According to Volkswagen, the electric ID 3’s name points in part to its position as the start of the firm's third era, and it's role as the heir to the Beetle and Golf as the firm’s most important car. Just one problem with that: the Golf is still here.

In 1974, the Golf replaced the Beetle on Wolfsburg’s main line, consigning the original people’s car to limited production. While the original Beetle remained in production in Mexico until 2003, it was primarily sold in developing markets, while the revived New Beetle was bought for style, not practicality. The Beetle was effectively eclipsed by the Golf from the day the latter launched.

It will be a different story with the Golf and ID 3. While the bold new electric model – the first production model to result from Volkswagen's huge investment in the MEB electric architecture – might be the future, the firm is going to make and sell far more Golfs in the immediate future.

With the seemingly untoppable rise of electric cars that will likely change at some point, while raises longer-term questions about what happens to the Golf badge – surely VW won’t simply abandon the heritage of that nameplate?

But those are questions for the future. Thanks to VW deciding to focus on the ID 3 at this year's Frankfurt motor show, the new Golf has had to wait for its moment in the spotlight. And, conversely, the ID 3's arrival benefits the Golf: it means this Mk8 doesn’t have to be represent a car for the future, or move VW into new sectors. It doesn't have to set new trends, or set a new path for a company seeking to move on from the travails of dieselgate.

The ID 3 has to carry all that baggage. The Golf 8 simply has to be the ideal family car for today – a better version of what came before. 

That's reflected in the conservative, evolutionary exterior design. And while Volkswagen is talking up the hefty investment on a revamped interior, new digital technology and new mild hybrid engines, the important mechanical bits of the Golf – the MQB platform, the dimensions, most of the mechanicals - are mildly tweaked, not reinvented. Volkswagen didn't have to reinvent the Golf, it just had to improve it and spruce it up for 2020. The future? Well, that's for the likes of the ID 3 to worry about.

In an industry obsessed with the future, the new Golf is a rare thing: a car for the present. And it appears all the better for it.


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