On March 29, 1974, Volkswagen started up the Golf’s assembly line and they’ve never looked back on the car that many were concerned could never replace the Beetle.
The Volkswagen Golf instead became something entirely unique that now has a cult-like following all over the world.
The fear was real 45 years ago – Volkswagen had managed to capture millions upon millions of hearts with its always quirky sometimes finicky Beetle over a 40-year period. The time had come to replace the ageing 2-door rear- and air-cooled engine’d car and for most, there was little hope that the little Golf was to repeat the Beetle’s success.
The compact front-engine’d, water-cooled hatchback happened to the be the right car at the right, and for the right price. In Europe, the Golf 1 fit right into the established automotive background but North America was a different story.
The first Rabbit (so named for our market) arrived in the US in December of 1974 and featured a 1.5-litre 70-horsepower 4-cylinder engine that importantly, could go on forever between fill-ups. The oil crises that took place in the 70s certainly helped the Rabbit’s chances. At the time, Toyota had already established itself as a provider of efficient and dependable compact cars. However the fact that the Golf is still alive and well today in North America is a testament to its many attributes.
Over the years and generations, not all went smoothly. There were numerous quality and reliability issues especially in the mid to late 90s and early 2000s but once again, the Golf’s versatility, handsome good looks and superior driving dynamics kept buyers and enthusiasts coming back for more.
The 7th generation of the Volkswagen Golf is coming to a close at the end of this year. The 8th generation Golf has already been spotted and we think it will carry the torch as the best and safest Golf ever.
Here are some highlights from all 7 generations of the Golf, as taken from Volkswagen’s press release:
Seven Generations of Golf (US Model Years)
Golf I: MY 1975-1984
- 1.5-liter engine with 70 hp
- First sold in December 1974 as “Rabbit”
- GTI introduced in 1983 with 1.8-liter 90 hp engine
Golf II: MY 1985-1992
- Sold as “Golf”
- Dimensions grow by nearly 7 inches in length, 3 inches in wheelbase, and 2 inches in width
- Standard engine is revised 1.8-liter with 85 hp, GTI introduces 2.0-liter engine with 131 hp
- Catalytic converter, anti-lock braking system and power steering debut
Golf III: MY 1993-1999
- Design shifts to wedge shape
- Base powertrain is 2.0-liter with 115 hp, GTI moves to 2.8-liter VR6 with 172 hp
- Front and side airbags debut, advances in body construction result in improved crash safety
- VR6 engine, Ecomatic transmission, and cruise control offered for the first time
Golf IV: MY 1999-2005
- All-new design with flatter windshield, and roofline carried further back with steeper rear window
- Electronic stability control, side curtain airbags, 4Motion all-wheel drive, DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission, and navigation debut
- R32 introduced for 2004
Golf V: MY 2006-2009
- New multi-link rear suspension; Bi-Xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers introduced
- Sold as “Rabbit” again
- Base engine is 150 hp 2.5-liter, GTI moves to 200 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection engine
- R32 reintroduced for 2008 with 250 hp
Golf VI: MY 2010-2014
- “Golf” name returns
- Prominent character line runs from headlights to taillights
- Base powertrain is 2.5-liter with 170 hp
- Golf R introduced for 2012 with 256 hp
Golf VII: MY 2015-2019
- Based on Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) architecture
- Golf grows in size yet drops in weight, despite a plethora of new and upscale features
- Base 1.8-liter 170 hp engine replaces 2.5-liter to gain an EPA-estimated 6 mpg highway
- Available driver-assistance technology includes Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, Forward Collision Warning, Park Distance Control