Volkswagen is preparing to launch its own saloon version of the new Skoda Rapid/Seat Toledo, a vehicle that should go on to become one of its best sellers.

However, the new price-leading VW will not be sold in the UK, having being conceived to be produced and sold exclusively in China. Confusingly, it will be built under two different names and joint ventures.

The new saloon (adapted from a hatchback in Europe) will replace the archaic Santana 3000 Vista and Jetta Mk2 models.

It will be assembled by VW’s Chinese joint ventures Shanghai-VW and FAW-VW. 

The Shanghai-VW-produced model will be called the Santana and the FAW-VW car will be badged Jetta.

Both are underpinned by a heavily reworked version of the Polo’s PQ25 platform with a more rugged torsion beam rear axle to cope with China’s unique road conditions.

While the pair share the same mechanical package and some common steel body panels, they are differentiated from one another by differing headlamps, bumpers, bonnet, door handles and tail-lamps. 

The prototypes pictured here were driven by Autocar in a recent validation test in and around the Chinese city of Chengdu, where FAW-VW will produce the Jetta at the rate of up to 1200 per day.

The more basic Santana will be built at a Shanghai-VW factory on the outskirts of Shanghai. 

Petrol engines include a 1.4 with 89bhp and a 1.6 with 109bhp. Transmissions include a five-speed manual and a six-speed automatic.

The new saloons will be revealed later this year at the Guangzhou motor show. Their arrival will take VW’s saloon offerings to seven in China, a market where saloon sales dominate. Indeed, China’s 10 best-selling cars in 2012 so far are all saloons.

The new Santana still won’t spell an end to the 27-year-old original, though; VW R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg has confirmed that it will continue to be built in reduced numbers, mainly for taxi fleets.