The Evolution Of The VW Golf

We take a look down the VW timeline and uncover 38 years of the Golf Icon. Which of the seven were your favourite?
Sherryn de Vos
2017-04-05
We have all had one, or known someone who has one. The VW Golf has had a solid standing in the almost four decades that it has been around. Known by many as the 'posh beetle', this car is known for its durability, fuel economy, and classic features. It is a car that you have either owned, or at least driven, during the course of your life. We took a trip down memory lane to look at how this beauty has evolved over the last 38 years. FAST FACT: Did you know that the Golf is named after the Golfstroom, which is German for Gulfstream.

Golf Mk1 (1974-1983)

VW had the colossal challenge of designing a car that would challenge the success of the Beetle. This was the car that had dominated markets since World War II. Designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro, was put in charge of designing the new car and created the car's crisp lines and simple, but spacious, design. Unlike the Beetle, the car had a front-engine as well as front-wheel drive, setting it aside from its predecessor. It was an instant success and, by October 1976, had sold over a million units. 1976 also saw the birth of the Sports sibling to the Golf, the GTI, with its 1.6 litre and 108hp engine. These, together with the Jetta, managed to hit 6.7 million sales worldwide.

Golf Mk2 (1983-1991)

Designing a successor to the Mk1 turned out to be far more challenging than its predecessor. The designers firstly decided to make the car substantially bigger. The Mk2 also evolved over the years, introducing various features. In 1984, the regulated catalytic converter was introduced. 1986 saw ABS being included, as well as power steering and four-wheel drive. The GTI also progressed. A 1.8-litre engine was introduced and offered in four and 16-valve trims, with a supercharger. The Mk2 sold around 6.41 million units, shooting VW over the 10 million mark.

Golf Mk3 (1991- 1997)

This edition won the European Car Of The Year Award in 1992. It was a rounder shape than the two previous versions, and only slightly bigger than the Mk2. It increased its features by adding airbags, direct injection diesel engines, and standard ABS. The GTI was bumped up to a 2.0-litre engine, which unfortunately didn’t go down as well as expected. Produced off the Mk3 was the Cabriolet, which held a portion of the market all the way to 2002. After six years in production, this version sold over 4.96 million units.

Golf Mk4 (1997-2003)

Seeing the drop in sales of the previous generation, Golf knew that the fourth generation needed a serious makeover. In 1997, the all new, plush and lavish Golf was released. This generation competed with the luxury cars of its time. The shape was rounded, even more, the body-work was fully galvanised, and it took on the Haldex four-wheel drive system. Satellite navigation was integrated and the car gained sharp xenon headlights. It didn’t end there, the car was equipped with electronic stability control, window airbags, direct injection petrol engines, and six-speed manual transmission. It also made waves with the first ever dual clutch gearbox. The GTI on the other hand gained a 20-valve, 1.8-litre turbocharged engine.

Golf Mk5 (2003-2009)

Golf carried on leading innovation in the industry with the Mk5. The GTI was fitted with the first ever turbocharged direct injection engines. This combined a supercharger for low-end torque, and a turbocharger for maximum output. The car came with bi-xenon headlights, rain sensors, a sliding sunroof, and a seven-speed DSG gearbox. The standard Mk5 also had its handling improved and received a slicker design.

Golf Mk6 (2008- 2012)

Launched in 2009, the car received European Car Of The Year. Designed by Walter Da Silva, the car took on similar features to the previous generation. The interior was drastically upgraded, however, due to complaints from the fifth installment. The car’s new features included auto stop-start, park assist, hill start assist, cornering headlights, as well as LED taillights. It was also upgraded with brake energy recovery, and electronic dynamic chassis control (DCC) suspension. It turned out to be the shortest-lived of the whole range, with only four years on the production line.
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Golf Mk7 (2012 - Present)

This version seemed to blow competitors straight out of the water. Golf outdid themselves with the slick and feature packed vehicle. The 1.4-liter TSI petrol engine complimented the new features introduced to the model. A standard XDS electronic differential lock was introduced to all models, together with a Multi-collision braking system. It gained an automatic park assist, as well as a touchscreen infotainment system.