The evolving icon
The modern classic
First introduced in 1974 as a replacement to the Beetle, the Golf had some pretty big shoes to fill.
Positioned in the compact class, the Golf became an instant style icon with a shape deemed revolutionary for its time. Its creator, Giorgio Giugiaro, designed an incredibly angular car that is uniform and mainstream to this day, christening it with the nameplate of “Golf”, derived from the German word for Gulf Stream.
The Golf has been described as a phenomenon. Regardless of its particular generation, this style icon defies all automotive and social class distinctions. No other car in this price segment has even come close to reaching as large a cross-section of people.
The iconic hatch
Volkswagen Golf MK1
During its introduction in 1974 as a replacement for the iconic Beetle, few could have expected the Golf MK1 to have made the impact it did. This was a model that was destined to change the future of compact motoring.
The remarkably angular small hatchback became an instant phenomenon, a design icon that would go on to define the hot hatch category on its own terms.
It also broke the mould for Volkswagen, signalling a shift by the carmaker away from rear engine, rear-wheel drive models to front-wheel drive, front engine versatility.
A year after the Golf’s launch came the birth of a phenomenon in the form of the first GTI, a performance variant and one of the most important popular sports models ever released.
Volkswagen Golf MK2
The second generation Golf was released in 1983 and consolidated its predecessor’s position as one of the world’s favourite and most successful cars — destined to sell some 6.3 million units globally over the following 9 years.
More rounded and with slightly larger dimensions than the MK1, the Golf MK2 continued to provide punchy performance and practical packaging to a growing legion of fans.
By now, most of its competitors had imitated Volkswagen’s lead by releasing small, front-wheel drive family hatchbacks to mirror the Golf, though none had come close. For the new edition, Volkswagen debuted a new range of petrol, diesel and turbocharged engines. These impressive units also served to cement the Golf MK2’s place at the front of the hot hatch pack.
Raising the bar
Volkswagen Golf MK3
First appearing in 1991, the Golf MK3 was once again larger, more comfortable and better equipped than its predecessor, and immediately scooped a raft of international awards for its exceptional design and packaging.
It espoused deep virtues of reliability, quality and durability. It was also widely recognised as being a delight to drive with smoother, quieter engines, foolproof handling and a ride more supple than that of any other hot hatch.
Though the MK2 was an exceptionally difficult act to follow, its successor effortlessly raised the bar, this was a truly innovative model. Not only was the Golf MK3 more recyclable than any other car in its class, it was the pioneer of the stop-start technology used in cars today.
The new sophisticate
Volkswagen Golf MK4
With the release of the Golf MK4 in 1997, Volkswagen took the nameplate upmarket with an even higher quality interior and even greater levels of equipment. The new model now brought sophistication that had never before been seen from a mainstream brand in its class.
The Golf MK4 was offered with an extensive range of engines, including a 1.9-litre GT TDI version which provided exceptional response with outstanding fuel economy. In 2002 it also debuted the exceptional R32, the world’s first production car with a dual-clutch gearbox. Billed as the pinnacle of the Golf MK4 platform, the R32 included every performance, safety and luxury feature Volkswagen had to offer including an all new 3.2-litre engine that produced an electrifying 177kW.
By 2005 sales of the model had ceased in most markets, paving the way for its replacement, the Golf MK5, to break even more boundaries.