Volkswagen is shortening its model cycle  in face of fierce competition especially from Asian manufacturers. Golf Mk VI comes five years after Mk V instead of VW's traditional seven-year cycle.

"There has been a lot of new competition in that time, not just from traditional rivals like Ford, Opel/Vauxhall, Renault and Peugeot but Korean car makers," said Torsten Volkmer, head of product marketing.

"Who would have thought five years ago that Hyundai and Kia would have cars that are genuine rivals to our own Golf?

"Then there have been new entrants like BMW's 1 series and the Audi A3 bringing a different challenge to the sector."

So how do you go about redefining the car that arguably not only created the C segment in Europe 34 years ago but is also acknowledged by most of the rest of the industry as the benchmark throughout that time?

"We looked at what we had in Passat and Phaeton that we could add to the new Golf," explains Volkmer. That way the company discovered Golf V shortcomings and set about addressing them.

He describes the process as "democratising" features from an upper segment into a lower segment.

"We don't want Golf to be a BMW or Audi rival, it has a much wider customer base and it must still be a classless car," he says.

What he likes most about Golf VI is its comfort, especially the quietness. "It's not isolated like a Lexus so the driver still has a feeling of being connected to the car." But, as most discovered on the press launch in Iceland, it is astonishingly quiet.

He is also pleased with some of the features available - a reversing camera, for the first time on a C segment car, park assist - the self-parking system - and automatic distance control which keeps Golf VI a safe distance from the car in front.

In the UK Golf will be launched with three trim levels, S, SE and GT with prices from around £13,000 to £21,000.

Sales in 2009 are expected to be around 60,000. In 2007, Volkswagen UK sold 67,570 Golfs.

A three-door GTI will make its debut at the Paris motor show.
 
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See also: GERMANY: Volkswagen 'officially' unveils sixth generation Golf