Volkswagen do Brasil has updated its home grown Gol compact car, the best-selling vehicle here for 18 years.

Volkswagen is billing the updated model as the 'fourth generation', or Gol 'G4'; though the 'new' car is really only a face-lift of the third generation GIII line launched in 1999.

By the end of the first half of 2006 Volkswagen will have launched the G4 in all the 20-plus countries the GIII is currently sold - including Argentina, Russia and Mexico.

The Gol G4 has new headlamps, bumper, grille and bonnet (hood). It looks rather like a previous generation European Polo from the front while the new tail lights are very similar to those on the current, recently refreshed Polo. Apart from the new lights, the tailgate, rear window and bumper have also been restyled.

"The new design gives an clean style to the Gol, without compromising its identity", Gerson Barone, manager of design and package at Volkswagen do Brasil, told just-auto.

However, the most significant changes are inside. The Gol G4 has a new dashboard with a central round instrument panel, based on a similar design used in the Brazilian-made Fox. The steering wheel and the centre console are also new.

Mechanicals are unchanged. In Brazil, the Gol G4 is being launched with same three flex-fuel engines that equipped the previous model - 1.0-, 1.6- and 1.8-litre engines that can run on alcohol, petrol or a blend of the two.

1.6-litre and 1.8-litre models can be ordered with suspension height raised 27mm.

Similar changes will be made by the end of this year to the Brazilian-built Gol-based Parati station wagon and Saveiro compact pick-up derivatives.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen is working on a fully redesigned fifth generation Gol (the G5). There is no official confirmation, but just-auto has learned that VW plans to launch the new car around the end of 2007.

The next Gol will have an all new platform with transverse-mounted engines (all previous models have had longitudinally mounted powerplants).

This latest VW Brazil project will produce a new low-cost model line for emerging markets that will be offered in hatchback, sedan, pick-up and small SUV versions.

The compact SUV will be new to the range, but the first generation Gol was available in a sedan version named Voyage that was produced between 1981 and 1996 and exported to the US as the Fox.

Rogério Louro