We’ve been here five times before. This is the sixth launch of a VW Golf I’ve covered since 1974, and every time there has been a replacement, there has been an accompanying wail from critics that the new model “doesn’t go far enough”.
From time to time, I’ve even written those words myself, though these days - and this time - I’ve decided VW gets it about right, given that they have so much to lose if they don’t.
Inside the company there’s a deep knowledge that a fine balance must be struck between the new and the traditional, and the company’s designers and management fret and fidget with dozens of iterations until they get it right.
Not that every Golf is as good as the last. The star models, which VW is strenuously trying to match this time, are widely regarded as being Giugiaro’s seminal MkI (a little of whose freshness, lightness and simplicity of line has been echoed in every succeeding model) and Dr Piech’s class-busting MkIV (which appeared soon after Ford launched the Focus to bring a new level of refinement and quality to cars in this class). The latest car tries especially hard on both of these traditional fronts: simplicity of design and superior quality.
We’ll need to see and drive production cars to know for sure, but to me it looks like succeeding. The new Golf, which once again “doesn’t go far enough”, will be heading again for its natural slot as Europe’s best-selling car.
Interesting to note, however, that though the latest Golf seems a simple answer to some critics, it has already been the object of huge controversy inside the company.
The car you see was conceived in little more than 18 months. A previous project, fronted by design team leader Murat Gunak, was abruptly binned when Audi boss Dr Martin Winterkorn took the reins of the whole group and ordered a radical change to VW’s design course.
Former Alfa/Seat/Audi designer Walter de Silva took overall command, Gunak left the company, and the Golf VI you see here was brought to life.
In particular, it ditched the deep-grille nose treatment seen on the Iroc concept car (precursor of the recently launched Scirocco) and brought a simpler, more familiar grille treatment. Half-close your eyes and you soon see that it harks back, quite clearly, to 1974. Like I say, we’ve been here before...