WOLFSBURG, GERMANY - It’s been teased to death. It’s been leaked left right and centre by embargo-dodgers. But now Volkswagen has finally made it official, unveiling the eighth-generation Golf and spilling the beans on all its technologies and innovations.

And that seems like a good place to start as Volkswagen boldly proclaims that this Golf represents the nameplate’s greatest leap forward since its debut 45 years ago.

Not only is it more electrified than before, with five hybrid versions available at launch (which we’ll get to in a moment) but Volkswagen has fully digitised the cabin, while also introducing advanced car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure technologies as well as new driver-assist features that allow semi-autonomous driving, with steering, throttle and braking assistance, at speeds of up to 210km/h.

For the record, the new Golf is 26mm longer than its predecessor and is once again underpinned by the MQB modular platform.

We won’t harp on about the exterior for long as it is clearly an evolution of Golf 7, but with sharper angles at the front and back that give the car a more sculpted look. 

The changes inside, however, are radical to say the least. Virtually all of its displays and controls are now digital, with a new high-mounted touchscreen infotainment system melding seamlessly into the digital instrument cluster, while a head-up display system will be available as an option. And advanced new voice control system, designed to respond to natural voice commands, is also part of the deal in the new Golf, while Amazon’s Ask Alexa system is also directly integrated into the vehicle.

Through its We Connect and We Connect Plus systems, the new Golf is always online, and a function called We Upgrade will make it possible for customers to activate new systems further down the line. And soon you won’t even need a key to access the new Golf, thanks to a new ‘Mobile Key’ function that will allow owners to use their smartphones to open and start the car, although it appears that will be limited to Samsung devices.

Another interesting new feature, although likely to be limited to Europe, is the standard Car2SX technology that uses swarm intelligence to warn of hazards ahead of time. This car literally communicates with the infrastructure as well as other cars equipped with the technology.

Wide, hybrid-heavy range of powertrains

Volkswagen is launching the new Golf with a wide range of powertrain options that should suit all needs. 

Although it is a hybrid-heavy line-up, the lower end of the range will still be available with conventional TSI turbopetrol and TDI turbodiesel engines, the former now employing the Miller combustion process in most versions.

The TSI range consists of a revised 1-litre, three-cylinder that's offered in 66kW and 81kW guises, and a 1.5-litre unit with cylinder deactivation and output options of 96kW and 110kW. A manual gearbox is standard on the TSI variants, but all versions from the 81kW option upwards can be ordered with VW’s dual-clutch DSG transmission.

Also available with a choice between manual and DSG are the 2-litre TDI variants, which are offered in 85kW and 110kW guises. There’s a TGI natural gas powered model too, with 96kW on tap.

Then we get to the hybrids, with VW offering three mild-hybrid eTSI models, based on the aforementioned TSI variants but employing a 48V lithium-ion battery and a belt starter generator to enhance efficiency. Here customers can choose from three output levels: 81kW, 96kW and 110kW.

The plug-in hybrid range has been expanded too, with the 180kW GTE now joined by a less showy sibling that generates 150kW. Both come with a 13 kWh lithium-ion battery that enables drivers to cover up to 60km on electric power alone, according to claims.

What about the GTI and GTD performance models then? Well, that's a surprise for another day, says VW.

The new Golf is expected to launch in South Africa towards the end of 2020, with the local engine line-up, specs and pricing to be announced nearer to the time.

IOL Motoring