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Hot news for 2010: Last year was busy with plenty of new product, so the thrust for 2010 is fine-tuning, rationalizing, more diesel power, and, of course, a new Golf that replaces the Rabbit. ¥ Touareg loses its gasoline V8.

Carryover: Eos; Jetta; New Beetle; Passat; Passat CC; Routan; Tiguan; Touareg

Gone: Rabbit

Starting line

n Volkswagen added plenty of new iron for 2009, which pushed the brand into new niches. The Routan minivan, the Passat CC and the Tiguan small wagon are perfect examples. There was also the proliferation of the company’s 2.0-liter turbo-diesel engine.

For 2010, however, Volkswagen focuses on one of its core brands, namely the Golf, which takes over the Rabbit. If it seems like we had the Volkswagen Rabbit for an abbreviated time, it’s because we did; it arrived in North American midway through its production cycle (it had already been running around Europe for a couple of years). This time, however, VW has synchronized the European and North American launch of the Rabbit replacement - the Golf - so we’re actually getting it when we’re supposed to. Since it’s largely based on the Rabbit, the Golf’s dimensions are similar, so don’t expect any major gains in interior room and stowage.

As was the case with the Rabbit, the new Golf is available in two- and four-door hatchback variants with a base 170-horsepower 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine. There’s also a 140-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-diesel that’s quite torquey and should be good for 41 mpg on the highway and 30 in the city, which is about 35 percent better than the base 2.5.

The TDI gets the same transmission choices, but the base 2.5 gas engine comes with a five-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic with manual-shift override. Both two- and four-door models come with power windows, power locks, air conditioning, cruise control, power heated outside mirrors and an eight-speaker audio package. Volkswagen seems to be positioning the TDI as more of a sporty model than a fuel miser, which might win it more converts. Here you’ll get 17-inch wheels (same size as found on the base GTI), a lowered ride height and sport-suspension tuning.

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