Volkswagen Golf VII pictures and hands-on

Let’s cut to the chase. This is the iPhone 5 of the car world if there ever was one. Longer, "lower", wider and - crucially - lighter, one can’t help but compare the new, seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf to a certain phone recently unveiled by the boys and girls from Cupertino. And, like the fruity telecoms device, it will be bought - almost slavishly - by many people who will never consider anything else.

You may find that frustrating - aren’t there loads of other reasonably priced, family hatchbacks to consider you say? Well yes, but that doesn’t mean you should rule out the new Golf - or indeed wait for it to go on sale (late this year) if you’re in the market for this size of car.

While visually very similar to the model that went before it, the new Golf manages to come across as simply 15 per cent better than its predecessor all-round. And while its design evolution might be obvious or even seem unimaginative, considered in isolation it is still peerless in its class. There won’t quite be queues at VW dealerships in the manner of Apple Regent Street recently, but expect it to sell like hot cakes all the same.

Visually, these pictures will shout “same again” to you, but see it in the metal and you’ll know it’s new. Unlike the previous generation, the side feature line doesn’t run through the rear wing into the rear lamp cluster. That leaves the Golf’s signature C-pillar to run down in one continuous surface into the wheel arch and gives the car real visual strength and classlessness.

Volkswagen’s new MQB platform allows Golf VII to swim against the tide of the mainstream cars and adopt a “cab backward” proportion - visually, it positions the Golf towards more premium cars like the A3 and 1-Series and puts clear air between it and cars such the Focus, C’eed and Astra.

Inside, where the previous Golf had started to lag behind cars like the Focus, it now regains its lead. That’s because the tech is all present and correct - 8-inch touchscreen, speed-limit recognition, auto-brake systems and a host of other tech-based, crash avoiding devices. And if you’re a fan of VW group’s typically calm, sophisticated interior design, you’re in for a real treat. Quality in here is palpably better than anything else in the class - soft touch plastic and expensive feeling chrome fillets abound. We suspect it’s going to be a lovely place to spend the next three years of your driving life.

But the new platform - which the Golf shares with the Audi A3 - also means it’s lighter: up to 100kg against the old car, depending on model. It might not sound like much, but it’s impressive considering how much more (heavy) tech equipment you get. Engines span a series of familiar petrol and diesels - all turbocharged - and here in Paris, VW shouted about the new Bluemotion’s 85g/km of CO2 emissions. That, in the real world, should equate to a hybrid-busting 70+ mpg.

At the other end of the scale, VW will also show a “GTi concept” at the Paris show tomorrow.

Like the iPhone then, it’s predictable, and possibly still beaten in certain areas by its rivals. But if you want the peerless, class standard, there really is very little to put you off the Golf and a lot to turn you on. And even if you’re an anti-VW type, we’d recommend you have a go if you’re after a car like this, when it goes on sale later in the year. VW aren’t known for messing the Golf up, so expect it to ride, steer and generally flow down a road, as well - if not better - than anything else in the class.