In spite of the cost-saving platform, it still has the near-premium fit and finish that's quintessentially Volkswagen. Unlike the current Jetta--where the penny-pinching is immediately obvious from the dash--the Golf feels substantial to the touch. The slate-metallic accents on the center console look cleaner than that of the 2015 GTI, which uses pseudo-carbon fiber that would even make the aftermarket crowd grimace. At least the hot hatch still has the throwback plaid seats. Outside the Golf and GTI look leaner than the pudgy current-gen hatchbacks, and masks the 2.2 inches of additional length with a height that's lower by 1.1 inches. The wheels have also been pushed further to both ends, contributing to 0.6 inches of added rear legroom.
Even with the increased size, the new generation has a shell that's 51 pounds lighter, thanks to extensive use of high-tensile strength steel. That's coupled with mild power gains across the line-up--150-horsepower for the diesel (up 10 over the previous model), a 170-horsepower direct-injected four-cylinder for the base model, or an estimated 210 horsepower for the 2.0 turbo on the GTI.
Since the car's still about a year out before hitting dealerships, there's no word on price--but expect a mild hike at worst. Considering how Volkswagen's moving the badge forward, it'll be a small price to pay.