At last year’s Paris Motor Show Volkswagen unveiled a thinly disguised 'concept' of the Mark VI Golf GTI, the latest iteration of one of the most acclaimed hot hatches on the market. New shots released today show the concept car was in fact a doppelganger for the production model, right down to the fog lights and license plate holder.

As expected, the Mark VI GTI's styling remains similar to the outgoing model and is differentiated mostly by a new front-end design. The last generation was purchased by 1.7 million people and it’s expected that the new model will do just as well, if not better. With both three and five-door versions available, it should appeal to a wider range of buyers looking for a sportier-than-average euro hatch.

The Mark VI Golf platform is the basis for the GTI update and, like its more mundane companions, the GTI is an evolutionary step forward. The performance hatch retains a 2.0L turbo engine but now develops 210hp (155kW), which is just 10hp (7kW) more than the outgoing model. Top speed is limited to 240km/h and the 0-100km/h benchmark takes approximately 6.9 seconds. Just as impressive is the engine’s flexibility. In fifth gear, the GTI accelerates from 80 to 120 km/h in 7.5 seconds, and even in sixth gear this feat takes less than 10 seconds.

This is because the engine has been tuned to ensure torque throughout the rev range, with the GTI developing 206lb-ft (280Nm) as early as 1,800pm. The low-end grunt also helps the car achieve fuel economy of only 31.6mpg (7.4L/100km), according to the European cycle. Drive is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual or optional six-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

Rather than adding lots power to their hot hatches, like most car companies do, VW has concentrated on improving the dynamics of the new GTI with a new sports suspension, DCC adaptive damping and an XDS electronic differential. The car’s front end is lowered by 22mm compared to the regular Golf, which the rear sits 15mm lower. The entire architecture of springs, dampers and rear stabilizers was completely re-tuned as well.

DCC, or dynamic chassis control, continually reacts to the roadway and driving situation and modifies the damper characteristic accordingly in a matter of seconds. The DCC can be switched between Normal, Sport and Comfort modes.

The XDS electronic transverse differential lock is an extension of the electronic limited-slip differential (EDS) integrated in the stability system. In fast cornering, as soon as the car’s electronics detects that the wheel at the inside of the curve on the front axle is starting to slip, the stability system hydraulics builds up braking pressure at this wheel to restore traction. In essence, XDS acts as a type of transverse differential lock that compensates for the understeering that is typical on FWD vehicles when driving fast through corners.

Inside, the GTI comes standard with sports bucket seats in the front that are swathed in a mix of tartan fabric and optional leather. The headrests, which feature an upholstered GTI logo, are anti-whiplash units. Other goodies include stainless steel pedals, an aluminum look gear knob, and a leather steering wheel with the GTI symbol sitting center. Up to five adults can comfortably sit in the car, and with the rear seats folding storage space expands to 1,305L. Otherwise, there is just 350L of trunk space.

First sales will start in Germany this week, with North American versions scheduled to arrive by the middle of the year.

2010 Volkswagen Golf GTI driving in Saint Tropez