Keeping up with some of Volkswagen China’s products is a bit like keeping up with all the models Nissan has named Sentra, Almera and Pulsar – you need to know your cars and perhaps call on some professional help like the goldmine that is our very own Product Life Database (PLDB for short). You sure need it after you go there and encounter a Mark 2 Jetta with a different nose to the one you remember, or a Mark IV Golf with the same generation Jetta’s front end…

Santana. Should ring a bell as a very late 1970s/early 1980s large Volkswagen sold worldwide and even made under licence – with some changes such as a proper wiper layout for right-hand drive – in Japan by none other than Nissan Motor. Remember?

Go to Shanghai and it seems every taxi on the road is some sort of Santana. Usually in green and white. That’s because, since the mid-1980s, it’s been made there by a Shanghai Automotive joint venture and the end-of-line counter has by now got to almost 4m units. When it finally introduced the second generation on Monday (29 October) Volkswagen said “Santana is one of the most successful models in China”.

This is the car, VW said, that introduces “mobilisation to an entire country” and “laid the foundation for a long and sustained partnership with the Chinese automobile industry and a new era of modern carmaking.

“Today, 29 years later, the Santana is a synonym for the quality of the brand and its tradition.

The new Santana is more or less what the rest of the world already gets, from Mexico, as the Jetta, which comes in plain or fancy versions according to market – even rear suspension layout can vary from simple to complex.

For the Chinese Santana version, VW China talks “fully redeveloped with styling that is Volkswagen clear and precise”. “Intelligent space concept” and 2,603 mm wheelbase create “noticeably” more knee room at the rear seats and the car’s boot is spacious with 480 litres of cargo capacity. “Safety, comfort and a sophisticated appearance were focal points in its development”.

Standard or optional features include ABS, front, side and head airbags, stability control, air conditioning or automatic climate control, electric sliding sunroof, alloy wheels, parking sensors and leather upholstery. Chinese buyers will get the same Trendline, Comfortline and Highline trim levels offered in many other markets (they mostly use different names like SE or Match here in the UK, for some reason).

The new Chinese Santana gets only naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engines from VW’s newly developed EA 211 petrol engine series. These “innovative” aluminium engines, with 16-valve technology and integration of the exhaust manifold in the cylinder head, are claimed to be very efficient. The 1.4-litre version produces 66kW/90PS with combined fuel consumption of 5.9l/100 km (aka v economical) while the 1.6-litre has 81kW/110PS and fuel consumption of 6.0l/100 km.

Compared to the previous model, fuel economy and CO2 emissions have been improved by up to 28%.

Here’s what we have in PLDB on the new car: “It will be the replacement for the aged Santana and Santana Vista sedans. The Santana NF’s architecture is said to be that of the Mark V Golf, though some sources claim it uses an update of the smaller PQ25 platform. The model is in fact expected to be a slightly revised version of the latest Jetta. This would be the model sold in the Americas, not Europe: the former does without the independent rear suspension and soft-touch plastics for its interior which distinguish Jettas sold in EU markets.”

Strangely, the world debut of the new Santana took place at the main Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, apparently because it was the development site of Santana generation one.

The new car will, of course, be built in China by Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive.

And most of us here in the west will see it first, in green and white, on the taxi stand at Shanghai airport…