 200-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four and either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Of the gasoline-engined Golfs, both transmission options are rated at 26 mpg combined, while the GTI with automatic is rated at 27 mpg combined.
(There's also the hot-rod Volkswagen Golf R, with its 2.0-liter engine, at 22 mpg--but that's a low-production model.)
But U.S. Volkswagen executives suggested strongly that a version of the corporate 1.4-liter engine will be offered in U.S.-bound Golfs as well, though whether the car launches with it next year or whether it may lag a year or two was unclear.
Many makers are now offering compact cars fitted with turbocharged 1.4-liter engines, including the Chevrolet Cruze, Dodge Dart, and others to come.
Volkswagen's award-winning 1.4-liter TSI engine uses both a turbocharger for higher speeds and a supercharger at lower revs. While that engine has been on sale in Europe for several years, it is viewed as too expensive and complex for the very price-competitive U.S. market.
NEXT PAGE: Diesel plans, electric e-Golf, hybrids and plug-in hybrids ...
2013 Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion (European model), 2012 Paris Motor Show
Rather than the smaller 1.6-liter BlueMotion diesel, the 2014 VW Golf for the U.S. will continue to offer the TDI model with the current 2.0-liter turbodiesel (which should nonetheless please the legions of Volkswagen diesel fans).
At some point during the life of the new Golf TDI, that engine will be fitted with urea aftertreatment to comply with new and more stringent Euro 6 emissions standards, now scheduled to take effect in TK.
The U.S. Golf TDI will likely be updated to match, simplifying VW's diesel production--although it's unclear if the more complex exhaust treatment will raise the cost of Volkswagen's TDI models in the U.S.
Electric e-Golf: 'compliance car' only?
A year or more from now, Volkswagen will introduce the first all-electric car it's ever sold in the States.
The electric VW Golf is a battery electric version of the new model, althoughe-Golf prototypes have been tested for several years now, using the current generation of Golf.
The Volkswagen e-Golf is designed primarily to keep VW in compliance with an expanded set of California Zero-Emission Vehicle requirements
At a technical roundtable last week, VW brand head Hackenberg was asked whether the e-Golf was a viable, high-volume entry or merely a "compliance car" to meet the California rules.
Reflecting considerable skepticism about the prospects for fully electric cars, Hackenberg said, in effect, "Well, we'll see if people want to buy them."
First hybrid is Jetta instead
There will also likely be a VW Golf Hybrid model, perhaps in 2016 or later.
But the Golf will have to wait until after the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, the company's first mass-market hybrid, goes on sale late this year.
That car is claimed to deliver an EPA combined gas-mileage rating of 45 mpg from its 150-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and the 20-kW (27-hp) electric motor mounted between the engine and seven-speed DSG (dual-clutch) automated gearbox.
And it will offer buyers an intriguing choice of two different ways of improving fuel efficiency: Jetta TDI diesel versus Jetta Hybrid.
Hybrid and plug-in hybrid Golfs: later
As for the new Golf, VW hasn't confirmed a Golf Hybrid for the U.S. market so far--though the group's smallest hybrid powertrain will likely migrate eventually into most of the vehicles built on the new Golf architecture (known as MQB), including the new Audi A3.
There could also be a plug-in hybrid version of the new Golf, to follow the Golf Hybrid, though the first VW Group car to offer its plug-in hybrid powertrain in the U.S. will likely be the new Audi A3 e-tron.
That Audi model won't debut until 2014 or so, and no firm plans for its introduction have been announced. Audi has already launched a test fleet of dozens of prototypes, which are being used for now only by Audi employees across the country.
VW Group chief Martin Winterkorn discussed the hybrid and plug-in hybrid plans for VW, Audi, and Porsche at some length during last week's Paris Auto Show.
Volkswagen provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to cover the Paris Auto Show.