IF YOU can chart changes in consumer demand through the Volkswagen Golf, which was launched in 1974, then the latest model appears destined to reflect an age when we wanted the objects around us to be cleverer than we are.
Unveiled today, and in showrooms come February, the 2017 Golf has had a number of cosmetic and mechanical upgrades. But it is the digital gadgets and gizmos that are likely to attract the most attention among the connected generation.
The days of twiddling knobs and pressing buttons are nearly over. The revised Golf is all digital dials and gesture recognition, as drivers flick through the menus on the infotainment system to change radio station, skip through a playlist or get directions to Granny’s new house.
This finger-waving feature is part of a Discover Pro system that centres on a 9.2in touchscreen. It includes a more powerful sound system with a DVD drive, two USB ports, a pair of SD card slots and movie, jukebox and podcast software. Smartphones can be brought back to life with inductive — or wireless — charging, ending the days of leads trailing around the cabin.
A Security and Service package will allow the driver to schedule a service, call for breakdown recovery and be alerted when the car alarm is triggered.
VW says parents — or, perhaps, suspicious partners — can keep a watchful eye on whoever is driving their car, choosing where the car can be driven, and at what speed; if it strays beyond these limits, the VW Car-Net app will trigger an alarm on a smartphone.
Many will prefer to let the car do the driving: automatic versions can use Traffic Jam Assist, which combines a lane-keeping system and active cruise control to handle basic stop-start driving.
All this comes in addition to a modest facelift — so modest, in fact, that you’d need to park new and old cars side by side to spot the difference — and the introduction of a 1.5-litre TSI petrol engine and a seven-speed automatic gearbox to replace the existing six-speed unit.
Fans of the GTI hot hatch will be pleased to learn that it benefits from a hike in power: the standard GTI’s 2-litre turbo engine will generate 227bhp and the Performance version will conjure up 242bhp.
Despite the Dieselgate emissions scandal, sales of the Golf remain buoyant in Britain. It is this year’s fourth-bestselling car, having notched up nearly 60,000 sales by the end of September.
Watch the live unveiling here: