Manufactured by Volkswagon in 1974, the Golf compact car has become their best-selling vehicle with over 24 million built. In 1975 it was featured as Wheels magazine's Car of the Year.
Several versions and variations have been produced over the years, most famously, the 3-door hatchback style, the 5-door hatchback, as a sedan, convertible, and as a station wagon. The Golf is an example of a hot hatch vehicle.
The success of the Golf was paramount to Volkswagen, as it aided the struggling company in the early 1970's (after terminal sales of the Beetle had plunged the company into decline) and turned sales around. Volkswagen has always had a reputation for solid built-quality and reliable engineering, the design and record-breaking sales reinforced this. The public was repeatedly turning away from the Type 3 and Type 4 at this time and showed no interest in Volkswagen's air-cooled, rear-engined models.
The Auto Union GmbH, which owned Audi became the saving grace for the struggling German car giant. Acquiring the Ingolstadt company in the autumn of 1964 from Daimler-Benz in 1964 a huge turn-around occurred in Volkswagen production as they gained access to Audi's expertise in water-colled engines and front-wheel drive which were crucial in producing the new generation of Volkswagens.
The Golf was marketed in the U.S. and Canada as the Rabbit, and in Mexico as the Caribe. In South Africa, a Volkswagon CitiGolf, an entry-level still produced, is a version of the original Golf model.
The Volkswagon Golf was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, Italian automoble architect of ItalDesign design studio.
Deciding to lower costs by producing locally, Volkswagon chose James McLernon, a former Chevrolet executive, to run a factory in Westmoreland County, PA. It was 1978, and Volkswagon became the first European car manufacturer to produce a vehicle in the U.S.
Over the years, McLernon tried to soften the suspension and used cheaper materials for the interior to 'Americanize' the car. Company executives in Germany weren't happy with the changes made and reverted back to stiffer shocks, suspensions, and higher-quality interior trim.
The PA plant continued producing Volkswagons through 1984, GTI for the North American market, and also the first Caddy pick-up, based on the MK1 Golf.
Considered to be the third-best car during the 1980's, the GTI Mk I, also known as the Rabbit GTI.
Launched in Europe in 1976, and in the US in 1983, the GTI version
With a more advanced power output, due to the newly adopted fuel injection, the hot hatch came with a 1588 cc engine with 100 PS (81 kW/108 hp). Eventually, the car became updated with larger bumpers, a new dashboard, square headlights, and larger rear lamp clusters.
In 1985 the GTI became the Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year. As well as being considered to be the 'Best Golf of all time' by VWVortex's
The Cabriolet, the convertible was sold from 1980 for 13 years and had a transverse roll bar and reinforced body.
It wasn't until 1983 that the second-generation Golf was introduced. This vehicle wasn't available in the U.S. until 1985. The main modifications being a larger bodyshell, more engine options, and a supercharged 8v 'G60' with both 2wd and 4wd options.
The second-generation Golfs were produced at the Westmoreland plant before it closed in July of 1988 due to unsatisfactory sales production. The Pennsylvania plant was also where the North American Rabbit was produced until this setback moved all production to Germany and Mexico.
A special edition G60 Limited was released in a very limited capacity with only 72 available, all featuring a unique number and plaque. The Volkswagen Motorsport division designed these all-black models in 1989 produced 212 bhp and were the most powerful VW Golfs to have ever been released.
The G60 Supercharger had a unique blue grille detail, had a two-headlight grille rather than the standard four headlights found on standard GTI's, and came with a 16-valve engine. These limited editions were unrivaled as the most powerful VW's until the release of the MKIV Golf R32 in 2003.
Popular in the mountainous regions of central Europe, an off-roading vehicle that came with four-wheel drive, bullbars, a spare wheel mounted on the rear, the added capacity for more suspension travel, was the Golf Country. Several of these off-roading vehicles came with the 75 hp 1.6 GTD turbo diesel engine and 114 bhp 1.8 8v petrol engine.
In November of 1991, Volkswagon released a third-generation Golf. It wasn't until 1993 when the MK III was released in North America. By 1992, Golf was elected Car of the Year.
As the diesel craze swept through Europe in the late 1900s and early 2000s, Volkswagen released the Golf MK III with a direct-injection system, and the ability to achieve over 50 hp/L it aided in power without loss of fuel efficiency while still retaining massive amounts of low –end torque.
Volkswagen was the sponsor of three very high profile rock bands' European tours and even issues special edition Golf's for each band. Pink Floyd edition in 1994, Rolling Stones 1995, and Bon Jovi edition in 1996 all carried distinctive exterior markings making these exclusive collectibles during the 1990s.
The very limited '20th Anniversary' 1000 special-edition GTI was released in 1996. Sold in only 6 color schemes, this exclusive model was only produced for the European market and not available in the UK. Today it is seen as the rarest MK III model available.
The Golf IV, launched in 1997, eventually became the biggest selling car in Europe at one point. More expensive than other models in its class at the time, the newest Golf came with a much more exclusive interior and sophisticated styling.
This newest model held true to the standard Golf concept, but it did include the new 'arched' styling themes first found on the MK IV Passat making it a more appealing model. With an average chassis, the handling and the ride was considered to be inferior compared to the MK IV Vauxhall and the MK II Astra, and eventually the Ford Focus (released the following year),
Produced in Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Belgium, South Africa, Slovakia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, the Golf IV also released a model in Bosnia for the local market only.
A saloon version of the MK IV was created, as the Volkswagen Bora. In North America, it was released as the Jetta. The Bora/Jetta featured a front wing and bonnet as well as unique rear doors. The new model came in either three or five-door hatchbacks, or as a five-door station wagon.
Introduced to the U.S. in 1999, the Golf IV came with a 2.0 L gasoline engine and a 1.9 L turbocharged diesel TGI engine. In 2000 Volkswagen updated the base engine to the fairly new 1.8 L turbocharged gasoline engine. In 2003, a 24-valve version of its VR6 engine was introduced by Volkswagen and the ability to achieve an extra 26 hp. Featuring the first 6-speed manual available to the MK IV, the 1.8T, and VR6 models
It was during the Frankfurt Motor Show in October of 2005 that the fifth-generation Gold was revealed to the public. In Europe, sales were opened a month later, though it wasn't released to the U.S. for three more years. In January of 2006, the GTI form was the only release until the Spring of 2006.
Volkswagen announced on April 12, 2006, that they will change the name of Golf back to Rabbit for the new lineup introduced to the U.S. and Canadian markets, though the name will remain Golf in the rest of the world.By Jessica Donaldson
1975 – 2008: THE HISTORY OF THE GOLF GTI
The Volkswagen Golf GTI was unveiled in 1975 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The ÚK market had to wait a further two years for vehicles to arrive – 1977 saw 34 examples, all of them left hand drive, sold in the GTI's first tentative year.
The GTI was powered by a 1,588 cc four cylinder engine with K-Jetronic fuel injection it developed 110 PS at 6,100 rpm and 103 lbs ft of torque at 5,000 rpm. This allowed the GTI, which weighed 810 kg unladen, to hit 60 mph from standstill in nine-seconds before reaching a top speed of 110 mph.
The now familiar mix of a high-revving, responsive four-cylinder engine installed in a hatchback body with the emphasis on driving fun was linked to a pared down interior came as a revelation at the time. Especially when combined with tartan trim and the now iconic golf ball gearshift.
The car was an instant hit. By the time right-hand drive cars arrived in the ÚK in 1979 a total of 1,573 cars were sold in that year, a number that would triple within two years.
In 1984 the Mk II GTI was launched and picked up where the Mk I left off. A new chassis structure, a 1,781 cc engine developing 112 PS and 114 lbs ft of torque and new styling evolved the GTI and saw it appeal to a new generation of fans. Sales of the Mk II GTI surpassed those of the Mk I, peaking at 17,193 vehicles in 1989. In Germany a supercharged G60 version developing 160 PS was sold, an output that wouldn't be bettered in a GTI until 2002.
Three years later the Mk III GTI was launched, bringing with it a new 2.0-litre eight-valve engine and improved aerodynamics over the previous Mk I and Mk II models. In 1993 the GTI fitted was with a 2.0-litre 16-valve engine, raising the power output from 115 PS in the eight-valve model up to a more substantial 150 PS and 133 lbs ft of torque to drop the 0-60 mph time to 8.3 seconds and raise the top speed to 133 mph.
The introduction of the Mk IV GTI in 1998 saw significant changes to the line-up with the first diesel-engined GTI introduced along with two petrol engines in a total of four different states of tune. The Mk IV GTI made significant gains in refinement and safety – in 2002 the fastest accelerating and most powerful GTI produced up until that point was released in the form of the 180 PS GTI 25th Anniversary Edition. It was the success of this more powerful vehicle that inspired the introduction of the Mk V GTI.
Launched in September 2004 at the Paris Motor Show the Mk V GTI equipped with a 200 PS engine was not only the most powerful but also the most focused GTI yet produced. A new 2.0-litre T-FSI engine linked to a six-speed gearbox and standard Electronic Stabilisation Programme (ESP) were linked to a new chassis equipped with MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link configuration at the rear. The vehicle was 15 mm lower than the standard Golf on new springs, dampers and anti-roll bars.
Visual cues were taken from the original GTI with the return of the tartan interior and the red surround to the grille element – even the GTI typeface used on the badge echoed that of the original.
The Mk V GTI served as a basis for two special editions – the Pirelli and Edition 30. Both models were powered by an evolution of the 2.0-litre T-FSI engine fitted to the conventional GTI, albeit both producing 230 PS.
The wildest GTI ever created – the GTI W12-650 – was also based on the Mk V. Powered by a mid-mounted 6.0-litre W12 engine producing 650 PS the vehicle could accelerate to 62 mph in 3.7-seconds and could theoretically achieve a maximum speed of 201 mph.
Production of the Mk V Golf ceased in August 2008 with a total of 17,630 examples sold in the ÚK alone. In total over 1,700,000 examples of the GTI have been sold worldwide since the vehicle went on sale in 1976.Source - Volkswagen
A compact car manufacturer in Germany, the Rabbit originally debuted in Europe in 1974 as the Volkswagen Golf and it adopted the Rabbit moniker once it made its first appearance in Canada and the U.S. in 1975. The named was switched back to the original Golf name in 1985 and it remained that way for 21 years.
In 1975, Volkswagen introduced the Rabbit as an attempt to correct flagging sales for their company. At the time, Japanese auto makers were competing with the VW Beetle by introducing little ‘econoboxes' at a much cheaper price and were overwhelming the U.S. market. Cute, compact and a front wheel drive vehicle, the Rabbit was priced nearly the same as a Japanese econobox, but with a water-cooled 4 cylinder engine with a transversely mounted engine that drove the front wheels.
Replacing the Beetle in the U.S. market, it wasn't until about 4 years after it was introduced when the Rabbit finally became popular, most of this due to the oil crisis. Fuel economy was excellent on the tiny little car, 45 in the city, and up to 57 mpg on the highway, this could be combined with the optional 1.514 cylinder Diesel. Enthusiasts clamored for this new Volkswagen. In 1979 production for the U.S. market was relocation to New Stanton, Pennsylvania and the first Rabbit rolled off the assembly line on April 10th, 1978. NBC news was on hand to document the first foreign vehicle to be built in the U.S.A. Production of the VW went from April of 1978 until July 1988 at the New Stanton plant before they closed. A total of 1,192,411 vehicles were produced at this plant.
For the late 1979 model year the Rabbit received a make-over as the production was moved. The largest and most noticeable change to the American Rabbit, were the addition of all new square headlights. 1979 was also the year that the Rabbit Convertible was introduced and featured the body of the Rabbit, but featured a soft vinyl top. The convertible featured the round headlights that were found on older-model rabbit's.
The Rabbit received yet another make-over in 1981 and featured the new square headlight from the previous year, with wrap around turn signals that replaced the ones that had been used previously in the bumper. Inside, the Rabbit received a much more modern ‘Americanized' interior that was color keyed completely in the inside. For the 1981 model year, the engine was upgraded to a larger size and the gas engine leaped from 1.6 to 1.71 and the diesel also shot from a 1.5 to a 1.6.
During its production run, the VW Rabbit didn't receive many changes, though it did undergo many improvements. The Rabbit pickup was debuted in 1979 late in the year for the 1980 model year. The pickup was lengthened by 3 feet and had great hauling capacity and was offered with either a diesel or gas engine, though most were sold as diesels.
The GTi was introduced in 1982 and a much more sporty rendition of the VW Rabbit. The engine was a 1.81 and it featured a much stiffer suspension, front air dam, alloy wheels and unique Recaro sports seats. All of the grand features that drivers wanted were improved, the top speed, the handling and the acceleration on the GTi.
In 1982 a special 'black tie' edition Rabbit was introduced and featured black bumpers and mouldings that gave it an elegant look. On the inside, special seats were utilized and a rear wiper was also added. A Wolfsburg Edition Rabbit was debuted for 1984. A lush Rabbit model, the Wolfsburg came with a very unique interior, along with an extra moulding on the bottom of the door, and A/C.
The Volkswagen Golf was introduced in July of 1984 and the Rabbit stepped aside a bit. After being redesigned and renamed, the Rabbit convertible became the Cabriolet, and more recently to the Cabrio. Though it was not a long-lasting vehicle, the Rabbit was a popular vehicle that made a big impact on the history of Volkswagen. Today, the Rabbit is still a popular vehicle that is still in high demand all over the U.S. Though U.S. production has stopped, the MK1's continue to be produced by Volkswagen of South Africa dubbed as the CitiGolf model.
Volkswagen of America announced the return of the Rabbit on April 12, 2006 at the Detroit Auto Show. This was due partly to the decline of sales for the VW Golf in the North American market and VW of America choosing to re-brand the Golf name. This newly introduced model is the same as the Golf V that is sold worldwide.
For the 2007 model year, the Mk V Rabbit replaced the VW Golf and the engine was upgraded to a standard 2.5-L 150-hp I-5 for both the 2-door and 4-door models. The '06 Rabbit was available in two trims, a 2-door and a 4-door hatchback. The 2-door came wit a 150-hp 2.5L DOHC engine, speed sensitive wipers, 10-speaker AM/FM CD stereo system, 6 way manually adjustable driver's seat and turn signal indicator in side mirrors. The 4-door rabbit came with a 150-hp 2.5L DOHC engine, heatable front seats, adjustable lumbar support for both driver and front passenger, light tinted windows, and 60/40 folding rear seat.
By March 2009 the Volkswagen again chose to drop the 'Rabbit' nomenclature and chose once again to rename it the 'Golf'. Volkswagen debuted the all new Golf/Rabbit online on August 2008, thought the official unveiling of the 6th generation occurred at the 2008 Paris Motor Show in October 2008. The newest Golf/Rabbit will be wider than before and will feature body styling similar to the VW Scirocco as well as tail-lamps that remind one of the Touareg. Under the hood was a range of 2-diesel (1.9-liter and 2.0-liter TDI) and 3 Petrol (1.4-liter TSI, 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter TFSI) burning engines. The '09 Rabbit features a 5-cylinder engine with Tiptronic 6 speed automatic transmission which can be adjusted to sport mode which allows for longer RPM runs before gear shifting. To keep the engine in the power band, the sport mode also aggressively down shifts. A manual mode is available as an alternative that allowed the driver to shift gears up and down, much like a F1 car.
On October 15, 2008 the first U.K. example of the all new Golf was auction off for charity by the London Press Club Ball. All of the proceeds went to the 'Journalists' Charity', a UK charity for journalists in need.
At this time there are no hybrid variants of the VW rabbit, but there is also an opportunity that Volkswagen's 2.0 liter clean diesel engine will be available from 2008 on. Outside of North America the VW Rabbit is known as the Golf and over 5 generations and more than 24 million vehicles have been produced.By Jessica Donaldson