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Guess who's taking the Scenic route?

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Review

We're only a few months away from the unveiling of the first model in the fifth-generation Golf family. And you probably won't be surprised to hear it's a seven-seater mini-MPV. But when you consider undisguised scoop shots of the Scenic were doing the rounds in late 1993, it's utterly baffling VW should be a full decade off the pace.

Known internally as the A-MPV, the seven-seater Golf should be shown at the Paris show in September, with production starting in the third quarter of this year. VW sources say rolling out the A-MPV first helps with smooth introduction of what is an all-new platform. Stung by the sophisticated Focus chassis - complete with independent rear suspension - VW has ensured that the Golf 5 is underpinned by a similar system with the promise of greater comfort. Some sources say the A-MPV is no great looker, a consequence of the fact that a one-tonne city van will be spun off the same basic bits.

Production of the new Golf hatchback starts next summer for an autumn 2003 roll-out. It is bigger than the Mk4 (60mm longer and 10mm wider) but the interior space does benefit greatly from a 100mm wheelbase stretch. Styling hasn't strayed too far from the current formula, although wheelarches and sills are more pronounced and it gets a Phaeton-related nose job. The four disc brakes will be bigger and an electronic handbrake should also appear.

After the mainstream hatches, there'll be a lull in the Golf family expansion until 2005 and the Bora replacement which is bigger than its Golf sister. Sources promise completely bespoke sheet metal to give the car a unique identity. Production starts in early 2005.

At the same time the replacement for the big-selling (in Europe, at least) Golf Estate/Variant should begin to roll down the line. Like Peugeot's 306SW, it's taller than a conventional estate. While the A-MPV is primarily a people carrier, the five-seater 'Variant plus' is a lifestyle-oriented holdall with an exceptionally versatile interior.

The Golf Mk5 family is rounded up by the new Golf cabriolet due to appear in the summer of 2005. It loses the roll-over bar that characterised the first two Golf drop-tops and gets a longer saloon-style tail though to be related to that of the new Bora.

Safety is a big pitch for the new car. Rear passengers get optional sidebags and active (anti-whiplash) head restraints front and rear are also in the works. An additional airbag can be installed above the pedal box (knee pads are standard) as well as foam-filled door panels for improved side impact protection. Stringent pedestrian impact protection regulations will be achieved with a pre-tensioned pop-up bonnet. This helps prevent a head collapsing the bonnet's thin skin and impacting on a very hard engine-bay component such a the top of a suspension strut.

Most Golfs gets a six-speed manual box and there's a new 136bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine on the way. The petrol engines (1.4/86bhp, 1.6/115bhp and 2.0/150bhp) are all direct injection. We might even see an ultra-clean 1.5-litre three-pot turbodiesel, too.

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