Nearly 45 years on, the benefits of marrying power and better handling to the practicality and inexpensiveness of Giorgetto Giugiaro’s timeless folded-paper design seem as obvious as combining deep-fried chips with battered fish. Yet Volkswagen took some convincing. What eventually turned the car from cottage industry to industry changer was not just its snowballing popularity, but also the fact that the value-added desirability, spun into the car’s structure like thread in the tartan upholstery, could be used to liberally fatten the family hatchback’s slim profit margin. Cracking that formula was the GTI’s lasting lesson – one that the market has applied ruthlessly and rigorously everywhere ever since.
Which lands us somewhat messily at the idea of the modern fast wagon, the illegitimate offspring of the hot hatch, the super-saloon and the humble estate car – and, in many ways, the logical end point of Löwenberg’s pragmatic thought process. The two-box estate car in its cooking format ought to be about as compelling as a van with windows, but apply a svelte, swooping rear three-quarter and sprinkle the same half-century-old pixie dust on the chassis and engine bay, and it becomes something else entirely.