The debut of an all-new, seventh generation Volkswagen Golf should be cause for celebration. After all, the lovable compact is one of the world’s most popular and most personable vehicles. It has very unique characteristics that cause its owners to develop a deep, almost obsessive connection with their machine.
But while the 2014 Golf, unveiled this week in Berlin, is an improvement over the outgoing generation in almost every way, it also may be losing a bit of its famous character. Volkswagen made the new Golf lighter, more powerful, more fuel efficient and loaded with more features, but they did it in the same way that every other automaker is doing it.
The use of high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels is in full effect in the Golf VII, which as we explained in this story about the Cadillac ATS, allows automakers to use less steel than usual, saving gobs of weight. The new Golf loses 220 lbs. compared to the previous generation, which is nothing to shake a stick at.
That supermodel diet is going to make the new Golf faster, more economical and better in overall performance. We don’t know exactly how much powerful or economical yet, because Volkswagen hasn’t announced the engines that will come to the U.S. The European market will have a 1.4L turbo engine with 140 horsepower and 49 mpg (European Cycle) overall, and a base TDI engine with 105 horses and 62 overall EC mpg.
The biggest concern, however, is the size of the Golf VII. Volkswagen extended the wheelbase by 2.3 inches and moved the front wheels forward by 1.7 inches, creating a more sporty profile – but this is a trick. The car’s proportions may appear to be more athletic, but pushing the wheels farther out hides how much the Golf has grown.
It’s 2.2 inches longer and 0.5 inches wider, partly to accommodate increasing safety measures and improve ride quality, and partly to improve interior space and cargo capacity. At the same time, say goodbye to the tiny car with tons of character. The Golf is almost a full-blown sedan now, or even the size of a small crossover. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – safety and performance improve – but it’s also not a Golf.
Volkswagen is trying to increase its appeal in order to become the world’s largest automaker, but they may have lost some of their soul in the process.
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