2014 Volkswagen Golf Preview: Lighter, Larger, More Efficient

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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.

Larger, roomier

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.

More features

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

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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

2014 Volkswagen GTI concept

Enlarge Photo

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.

'Warm forming'

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

2014 Volkswagen GTI concept, 2012 Paris auto show

Enlarge Photo

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 ...

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