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THE EVOLUTION OF THE VOLKSWAGEN GOLF

It is one of VWs most iconic vehicles, and this is the evolution of the Volkswagen golf.

The Volkswagen Golf is a legend in its own lifetime. From simple beginnings as a reliable runabout in the 70s, it has evolved into the class-leading benchmark of family hatchbacks. With over 35,000,000 cars sold in its 40-odd year history, this VW Beetle successor has been the German company's most important vehicle.

The name Golf is derived from the word Gulf, as in the Gulf Stream. This designation, based on different winds around the world, would find traction in many other of their vehicles. Think Jetta from 'jet stream', Passat, which means trade wind, and Sirocco, which is a Mediterranian wind.

Back in the 70s, the Beetle was getting long in the tooth, and VW needed to replace it with something new that would capture the attention of the public. The Mk 1 Golf was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, founder of Italdesign, and it was the antitheses of its predecessor. Out went the rounded lines, rear-mounted air-cooled engine and rear-wheel-drive, replaced with an angular body with the water-cooled engine up front, driving the front wheels.

The only similarity between these two models is that they would both become sought-after classics that people simply adore.

The Mk 1 Golf would introduce a wide range of engines, from frugal 1.1-litres to the must-have 1.8-litre GTi petrol. Diesel powerplants would also find their way into the engine bay, either naturally aspirated or turbocharged. The Mk1 is a hit, selling 6.99-million cars worldwide.

In 1983, Volkswagen introduced the Mk 2 Golf. Bigger and more rounded than its predecessor, it is still fundamentally a Golf, but better in every respect. It also receives better tech, like ABS brakes and power steering, and an all-wheel-drive version called the Syncro. The GTi is more powerful, but it's the supercharged G60 that steals the show. 6.3-million Mk 2s would find homes around the globe in its 8-year production.

The Mk 3 Golf, introduced in 1991, would see the new model sporting more curves and a pliant ride, a new fashion for a new decade. This model is more substantial and safer than the Mk 2 and, for the first time, is offered as an estate. Even though an owner could spec a multi-coloured version, this model would go on to sell 4.8-million cars. This figure was likely due to the 2.0-litre powerplant in the GTi, and the 6-cylinder VR6.

Then, in 1997, the Mk 4 Golf was introduced, with a noticeable push upmarket, from better quality interiors to better tech. The 3.2-litre R32 is the first production Volkswagen Golf to hit the 250kph, but buyers have their choice of 24 engine options under the lightly redesigned exterior. 

Six years later, the Mk5 Golf hits the market with a new design. In true VW style, it's an evolution, but one with a more aggressive front-end. Volkswagen looks to appeal to a new generation of buyers who are aiming for something more sporty. The Mk5 also introduces rear-link suspension and a seven-speed DSG cog-swapper in the Gti, making it one of the most capable hot hatches on the market.

This model was a hit, again, but it's the Golf W12 650 concept car that stole the headlines. With a massive 6.0-litre bi-turbo W12 dropped into the engine bay, and a widebody kit installed to accommodate fatter rubber, this concept car would do 0-62mph in 3,5-seconds and top out at 202mph. Everybody wanted one.

The Mk 6 Golf rolled off the production line in 2008 and promptly won the World Car Of The Year. It also received a 5-star NCAP rating for the first time but, due to emission regulations, the 3.2-litre R32 makes way for an all-new 2.0-litre Golf R model. It may have been down on cylinders, but it punched above its weight. 

Although released as a new model, the Mk 6 was just a facelifted version of its predecessor so, four years later, the all-new Mk 7 made its appearance. This Golf is the first vehicle to be launched on Volkswagen's MQB platform that would underpin the Audi A3, Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia among others. This chassis pushed the front wheels forward, reducing the overhand and increasing space in the cockpit. Even more upmarket, the dash includes a digital display only found in luxury vehicles. It's 23% more efficient too, and in 2014, the all-electric e-Golf hits the streets, and a short while later, the Golf GTE plug-in hybrid is offered.

The big news for the Mk 7 was the introduction of 2016's Golf Clubsport S. This car would set a new Nürburgring lap time of 7:49:21 for a front-wheel-drive production vehicle, blooding the nose of Honda's Civic Type-R in the process.

The Mk 7 Golf would go on to sell 6-million units for Volkswagen in its seven-year production.

Roll on 2019, and the Mk 8 Golf. It has a more angular design but remains unmistakably a Golf. The significant evolution here, though, is the tech, with an all-digital cockpit and a range of hybrid powertrains. Volkswagen hasn't forgotten its roots, with the upcoming GTi and Golf R announced for later in 2020, along with a manual gearbox option, and a diesel GTD on the cards too.

The Volkswagen Golf has come a long way from its simple roots, revolutionising the mid-size hatchback market with its subtle evolution. Yes, there have been a couple of models that didn't quite hit the mark, but the true testament to the humble Golf is its positive impact on the world of wheels. Check out Car Throttle's video below to find out more about The Evolution of the Volkswagen Golf.

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