2009 Volkswagen GTI

But perhaps the greatest example of careful refinement comes not with the car's mechanicals, but with the GTI's appearance. At a glance, the new car resembles the old in all but the front view. Ah, but the VW stylists are a crafty bunch. Under the direction of design boss Walter de'Silva, they've quietly worked to give the latest Golf a subtly sporty look, and they've done the same for the GTI. The car's roofline tapers to a lower point in the rear, while the broad, chiseled beltline gives it a true sense of muscular power that the fifth-generation car lacked. Yes, the nose is a near clone of both the Scirocco and basic Golf, but we'd have to say the slim grille really works. Unlike the tall, tapered aperture of the Mk V, the new design makes the car seem wider, not taller - an effect amplified by a matching lower section.

Inside, the GTI still uses those retro plaid seat inserts, but it gains the refinement and style of the latest Golf interior. We've heard VW used the money it saved on the new car's assembly to take a long, hard look at refining interiors. Though we'll only be able to tell once we've felt (and driven in) it ourselves, the press shots seem to suggest an atmosphere that's much more hospitable to its passengers.

We'll see the car for ourselves in the first week of October, but those interested in purchasing one in North America will have to wait a bit longer. Volkswagen plans to begin shipping the new GTI to the U.S. by the summer of 2009, long after the Europeans get their hands on the car, but before the basic Golf/Rabbit arrives in the fall.

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