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Consumer Reports auto experts report from the 2013 New York Auto Show in NYC.
Volkswagen Golf
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What is it? The seventh-generation of Volkswagen’s iconic hatchback is slightly larger, yet lower and lighter than the outgoing model. VW says it’s also more aerodynamic and will get 15 percent better fuel economy.  The increased dimensions translate into 0.6 inches more rear legroom, a little more shoulder and elbow room front and rear, and more cargo space.

VW has mercifully dropped the base 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine in favor of a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder that produces 170 hp and 184 lbs.-ft. of torque. Transmission choices for this engine have not been specified. The Golf TDI gets an all-new 2.0-liter diesel engine that produces a little more power than before: 150-hp and 236 lbs.-ft. of torque. The GTI gets VW’s established 200-hp, 2.0-liter turbo, now made in Mexico. Both the GTI and the TDI will be available with a choice of six-speed manual and six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions. All Golfs get the limited-slip differential, previously optional in the old GTI.

What is new or notable? Infotainment systems include 3D navigation and a touch screen that uses swipe controls like a smart phone and has a proximity sensor that can detect when your hand is near. (Sounds clever, with shades of the tricky Cadillac CUE system.) And unlike other recent Volkswagens designed specifically for North America, Volkswagen promises this Golf will continue to have high-quality soft-touch plastics through out the interior.

CR’s take: With the possible exception of the proximity sensing touch-screen radio, this sounds like a thorough improvement on the practical Golf. The Golf has a lot going for it as a do-everything all-around car. It offers hatchback practicality, compact efficiency, and luxury car features for a relatively affordable price. Somehow, Americans remain hesitant to embrace a car form that is so popular in Europe.

When will it be available? Early 2014.

Consumer Reports New cars: A to Z

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