Remember the Jetta? Was Vento on your choice list? No matter how hard the German manufacturer tried to convince buyers that its previous Golf-based saloons had as much right to a place at the top of the tree as their five-door counterparts, both struggled in vain to establish identity and respectable market share against cheaper and better equipped four-doors from the then Big Three of fleet - Ford, Vauxhall and Rover.
Jetta and Vento sales performance begged the question back then that, if VW recognised a demand for a four-door Golf, why didn't it simply call it a Golf saloon rather than sticking a pin in the book of interesting wind names?
The announcement last year that the company was cooking up a Bora must have had VW dealers nationwide reaching for the Milk of Magnesia but its arrival is, in fact, a breath of fresh air: a booted Golf it is not.True, it shares a platform with the Golf Mk IV, but then so do the Audi A3, Audi TT coupe, new Beetle, Skoda Octavia and new SEAT Toledo.
No doubt mindful of Jetta's and Vento's cool reception, VW has lifted the new saloon a step higher to sit between Golf and Passat. It has injected a healthy dose of sporting appeal, which allows it to breeze past the more mundane Focus and Astra saloons, and it is appointed luxuriously to offer a lower-priced alternative to executive compacts such as the BMW 3-series and Alfa Romeo 156.
While sharing a family likeness with the Golf, its front is chunkier (rectangular headlights incorporating fog lights and indicators make the difference), wheel arches are emphasised, and the rear section is squared off. It looks powerful, it looks elegant, and it looks strong. What's more, it's better to drive thanks to uprated suspension and more responsive steering.
There's a curious omission from the choice of engines: in our opinion, it should have been widened to include the cracking 20-valve 1.8-litre petrol unit used in the Golf and Toledo. The launch selection is 1.6 (100bhp), 2.0-litre (115bhp) and 2.3-litre V5 (150bhp) petrol and 1.9-litre TDI (90bhp), in S and SE trim. Trendline, Comfortline and Highline packs offer a wide variety of 'personalisation' options.
Volkswagen says the 2.0-litre engine is the manufacturer's first power unit to fulfil the EU-IV emission standard, which earns it tax relief of DM 600 in its home market. Fine for Germany, perhaps, but over here all fiscal eyes will be on carbon dioxide emissions.