When last we checked in on the gestation of the next Volkswagen Golf, we reported that the car will share key components with the successor to the current Passat and that the lineup will include a seven-seat microvan. Well, VW is launching the van this fall in Europe; the first new models of the fifth-generation Golf we are likely to see here, however, will be the replacements for the two- and four-door hatchbacks. They're set to debut late in 2003.
The Golf-based Jetta will not be replaced until early 2005; when it is, expect a somewhat larger car than the current model. Later that year, a new Cabrio arrives. It will lose the current convertible's ungainly roll hoop.
At 165.4 inches long and 68.6 inches wide, the next Golf hatchback will be 2.1 inches longer than the current model and 0.3 inch wider but will stand the same 56.7 inches tall. The wheelbase grows by 3.4 inches, to 102.3 inches. Luggage space increases negligibly, but back-seaters will have more legroom and optional side and side curtain air bags.
Other safety features will include active front and rear head restraints, an additional air bag installed above the pedal box (knee pads are standard), and foam-filled door panels to dampen side impacts. The multistage air bags are triggered by sensors that synchronize with software calibrated for low-speed collisions. The instrument panel will be completely redesigned, with bigger gauges and amber, instead of blue, lighting.
The new four-link rear suspension is said to be more precise and compliant than the rear end of Ford's Focus. The disc brakes will increase in size, and we should see an electronic emergency brake. There will be, of course, the usual combination of ABS, traction control, and stability control.