Looks can be deceiving. The latest generation of the venerable Volkswagen Golf is a case in point. The Golf has always been a sturdy, solid, but not very stylish vehicle. And from that standpoint, not much has changed - even though Volkswagen totally redesigned the Golf for 1999. Indeed, from a quick glance, one might think this is a carbon copy of the old car, save for minor modernizations, like the new jewel-like headlamps. But beauty is only skin deep, and once you get past the Golf's plain vanilla styling, you quickly discover just how much soul the new car has. Slip inside the surprisingly sumptuous interior, then take a test drive, and you're certain to come away with an upbeat impression. The 1999 Golf is just one more reason why Volkswagen has earned a reputation as the comeback car company. Of course, the Golf was part of the problem in the first place. Volkswagen of America never really recovered from its decision, nearly three decades ago, to pull the plug on the original Beetle. By the early 1990s, VWoA was selling barely a tenth as many cars as it did in the days when the Beetle was America's hot import. It wasn't easy to get excited about VW's line-up, especially considering the carmaker's quality problems. Things got so bad that the automaker briefly pulled the Golf off the market in order to fix things at its Mexican assembly line. The decision was costly, but effective. Studies show that once production resumed, the automaker's reliability began a steady rise, along with customer satisfaction and owner loyalty. In the latest Total Quality Index released by market research firm Strategic Visions, Volkswagen products won in the Small, Compact and Midsize Car categories. Golf owners, the report noted, were impressed not only with the value they got for their money, but by the Golf's durability. The '99 Golf is certain to increase the appeal. The car isn't for everyone, of course, certainly not those who place a high priority on styling. And hatchbacks are not an especially popular body style in the U.S. these days. But as we discovered during some extended seat time, this is a car worth considering.