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The momentum building in recent weeks ahead of the launch of the new Golf - the seventh generation of Volkswagen's now iconic car - was finally vented at the weekend as it was officially unveiled to the international media in sun-splashed Sardinia.
The fanfare had been intensifying since it made an appearance at the Paris Motor Show and reached a crescendo last week as specification and pricing for this market was announced.
First the extensive details: the all-new Golf goes on sale here in December with, initially, three models and a starting price of €19,995 for the 3-door 1.2-litre 85bhp Trendline. The diesel line-up starts at €22,695 for the 105bhp 1.6-litre TDI, a new engine with CO2 emissions of just 99g/km.
From launch, the Golf, now in production since 1974, will be available here in three trim levels: Trendline, Comfortline and Highline. GTD, GTI and BlueMotion models will join the line-up in 2013. Three petrol engines and two diesel engines will be available to order.
The petrol engine range starts with a four-cylinder 1.2-litre TSI unit producing 85 bhp, rising via a 1.2-litre TSI 105 bhp up to the all-new 1.4-litre TSI 140 bhp engine with Active Cylinder Technology (ACT).
This is a significant, fuel-saving development, says Volkswagen, helping to create an efficient engine capable of 4.7 l/100km (combined cycle) and 109 g/km thanks to the ability to deactivate the central two cylinders under light loads. This makes it 23pc more efficient than the equivalent engine in the previous version of the Golf, the MK 6.
The two diesel engines at launch are a 1.6-litre TDI 105 bhp and a new 2.0-litre TDI 150 bhp unit. Both feature the latest common rail diesel technology.
All new Golf models – both diesel and petrol – come with Stop/Start as standard, along with battery regeneration. A 90bhp diesel will follow in Spring 2013.
Gearboxes are a mixture of five- and six-speed manuals, and glorious six-and seven-speed DSG units, depending on the engines’ power and torque outputs.
DSG, combined with precise chassis feedback and responsive steering, made skirting around the stunningly scenic Sardinian coastline a rare treat.
All Golf models come with seven airbags, including a driver’s knee airbag, five three-point seatbelts, ABS with ESP, XDS electronic differential lock and Isofix preparation for two rear child seats.
On Trendline models, the standard Composition Media system includes a 5-inch colour touchscreen, FM/AM radio as well as eight speakers (front and rear) and a CD drive (MP3 compatible). Also standard is ‘Climatic’ semi-automatic air conditioning and an electronic parking brake.
From Trendline to Comfortline trim brings a range of features, including cruise control, Bluetooth phone, Radio Composition Media with a 5.8 inch touch screen which responds to wiping and zooming gestures akin to surfing on an iPad, and there is access to ‘Phone’ and ‘Voice’ commands. There are integrated USB and aux-in interfaces in the centre console.
On the outside, 15” alloy wheels come as standard on Comfortline models. The Highline model has 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, deep red tail-light clusters, black radiator grille with chrome mouldings and electrically folding exterior mirrors. Inside, the Highline has a 3-spoke leather multifunction steering wheel, sports front seats and Piano Black Mesh inserts for the centre console.
Optional equipment includes high beam assist, lane assist, park assist (which is able to parallel-park the Golf in spaces only 80cm longer than the car itself in addition to providing automatic parking), ACC adaptive cruise control and a rear-view camera.
Drivers can also select from a choice of alternative alloy wheels up to 18-ins in diameter, bi-xenon headlights, ‘Vienna’ leather upholstery (optionally with 12-way electrically adjustable front seats), 2-Zone climate control, the Discover Pro navigation system with 8-inch colour touchscreen, keyless entry and a panoramic sunroof, among other options.
Attractive finance rates for the new Golf will be available from Volkswagen Bank, with Hire Purchase rates of just 4.9pc and PCP (Personal Contract Plan) rates from just €239 per month including delivery charges.
In Sardinia we drove three variants - including the 1.4 TSI 140bhp, turbocharged petrol with Active Cylinder Management technology which, in simplest terms, allows two cylinders to drop out in light load situations thus effecting significant fuel savings.
Volkswagen's assertion that a revised chassis contributes to enhanced handling producing a more dynamic and more comfortable driving experience could not be faulted. Clearly the new Golf is now, more an ever, a real driver's car. In addition, it's roomier - there's 33cm more shoulder room in the cabin - more sturdy and more sculpted than before.
Handling is assured thanks largely to XDS, standard on all models, an electronic differential which eliminates understeer at high cornering speed and gives optimum traction in all conditions.
Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual driving modes facilitate varying handling experiences, altering suspension settings with just the touch of a dial.
With the new Golf, Volkswagen executives are hopeful of winning customer 'conquests' from the likes of BMW 1 and Hyundai i30 owners.
On their own admission, in the Golf, Volkswagen designers set out to achieve "perfection". It's a weighty aspiration but on initial evaluation there is no doubting the Golf is a very fine car.
As for shortcomings? For one, and it's a small one, the Sat Nav should be taken out and sternly spoken to about its sense of direction.
As for Volkswagen, with the new Golf they're clearly on the right road to enhancing its illustrious history. It's still their best brand ambassador.