What at first blush appears to be the current VW Golf, is in fact a test mule for the all-new, seventh generation of Volkswagen's best-selling model, which is planned to hit showrooms worldwide sometime in 2012.
Although hidden under bodywork from the current car, the blistered and wider wheel-arches are a clear indication that the test mule is running the next generation Golf's underpinnings.
More specifically, the Mk7 will be built on the VW Group's more space-efficient and, according to sources, substantially lighter, MQB platform that comes with a longer wheelbase and shorter overhangs. First seen on the new Sharan minivan, the flexible MQB platform will be used on a raft of VW Group models including the next Audi A3, which is expected to be revealed either in late 2011 or early 2012.
Under the bonnet, the Golf Mk7 will feature the latest generation of turbocharged petrol engines with direct injection and fuel-efficient turbo diesels, ranging from a small-displacement 1.2 TSI all the way up to upgraded versions of the 2.0 TSI in the GTI and the 'R' AWD sport models.
Volkswagen has already confirmed that it will also offer an all-electric, plug-in variant as well as hybrid [gasoline-electric or diesel-electric] versions of the new Golf.
The Golf EV plug-in model will make its market debut in 2013 and according to the automaker, it will be equipped with an electric motor delivering 115HP and 270Nm / 199 lb-ft to the front wheels and a set of lithium ion batteries. In the current development phase, that combination is said to offer a driving range of up to 150 kilometers or 93 miles.
Given that Volkswagen has not yet started to test actual Mk7 prototypes, it's hard to say what the next Golf will look like. However, the new Jetta saloon with its sharper profile and snout as well as some video shots of an early clay model that we showed you last year (see pictures below), should provide some hints for the styling.
Along with the three- and five-door hatchback body styles, the new Golf will form the base for a range of future models including a convertible, estate and the successors to the Scirocco and Touran MPV.