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The Golf Evolution

The Golf Evolution

Discover the history of an icon

The Volkswagen Golf has forged its legacy by pushing boundaries, showcasing radical design, and giving drivers incredible performance. To celebrate its illustrious past properly, we've put together a comprehensive profile for each of the Marks. Take a deeper look into the history of the Golf, meet the people who made it happen, and learn about the events that shaped the times. Be sure to check back regularly as we'll be publishing new profiles soon. 


Golf MkI – 1974 to 1983

Initial impulse. The first series-production Golf rolled off the production line in Wolfsburg in March 1974 and was available at dealerships from May in the same year.

As the successor to the legendary Beetle, of which more than 21.5 million were produced, the Golf Mk1 – developed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and Volkswagen – had immensely high expectations to live up to if it was to continue the story that the Beetle started – the most successful car in the world ever, at that point. As it turned out, the modern and safe drive system concept, great flexibility offered by a tailgate and folding rear seat backrest, and of course its design, were so convincing that by October 1976, it was already time to celebrate the millionth Golf produced. 6.99 million examples of the first generation of the Golf including all derivatives were sold on all of earth’s continents.

Golf MkII – 1983 to 1991

The first evolutionary stage. It was the second Golf with which the baby boomer generation, hovering around the age of 50 nowadays, learnt to drive: while the predecessor had already become the favourite amongst driving instructors and learner drivers, the new Golf now finally and irreversibly conquered this generation that was later also named after this vehicle. And it was this Golf that made progress available to the masses for the first time – with technologies including a lambda-probe-controlled catalytic converter, the anti-lock brake system or the product line’s first all-wheel drive.

In June 1988, the Golf already exceeded 10 million vehicles produced: a tremendously high figure. After 6.3 million produced vehicles, the second Golf generation was phased out in summer 1991.

Golf MkIII – 1991 to 1997

The victory of safety. From August 1991, Volkswagen kick-started a new era of safety with the third generation of the Golf. Firstly, the Mk3 Golf was the product line’s first model available with front airbags from 1992 and secondly, great progress within the context of body design also led to significantly improved crash properties. Volkswagen revolutionised passive safety as this improved protection benefited millions of car drivers around the globe.

However, several more product line milestones are linked to the Mk3 Golf: the first six-cylinder engine (VR6), the cruise control system, the first oxidising catalytic converter for diesel engines, the first diesel direct injection engine and the first side airbags. In May 1994, Volkswagen celebrated 15 million produced Golf vehicles. In 1997, the third generation was phased out after 4.83 million produced vehicles.

Golf MkIV – 1997 to 2003

Style icon. Today the Mk4 Golf is considered a pioneering style icon amongst design experts – no doubt this also comes as a result of it bridging the gap to the 1974 Golf Mk1 with all its clear features and the product line’s striking C-pillar design. With the Mk4 Golf Volkswagen implemented a completely new quality standard within the segment. In parallel, the de-but of ESP made further contributions to making safety available to the masses. Later, ESP became series production standard in Germany first. The Golf GTI 132 kW, launched in 2001 (to mark the GTI’s 25th anniversary), is already a sought-after classic. It was followed in 2002 by the first Golf with direct petrol injection engine (FSI) and the debut of head-protection airbags installed as standard.

In 2002, Volkswagen also introduced what was then the sportiest Golf: the R32 with a top speed of 250 km/h. In 2003, it was this Golf R32 that became available with a dual clutch gearbox (DSG) for the very first time. After 4.99 million vehicles built, the Mk4 Golf made space on production lines for the Mk5 Golf that same year.

Golf MkV – 2003 to 2008

End of class boundaries. It was the fifth Golf generation that offered com-fort and dynamics that went beyond those of quite a number of competitors within the upper mid-sized vehicle class. The same rang true for quality. A value that underlines the stability of the laser-welded body is that its torsional rigidity had increased by 35 percent in 2003 upon the debut of the Golf Mk5. This also marked the first time that the Golf was optionally available with side airbags in the rear – in conjunction with the six standard airbags (front, sides at the front, head-protection airbag) this now meant that eight of these protecting, inflatable pads were on board the vehicle.

In terms of comfort and dynamics the Golf Mk5 scored high marks thanks to features including the new four-link suspension rear axle and a new 7-speed DSG, bi-xenon headlights, rain sensor as well as a tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof, plus the debut of the first turbocharged direct petrol injection engine in the Golf GTI as well as the world’s first Twincharger featuring turbocharging and compressor-based charging. When the Golf Mk6 was introduced in 2008, 3.4 million units of all available Mk5 variants had been produced.

Golf MkVI – 2008 to 2012

High-end compact class. By the end of July 2012, a further 2.85 million Golfs had been produced in only four years on the basis of the sixth generation that was introduced in 2008. And safety once again took a great leap forward this time: the still laser-welded body was so stable that it scored the maximum of five stars in the EuroNCAP crash test with flying colours. A further airbag had now also been included on board as standard: the knee airbag. In terms of quality, the interior of the Mk6 Golf was considered particularly pioneering.

New assist systems, such as Light Assist dynamic main beam control, Park Assist, Hill Start Assist and technologies including adaptive chassis control DCC made the 2009 “World Car of the Year” the most progressive Golf at this point in time. Also available: features, such as the start/stop system and energy recovery mode, dynamic cornering light and LED taillight clusters.

Golf MkVII – 2012 to 2020

Reversing the weight spiral. On 4 September 2012, Volkswagen celebrated the seventh Golf generation’s world premiere in Berlin. Just one day later, pre-sales of this best-seller that had accrued 29.3 million sales at that point launched in the first countries. The weight of the new Golf had been reduced by up to 100 kg to reverse the often-quoted weight spiral. De-pending on the engine, it was possible to cut consumption by up to 23 percent compared with the predecessor.

Volkswagen additionally launched the Golf on the market with an entire armada of new assist systems. These included the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, a proactive occupant protection system as well as ACC Adaptive Cruise Control and the Front Assist area monitoring system including City Emergency Braking System. To date, around 6 million units of the Golf Mk7 have left the factory gates.

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