Home / Social media / News / 50 years of the Volkswagen Golf in pictures shows the amazing evolution of the world's favourite hot hatch.


Unless you live under a rock, or cars aren’t your thing, you’ll know that 2024 is a momentous year for Volkswagen. It was 50 years ago that the brand released the Golf, a nimble and sporty hatchback with a great power-to-weight ratio that afforded the car better performance than its size implied. While all automakers hope to create a model that will receive worldwide acclaim, Volkswagen actually made it happen. Little did the German automaker, and the world at large, know that the Golf would become one of the most iconic cars in history with the nameplate reaching its 50-year milestone this year. Over the last 50 years, there have been eight generations of the Golf, and it’s grown from a budget hatchback to a feature-packed car filled with the best technology seen in the market. The range-topping version right now is the Mk8 R, and here in SA, a new one will set you back more than a million Rand. One thing that’s quite interesting about Golfs is that most people who own them now have owned previous generations over the years. While many may try out other cars from other brands, loads return to a Golf. This here SXDrv scribe has had a total of 5 Mk1 golfs, including the iconic Mk1 GTi. Since then I’ve been behind the wheel of Ford, Opel and Honda, but I’m back in a GTi - this time it’s the last of the Mk4 models from 2004 with the 132 kW 1.8 turbo powerplant and a perfectly ratio’d 6-speed gearbox. Lately, I’ve been wanting to upgrade, and my online search results have been aimed at a Mk7 GTi. Most people I know want the 7R because it’s the range-topping all-wheel drive version, and while I do like them, I want one that has a more direct connection to the original DNA of the Mk1. It needs to be the front-wheel drive GTi version, and it simply must have the 6-speed transmission. DSG is great, but I want to have to swap cogs like a champion oarsman instead of just putting my foot flat and pointing the steering wheel around corners. In a perfect world, and if the stars and finances align, I’d just love to put myself behind the wheel of one of the special Mk7 variants, like a ClubSport. One day…

To keep the hype of the milestone anniversary going, here’s a pictorial history of the Golf using original press material from over the years. I’m a little biased, but I still think the Mk4 is one of the best iterations of the car. It still looks great on the road, and not as dated as the age would suggest. When they were first released the Mk4 was criticised for being big and bulky and less nimble than the Mk3, but these days I can park next to a new Golf and the Mk4 looks tiny. It’s even smaller and lighter than a new Polo GTi. Which generation is your favourite? Have you owned a Golf?   

Take a look at the YouTube video from the chaps at 4Drive Time as they take a quick look at the history of the world's most loved hot hatch from the timeless Mk1 right through to the new nearly million Rand Mk8 GTi (over a million if we're talking about the R model). The styling has changed a lot over the years, as has the size and weight, and more importantly - the power: Volkswagen Golf GTI – History of the sports icon / 45 years of the GTI | 4Drive Time

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