The current Volkswagen Golf (a.k.a. "Rabbit"), which is a 2010 model, hasn't made it through the front nine, and already the next Golf is being teed up behind it. The new model is planned for 2012, two years earlier than planned, perhaps because VW wants to recast what the Golf represents with a return to frugal-yet-sporty motoring.

If these AutoExpress renderings are at all accurate, the reskin won't make your jaw drop, as there is little planned for the hatch's exterior save for a few tweaks. It is the philosophy of the car that takes a new stand, however: the Mk VII is rumored to ride on a smaller platform than the MkVI, borrow parts from the Polo, employ lightweight body panels, and get VW's Twin Drive plug-in diesel hybrid engines.

The focus on reduced weight will mean more punch from VW's smaller TDI engines. The Twin Drive, which is three electric motors mated to a 1.5-liter diesel, works on battery power alone at 31 miles-per-hour or below, and doubles the gas mileage of the 2.0-liter TDI. VW is also working on a Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) that ditches the spark plugs in a gas engine to give it the fuel efficiency of a diesel. If VW can bring all of those things together in a couple of years and keep the fun-to-drive factor, the MkVII Golf sounds like a clear winner.

[Source: AutoExpress]