VW Golf GTI MkVII spied

We spy the new lighter, faster Volkswagen Golf GTI hot hatch testing ahead of its launch next year

The new 2013 VW Golf GTI has hit the road – and Auto Express has got the best pictures yet of the eagerly-awaited Ford Focus ST rival. 

Spied testing in Scandinavia, the Golf GTI MkVII won't be radically different to look at, but it will be lighter, more powerful, more efficient and better equipped than ever. 

This prototype might wear heavy disguise but details like the larger brakes, twin exhausts, wider stance and honeycomb grille show that this is no ordinary Golf.

Under the skin lies the VW Group's new MQB platform which uses hot-formed steels to slash weight but improve rigidity. The GTI will take this a step further by featuring an aluminium roof, too, dropping weight by around 100kg to around 1,300kg.  

Power will come from a new 2.0-litre direct-injection, turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, codenamed EA888. This engine will power all manner of high performance models and has been developed by Audi, engine technology boss Dr Rudiger Szengel told Auto Express.  

It is capable of producing up to 300bhp for the range-topping Golf R, but the GTI will use a lower powered version, with around 240bhp – about the same as the current Golf GTI 35 Edition.

That might put it behind the Vauxhall Astra GTC VXR, Ford Focus ST and Renaultsport Megane 265, but VW has never sought to enter a horsepower war with other manufacturers. Instead the firm will major on driveability with more low-rev shove than its predecessor for rapid overtaking. 

With a lower kerbweight and more power it will be faster than ever. Expect its 0-62mph time to drop from the current car's 6.9 seconds to around six seconds. Top speed is likely to be 155mph, up from 149mph.

Thanks to reduced internal friction and lower overall weight, the engine will be much more efficient, with claimed economy of around 45mpg and CO2 emissions of around 150g/km.

That lighter weight and increased body stiffness will also mean improved handling and braking performance. Compared to its rivals, the GTI is likely to be slightly less engaging but more comfortable than a Renaultsport Megane 265. It will major on everyday usability.     

Inside, there will be a host of gadgets, including fatigue assist (which warns the driver if he or she is about to fall asleep at the wheel), self-parking systems and an iPad-style central touchscreen. Both three-door and five-door bodystyles will be available, with classic telephone dial-style alloys, red pinstriping, a bodykit and GTI badging as well sports seats with tartan trim. 

The Golf MkVII is expected to debut at October's Paris Motor Show, with the GTI going on sale in early 2013.

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