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2020 Volkswagen Golf debuts: Popular people mover embraces evolution

It's more connected and functional than ever, but we still don't know if North America will be treated to the hatchback.

Modern to the core, this time around, but a familiar thing overall.

Volkswagen

If the Volkswagen Beetle cemented the company's early success, the Golf was certainly the second hit of a one-two punch of success globally. Over seven generations of the Volkswagen Golf, some 35 million customers have taken one home.

Today, the popular hatchback pens a new chapter as the German automaker revealed the 2020 Volkswagen Golf -- the model's eighth generation. And if there's a motif present, it's that the Golf remains concerned with evolution, not revolution. That latter descriptor is arguably reserved for the Europe-only ID 3 electric car.

The evolutionary looks are only part of the package, as the eighth-generation Golf hosts numerous steps forward in the interior and powertrain departments. It's also more connected than ever with vehicle-to-everything capability (V2X). Wrapping all of these updates is a familiar shape with a sleeker front fascia and a wider lower-grille area. The new eTSI model gets slim lines running horizontally with the lower grille, but the sportier GTE plug-in hybrid model receives a honeycomb treatment.

Out back, the taillights mimic an overall more chiseled look and a sharp crease runs through the hatch to connect the two elements. The updated VW badge is present and a new font spells out "Golf" just below it.

Since Volkswagen is still being ultraquiet about whether this latest Golf will make it to North America (it's still under consideration, a VW representative affirmed), the powertrains described are Europe-only until further notice. And this time, it's all about electrification. A total of five hybrid versions are planned for Europe under the aforementioned eTSI name and eHybrid badge. The former pairs a gasoline engine with a new 48-volt mild-hybrid system and comes in three power ouputs: 109 horsepower, 129 hp and 148 hp.

2020 Volkswagen Golf

The GTE looks quite good, and it gets a swanky light bar.

Volkswagen

The eHybrid models, which are plug-in hybrids, offer two flavors. One is an efficient version, dubbed the eHybrid, while the GTE returns as the electrified GTI of sorts. Opting for the standard eHybrid nets a combined output of 201 hp, while the GTE makes 241 hp. The 13-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery should provide about 37 miles of purely electric range, too. 

Regular TSI models will receive inline turbocharged three-cylinder engines, displacing either 1.0 or 1.5 liters, and there will be another TDI model in Europe with a 2.0-liter diesel unit. If the standard Golf does come to North America, count the diesel engine out, for sure. Ditto for any plug-in hybrid model, as the ID family of vehicles will handle those duties.

The interior is where some dramatic changes unfold with a standard digital cockpit front and center. Measuring 10.25 inches, it pairs with another 8.25-inch touchscreen that handles infotainment duty. Want more screen real estate? A 10-inch touchscreen for infotainment will also be on offer.

All digital, all the time.

Volkswagen

To the left of the steering wheel reside all light controls, while the touchscreen even handles the HVAC controls' finer details. Just five physical buttons appear on the center console, which flows into a Porsche 911-esque shift-by-wire selector and the push-button start. A manual transmission is still optional, too. Overall, the cabin reflects a minimalistic approach, but the look definitely brings the car into the modern era. The current Golf's cockpit shows its age, but for those all about analog dials, this isn't the interior for you.

Further modernizing this popular people mover is a suite of active safety features and, notably, what VW calls Car2X, its name for V2X technology. The Golf will be able to communicate with smart infrastructure and any other vehicle that sports V2X capability. Essentially, it lets the car "talk" to other things and can warn the driver of a crash, slick road conditions or other scenarios ahead.

The new Golf will have a pretty quick turnaround as production kicks off in Germany. The first models will be in the hands of owners in December. In North America, we await a final answer, but the hotter GTI and R are most definitely making their way to this continent.

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