2010 Volkswagen Golf at 2009 New York Auto Show

  • Competes with: Mazda3 hatchback, Honda Fit, Mini Cooper
  • Looks like: VW is obsessed with smooth styling
  • Drivetrain: 170-hp, 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder or 140-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel with five-speed manual (gas), six-speed manual (diesel) or six-speed automatic (gas or diesel); front-wheel drive
  • Hits dealerships: Fall 2009

Volkswagen has updated its compact hatchback for 2010, giving it smoother exterior styling, updates to the cabin and a newly available diesel engine. It also marks the return of the name “Golf,” which had been ditched for the past few years in favor of “Rabbit.”

Smooth exterior styling was already one of the defining elements of the outgoing Rabbit, but the new Golf looks even slicker. The most significant exterior change is to its face, which has new headlights that are much more integrated into the grille than before. The grille itself is wider, and the lower portion of the front bumper has been restyled. In back, new taillights closely resemble those from VW's Touareg SUV.

The Golf will be offered in 2.5 and TDI trim levels. The base 2.5 hatchback is powered by a 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder engine that makes 170 hp. The optional diesel engine in the TDI makes less power —40 hp — but produces a boatload of torque (236 pounds-feet at 1,750 rpm). Fuel economy figures haven't been released, but the gas engine's should be similar to the Rabbit's — which got between 29 and 30 mpg on the highway, depending on the transmission — while the diesel engine will likely be somewhere around the Jetta TDI's estimates of 40-41 mpg on the highway, and maybe even higher.

The cabin has a lot of updated surfaces, including new door interiors, a new center control panel, a new steering wheel and new gauges, but somehow it still looks a lot like the Rabbit's; the changes are rather subtle. That's not as much of an issue as you might think, though, as the Rabbit had one of the nicer interiors in its class.

More photos below.

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