Until then, we have the Wolfsburg-built Golf tested here to look for clues as to what’s to come from VW’s popular hatchback. We spent most of our time on the twisty backroads of Sardinia in a 2.0-litre TDI model that’s the superior of two diesel engines available in Europe, putting out 150 hp to its front wheels through a smoothly refined six-speed manual. This engine is rated at an impressive 4.1 L/100 km overall, although those are optimistic European efficiency figures, and garnered using the newly available seven-speed DSG automatic.

Six-speed DSG and five-speed manuals are also available, as are four gas engine options in Europe: a four-cylinder 1.2-litre TSI unit producing 85 horses, rising to a 1.2-litre TSI with 105 hp, a 1.4-litre engine making 122 ponies, to a 1.4-litre TSI with 140 hp that comes with cylinder deactivation technology that cuts power to two cylinders under light load. One of these latter two engines seems destined to arrive in North America to (finally) replace the aging 2.5-litre five-cylinder, which is relatively loud and coarse.

Stamping out such coarseness seems to be a key objective in this seventh-gen Golf, as both the TDI manual and a quick spin in a 1.4 TSI model proved that entry-luxe sophistication was the overriding engineering objective here. Both revved smoothly to redline, and handled curves with a confidently controlled composure.

First Drive: 2014 Volkswagen Golf volkswagen first drives First Drive: 2014 Volkswagen Golf volkswagen first drives
2014 Volkswagen Golf. Click image to enlarge

Aided by the stop/start technology that’s standard in every Golf model, and a drop in curb weight of 100 kg, the 140-hp gas-powered Golf achieves a European average of 4.7 L/100 km (combined cycle, with DSG automatic). This despite the fact that the new Golf is a larger and roomier car, though VW execs pointed out that the weight savings didn’t come from using costlier materials such as aluminum and magnesium.

Looks-wise, there are few surprises here, as per usual with the Golf. VW design director Andreas Mindt says the Golf has an iconic design that will help it holds its value in 10 years. I say its conservative looks will hurt it in the race to catch up to sales of the more outgoing Ford Focus, though the Corolla’s perch at the top of the global best-selling cars list likely supports Mindt’s view.