For more than thirty years, the VW Golf (and sometimes, the Rabbit) has looked about the same. To some, it's a reason to claim boredom and to move on to some of the jazzy designs from America and Korea.
To others, it's a sign of stability, and of a well-honed design that's earned a spot in some conservative hall of fame. It's a two-box shape, but there's some subtlety in the sculpting of its front end and in the cutlines that sharply delineated the body into sections. Drama? It leaves that behind for the Focus or the Elantra, though there's more wedge and more attitude in the three-door.
In the Golf's favor are some really nicely executed, appealing details. A handful of interesting creases have shown up on the hood. The front end has a slightly wider grille and halogen headlamps. There's a small spoiler at the back, where the hatch hinges to the body. The Golf TDI is distinguished only by oval fog lamps and if you order them, xenon headlamps. In all, the Golf has grown a bit broader, a little more balanced, but remains evolutionary in looks.
We'll be happy if the cabin stays true to the tightly constructed, sober look it has now. There's more of a modern imprint in its simplified, better-detailed dash, in this year-old redesign, and better control interfaces--while the big round gauges remain front and center, in perfect view. The Golf hasn't gone where the 2011 Jetta sedan has gone: the hatchbacks have better textures and materials than the Mexican-built Jetta, which grew longer and cheaper in a pitch to woo more American buyers. Given the choice of cabins to sit in, we'd opt for the richer Golf environs than the spacious, hard, plasticky cockpit of the Jetta almost any time.