Home / Social media / News / The Volkswagen Golf turns 50, but so does it's Audi cousin, the aptly named Audi 50.


In 1974, amidst the turmoil of the oil crisis that killed the American muscle car, Audi unveiled something quite different from the norm: the compact Audi 50, which marked a rather significant milestone being the first compact car from a German automaker, any German automaker. The Audi 50 hit the market a month before the Mk1 Golf. The car featured an innovative design and great fuel efficiency so it arrived just when the world needed it most. With its pioneering front-wheel-drive configuration and transverse engine, paired with a spacious two-door hatchback layout featuring a sizable trunk and fold-down backrest, the Audi 50 set new standards in the automotive world. The new compact car was engineered to be both modern and versatile and the Audi 50 filled a crucial gap in Audi's lineup, complementing the larger Audi 80 and Audi 100 at the lower end. Spearheaded by CTO Ludwig Kraus, Audi's engineers embarked on the project in 1970, aiming to create a contemporary vehicle tailored to the era's demands. Central to its success was the transverse engine layout, allowing for ample interior space within its compact 3.49-meter frame. The little Audi 50 was the brainchild of well-known designer Hartmut Warkuß, known for his work on the Audi 80, the Audi 50's aesthetic “embodied elegance and timelessness”. We’d never describe a compact boxy car like that these days, but I guess for the time… Production of the car was initially based in Neckarsulm before moving to the company’s Technical Development in Ingolstadt, and ultimately Wolfsburg where the Mk1 Golf is from. The Audi 50 showcased among the first collaborative car-creation efforts in the Volkswagen Group.

The then-new car was available in two variants, the Audi 50 LS and Audi 50 GL, and both were powered by compact 1.1-litre 4-cylinder engines. While they were identical, the setup saw the higher-spec GL with a whole 44 kW, while the entry LS featured 37 kW. This meant the LS was capable of hitting a top speed of 142 km/h and the GL could get up to 152 km/h. Production of the car kicked off in 1974, and the Audi 50 quickly gained acclaim after its debut in Sardinia, reaching dealerships in October of the same year. Unlike the Mk1 Golf which went on to be produced until 1983, the Audi 50’s production ended in 1978, but not before leaving a legacy of innovation paving the way for future generations of compact cars. The Mk1 Golf was so popular and affordable in SA that it’s production only ceased in 2009. Despite its brief lifespan, the Audi 50 laid the foundation for the small-car segment within the Volkswagen Group, setting the stage for the widespread success of models like the VW Polo in the years to come. If you know your cars, especially classic Volkswagens, you’ll see just how close the Audi 50 looks to the first Volkswagen Polo that was created a year later in 1975. Despite half a million of them being manufactured, and with Volkswagen being a huge part of South Africa, we’ve seen very few of them here which means they were likely private imports. The Audi 50 saw a total of 180,828 units produced between 1974 and 1978, much less than its VW counterpart. Have you ever laid eyes on an Audi 50 here in SA? It’s one classic Audi we’re yet to see in the metal, but we keep hoping.

Take a look at the YouTube video that was created by the crew at Fuel and Fury, who are clearly fans of classic Audis. They offer up info and details on the first small Audi, the Audi 50, which is very clearly a cousin to the Mk1 Golf. Being a mad Golf fan, this thing makes us happy: Audi 50: Compact Brilliance (1974-1978) Review | Style, Efficiency, and Innovation! | Fuel and Fury

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