Earlier this year Audi's plans for a lighter pair of next-generation S4 and S5 performance variants were revealed. Now Volkswagen has been tied to a similar program with its popular Golf platform (2010 Volkswagen Golf Mark VI pictured).

The lighter weight makes it easier to maintain performance with smaller, and therefore more efficient engines. The project to build a new lightweight Golf is actually a part of a larger project founded by the European Commission involving 32 suppliers and several other carmakers, including Renault, Volvo, Opel and Daimler, dubbed the SuperlightCar project.

The project's key lightening techniques include the use of steel where appropriate, but also lightweight materials such as aluminum and magnesium where cost-effective. Its overall goal is cutting body-in-white structure weight in the mid-size segment by up to 30% while maintaining commercially reasonable prices.

Volkswagen's implementation of the project evolved out of three individual concepts, reports Autocar. The first was made entirely of steel, the second with mixed materials built to low cost goals and the third was built from more expensive mixed materials. All reduced weight from the current vehicle by at least 20%, while the expensive concept reduced weight by 41%.

The new lightweight body shell ultimately settled on use of a combination of all three concepts to achieve the best balance of weight and cost.

The end date of the SuperlightCar project is set for July 31, 2009, so expect to see more fruit from the lightweight tree as the other carmakers involved in the project begin rolling out their implementations. Volkswagen's lightweight Golf is expected to hit the market, along with its SuperlightCar siblings, from 2012 and beyond.