The Volkswagen Golf has become a reference point in the hatchback world.
It's a design which, like the Porsche 911, has evolved immeasurably over time whilst still retaining the essential character of the original. And now, an all-new eighth generation Golf has just been unveiled. Time then to look at the story from the start:
35 million sold
Named after the Golfstrom, the German for gulfstream, the Mk1 Golf (pictured) first appeared in 1974, when the hatchback genre itself was in its infancy.
The Golf was arguably the car that turned the sector into the colossal market it is today. Now, 45 years and over 35 million sales later, we're at the Golf Mk8, due to go on sale in 2020.
Replacement for the Beetle
Designed as a front-engined, front-wheel drive replacement for the Beetle, the Golf’s crisp lines were penned by famed designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. So instant was its success that by October 1976 the one millionth Golf had already rolled off the production line.
Hot hatch boom
The Golf was a neat and efficient family car, but thanks to the efforts of a small group of enthusiastic VW engineers it became a bone fide performance car too.
An after-hours project for a ‘Sport Golf’ grew into the Golf GTI, released in the late 1970s and kicking off the hot hatch boom which continues to this day.
Giugiaro’s design was sympathetically updated by VW’s in-house design team for the longer and wider Mk2 Golf (pictured), which arrived in 1983.
It went on to sell 6.3 million units before the arrival of the all-new Mk3 at the end of 1991.
European Car of the Year
The Mk3 (pictured) scooped the 1992 European Car of the Year award after the Mk2 Golf had previously lost out to the Peugeot 205 and Fiat Uno.
Mk4 arrives in 1997
The plusher and more expensive Mk4 (pictured) appeared in 1997, continuing the soft-edged styling theme with even smoother, rounder design language. It was the first Golf to feature electronic stability control.
Mk5 comes along in 2003
The larger and faster Mk5 came along in 2003. While not a particularly stand-out generation in the Golf's history, it saw the launch of what many considered to be the long-awaited rebirth of the 'good' GTI version.
The Mk5 was subtly updated to create the the Mk6 (pictured) in 2008, mainly because the Mk5 was too expensive to produce. The Mk6 was the first to feature a parking assist function.
There have been estate and drop-top versions too, the Golf Cabriolet (pictured) and its distinctive basket-handle rollover bar (engineered out on the Mk6 Cabrio) originally being built by Karmann on a dedicated line.
Countless special editions have been released, with early ones some of the most sought-after by the Golf's legion of hardcore fans.
Models like the Mk2 Rallye, which combined VW's supercharged G60 engine with its Syncro four-wheel drive system and the jacked-up soft-roader Golf Country are hugely collectable.
Pictured: Mk3 VR6
Even later models, such as the Mk4 20th Anniversary Edition and the later Edition 30 and Edition 35 command huge premiums, such is the regard that the Golf's followers hold them.
The introduction of the Mk7 GTI (pictured) and Golf R keep the hot hatch blood running through the Golf's veins, and we still rate the GTI has one of the very finest hot hatches you can buy.
“One of the keys to the Golf’s success lies in its continuity, said Walter de Silva, VW’s Head of Design until 2015. “There are a handful of cars with a design that, like the Golf’s, has been refined, tweaked and enhanced down the decades and thus become timeless.”
Since 1974, a new Golf has been bought, on average, every 41 seconds - around 2,100 have been sold each day. Can the Mk8, scheduled to be released for sale in 2020, uphold the legacy of its predecessors?
On Thursday October 24 2019, Volkswagen revealed the car, claiming that its evolutionary exterior styling hides the biggest technical leap in the history of the model.
Klaus Bischoff, VW’s design boss, has referred to the new Golf as “an indicator of the present” that represents “what’s possible nowadays within the volume segment”, ahead of the new generation of electric vehicles like VW's new ID 3.
The Golf’s engine line-up will include three new 48V mild hybrids and a revamped GTE-badged plug-in hybrid. The entry-level 1.0-litre three-cylinder TSI petrol will be offered with 89bhp and 109bhp, while a 1.5-litre four-cylinder TFSI will come in 129bhp and 148bhp guises, all driven through a manual gearbox. The sole diesel on sale in the UK will be a 114bhp 2.0-litre TDI, available with manual or automatic transmission.