Motoring

IN PICTURES | Now & then: the evolution of the VW Golf

With the eighth-generation Golf having just been unveiled, we take a quick look at its lineage

27 October 2019 - 00:00 By
The gear stick of a 1982 Citi Golf (pictured top right) and the new Golf 8.
The gear stick of a 1982 Citi Golf (pictured top right) and the new Golf 8.
Image: Waldo Swiegers and supplied

At the recent Frankfurt Motor Show, Volkswagen revealed its first fully electric production vehicle. The ID.3 will spearhead the charge in this arena and marks the opening of the product floodgates for the sub-brand.

A crucial thing was said by the company: the latest model will be as significant as the Beetle and Golf were in defining events. A lofty expectation indeed. Especially as we draw our attention to the hatchback that took the baton from the bug-shaped genesis.

With the eighth-generation Golf having just been unveiled, we thought we would take a quick look at the lineage, past and present. It turned 45 this year and over 35-million units are claimed to have been sold worldwide.

The VW Golf turned 45 this year and over 35-million units are claimed to have been sold worldwide

In this case there will be no mention of the GTI division, a subject that would warrant a standalone report of its own.

On March 29 1974 the first-generation Golf rolled off the production line. It was available in three-door and five-door body formats, initially with 1.1-litre and 1.5-litre engine displacements, and a pair of transmissions choices: four-speed manual or three-speed automatic.

This model would be reborn in SA as the Citi Golf, enjoying a lengthy life that ended only in 2009.

Tracking down an unmolested example of the first Golf took some doing. Save for the steering wheel and lower ride height, the specimen you see is original. Just consider these tweaks to be a retrofitted, homemade R-Line package of sorts. The yellow 1.3 L is of 1982 vintage, driven daily by its owner.

The follow-up, second-generation car grew substantially in length and waist, adopting a decidedly more grown-up persona over its dainty predecessor. And certainly, that growth set the tone for subsequent iterations of its evolution.

In its third guise, launched to the world in 1991, the Golf proffered more in terms of safety and specification, earning the title of 1992 European Car of the Year in the process. Airbags and anti-lock brakes were some of the highlights that were available - big advancements for a compact car during that era.

Golf 2.
Golf 2.
Image: Supplied
Golf 3.
Golf 3.
Image: Supplied

But many argue that generation four marked the clearest distinction in the progression of the Golf character towards a decidedly more upmarket persona. This breed of Golf introduced the highly praised double-clutch transmission so ubiquitous in the Volkswagen Group today. The mighty R32 was the first production vehicle in the world to employ the gearbox.

In 2004 the fifth-generation Golf was launched in SA. It was wider, taller and longer than its predecessor. It saw the inclusion of a multi-link rear suspension, while Volkswagen purported its body was 80% more rigid.

Golf 4.
Golf 4.
Image: Supplied
Golf 5.
Golf 5.
Image: Supplied

Then joined No 6, essentially a thoroughly refreshed version of the former vehicle. At the time its makers proudly extolled that their car was revised to be "more fuel and emission efficient" - but maybe we should take those last two words with a pinch of salt, knowing what we know now. Locally, the model was well-received, earning the title of 2010 South African Car of the Year.

The seventh-generation Golf brought a new platform - the lauded MQB architecture which is in widespread use across multiple brands within its parent company. And you could, quite convincingly, have described the seven as a real game changer when it was launched in 2013. It set new quality standards.

The model ushered in semi-autonomous features with options such as a self-parking assistant. And it marked a foray into electric mobility, with the e-Golf, not sold in our market. Seen here is the refreshed seven, dubbed seven-point-five unofficially, which benefits from a host of aesthetic and interior tweaks rolled out to the range in 2017.

Golf 7.
Golf 7.
Image: Waldo Swiegers
Golf 6.
Golf 6.
Image: Supplied

In typical Volkswagen fashion, the aesthetic of No 8 is evolutionary in its progression. Poised to arrive in SA next year, it is billed as the most digitised Golf the world has ever seen.


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