It's been the benchmark family hatch for nearly four decades and more than 29 million have been sold.

Now, Volkswagen is aiming to take the game on a stage further with this, the MK VII Golf. But you'll be forgiven if you can't spot the difference...

Traditionally the most conservative of hatchbacks, VW hasn't rocked the establishment with a radical new look, opting instead for some subtle tweaks. According to VW, though, that's the key to the model's success.

"One of the keys to the Golf's success lies in its continuity," said Walter de Silva, head of design for Volkswagen. "There are a handful of cars with a design that, like the Golf's, has been refined, tweaked and enhanced down the decades and thus become timeless."

Just don't, whatever you do, mistake timeless for boring...

So what's new with the MK VII Golf? Well, it's been on a serious weight-loss programme for a start. This size zero diet has seen it lose 100kg which will mean fuel economy and emissions will be vastly improved.

It's longer than its predecessor and the front wheels have been moved further forward to help generate more space inside. It's also wider and lower, reducing drag and thus improving emissions further in the process.

Inside, the centre console has been given a revamp freeing up space for the standard touch-screen media system. The range-topping model gets an eight-inch colour display which operates with fingertip control, similar to a smartphone.

The Golf also features a VW first. The compartment under the centre armrest has a universal mobile phone holder and aerial which improves signal strength for use with the car's Bluetooth hands-free system.

There's some clever safety tech too. A "multi-collision brake system" automatically stops the vehicle after a crash to help avoid a second impact, while a "pre-crash" system pre-tensions seatbelts and closes the windows and sunroof if it detects a smash is imminent.

A new range of petrol and diesel engines, all with stop/start technology, will be available at launch. The petrol units are a 1.2-litre TSI 84bhp returning around 57.6mpg and 113g/km, and a 1.4-litre TSI 138bhp unit, with Active Cylinder Technology which can deactivate two of the cylinders. That engine achieves up to 58.9mpg and 112g/km.

The launch diesel engines will be a 1.6-litre with 104bhp which returns 74.3mpg and 99g/km, and a 2.0-litre 148bhp unit which returns 68.9mpg and 106g/km.

The new Golf will go on sale from October, with the first UK deliveries in January.

What do you think of the new design? Too conservative or on the money? Let us know by posting your comments below.