VW has taken a leaf from the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' school for its latest Golf. Playing spot the difference with its former models will be difficult, but the car's sober fans won't be complaining

This is the new Golf. Honestly, it is. They are even calling it the Mk VI, which prompts the question, at what point does a heavy facelift become an all-new model? So, what exactly is new about it? The face is purloined from the forthcoming Scirocco. There are some new engine features, but some old ones too. The interior looks identical, and the suspension and floor pan in fact are so. Apparently it has improved door seals, but somehow I doubt that will get the flashbulbs popping come the "ta-da!" moment when they whisk away the white sheet at the Paris Show in October. The whole thing reeks of "production efficiencies" and cautious accounting. In the wake of tumbling car sales and mass profit warnings (even BMW is wobbling), could this be the first post-credit-crunch car launch?

Next question: will Golf buyers care? I doubt it. Golfs are a knee-jerk purchase for thousands. If they were sold in the high street, you would buy them at Gap. Owners might "um" and "ah" for a few moments about the colour, before plumping for dark blue, but that's about it. This is not a criticism, quite the opposite. Anyone who, like me, spends hours trawling German used-car websites for cheap Citroë*SMs, or watching the films on jaylenosgarage.com, is clearly a little mental. In contrast, Golf buyers strike me as perfectly balanced individuals, happy to stump up a hefty premium over a Ford Focus every three years or so for a discreet, straight-up kinda hatch, capable of passing unremarked upon from the supermarket car park to the gravel drives of Surrey.

If VW had done a Honda Civic and unveiled a prop from an episode of Space 1999, its customers would have deserted in silent droves, most likely for the Audi A3 they had always dismissed as an unconscionable extravagance. Ford might get away with that kind of design leap because its customers are common and like "something a bit different". Golf owners don't. They choose vanilla, have regular bowels and fall asleep to the Newsnight theme tune every night.

VW knows what it is doing. Certainly more than the over-excitable journalist who wrote: "One more naval-gazing styling job like this and the brand is liable to disappear in a puff of narcissism." (Actually, that was me, writing about the last Golf in 2004. Twit.)

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