IT'S HARD TO argue against the new Volkswagen Golf as the most important car of the 2012 Paris motor show. The Range Rover and Jaguar F-type may inspire more emotion and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a more impressive technological showcase, but the Golf is likely to end up on more driveways than any other Paris show star.
The new Mk7 has a tough act to follow. Today's Mk6 remains the best small hatchback on sale, so unless VW has dropped the ball in a major way the new Golf ought to be quite a car.
Volkswagen has taken an evolutionary approach with the Mk7's styling. It's recognisably a Golf albeit sharper and more muscular than before. Beneath the skin the Mk7 is based on a new platform which also sees service in the new Audi A3 and the 2013 Seat Leon.
Improved economy and emissions will be welcomed by everyone, caravanners included. However, those of us who tow regularly won't be so pleased to see kerbweights dropping by around 100kg, which means the new Golf suits a narrower range of tourers if you wish to abide by the 85% guideline.
The diesel engines should be best suited to towing. The line-up starts with a 103bhp 1.6-litre diesel which achieves 74.3mpg according to official figures. It emits just 99g/km of carbon dioxide (CO2). The Bluemotion version achieves an astonishing 88mpg and emits just 85g/km of CO2.
A 2.0-litre with 148bhp replaces the current 138bhp engine and is likely to be the pick of the range for towing, as the 168bhp engine in the current car won't be available from launch.
We're chasing more technical detail from Volkswagen, including kerbweights, towing limits and whether a more powerful diesel will be added to the range in due course.
What we can say with certainty is that the Mk7 is roomier and more practical than the old car. The wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles) has increased, leading to more legroom for those travelling in the back. Boot space has improved by 30 litres to 380 litres and the lower sill will make loading easier.
We're driving the new Golf on October 9th and 10th, so we'll have more to report on the Mk7 then. The first UK deliveries are expected in January.