This is the 2015 Volkswagen Golf, the seventh-generation (or Mk7) of the hatchback. Doesn't look much different from the last, does it?
Under the skin, the Mk7 makes increased use of lightweight materials. The 2015 Golf's body-in-white is 51 pounds lighter than the previous model. Overall, the Golf is up to 82 pounds lighter, depending on trim and options.
The lighter MBQ chassis is also stiffer, which results in a more controlled ride and predictable handling.
Under the hood, you'll find any of a variety of engine choices, including gasoline, diesel, and even electric options.
In the states, it all starts with the new 1.8-liter four-cylinder EA888 TSI gasoline engine.
The turbocharged engine is good for 170 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque, matching the power and exceeding the torque when compared to the 2.5-liter that it replaces.
The new engine is also lighter than the old five-banger and more compact. This has some interesting side effects. For example, by integrating the EA888's exhaust headers directly into the cylinder head, the automaker is able to improve thermal management of the exhaust and increase the longevity of the turbocharger.
We were able to drive the TSI with both the five-speed manual gearbox and the optional six-speed automatic transmission. The engine's around town performance was pretty good, but I found the gearing to be a tad tall for any real performance driving. For that, you'll want an upgrade to the GTI.
Handling and ride quality were in keeping with this low-cost hatchback's sporty reputation. It doesn't carve a corner like the GTI, but you can certainly tell the two models share DNA.
The Mk7 is also available with the compact EA288 turbodiesel engine at the TDI trim level.
The 2.0-liter diesel is only good for 150 horsepower, but torque is rated at 236 pound-feet, which makes for good get-up-and-go within the short swing of its tachometer.
The TDI is estimated to do 31 mpg in the city and 42 mpg on the highway when equipped with the manual transmission. The gasoline-powered TSI model does 26 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.
The Mk7 Golf's angles have been sharpened starting with the headlamps, which are more angular.
The upper grill has been narrowed, completing the serious look. Peek at the lower grill here and you'll see the sensor for the optional forward pre-collision alert system.
Overall length has stretched by 2.1 inches with 1.7 inches of that being occupied by an elongated wheelbase. However, the overall height has decreased by 1.1 inches.
You'll find anything from 15-inch steelies with covers to 18-inch alloys filling the Golf's wheel wells, depending on the trim level.
Inside, the driver and passengers are treated to more shoulder and legroom thanks to the Golf's larger stature.
The interior features upgraded materials and visual textures. I was fooled momentarily into thinking that was real metal trim on the dashboard. A probing tap revealed it to be metallic plastic, albeit attractive plastic.
The steering wheel feels good in the hand, but I found the thumb-activated buttons to be a bit oddly organized. Then again, I only had a few hours behind the wheel to deal with that learning curve.
The Golf TDI can be had with the dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission, which features sport and manual shift modes and seamless shifts.
In classic Golf fashion, the instrument cluster uses simple white on black graphics that are easy to see in all conditions.
Between the large analog gauges is a monochromatic multi-information display that puts everything from hands-free call information to audio source data at a glance.
All Golf models will feature a 5.8-inch touchscreen as part of the new MIB infotainment system. Navigation, on the other hand, is optional.
The list of standard audio sources is admirable, including HD Radio, USB and SD card connectivity, and Bluetooth audio streaming.
The glovebox is home to the optical media slots and way more SD card slots and holders than you'll probably ever need.
The Mk7 Golf with its MIB system is one of the first vehicles that we've seen with a native Apple Lightning connector for fast iPhone connectivity.
VW claims that the enlarged Golf now boasts more cargo volume than any midsized sedan even with the rear seats up.
With the seats folded flat, the Golf becomes downright cavernous. There's plenty of room for flat-packed furniture or a bike.
The 2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI and TDI will launch alongside the GTI Mk7 this year and be joined by the Golf R and Golf Sportwagen in 2015.
Stay tuned to our continued coverage of the 2015 Volkswagen Golf Mk7 launch.