There was a time when the ideal strategy for the production of a performance car was to take a company’s largest engine and place it in the brand’s smallest and lightest body. This highly successful approach fostered some of the most revered automobiles of all time. However, Volkswagen proved this is far from the only route to an exciting car.
In 1974, Volkswagen replaced the Beetle with the Volkswagen Golf (initially known as the Rabbit in the U.S.).
This car was, in many ways, the exact opposite of its predecessor.
Where the Beetle used a rear-mounted air-cooled engine and rear-wheel drive; the Golf used a front-mounted liquid-cooled engine and front-wheel drive. The Beetle had a cargo hatch in the front, while the Golf’s cargo hatch was in the rear. Further, where the Beetle’s styling was dominated by curves, the Golf’s styling was crisply angular. While the two cars couldn’t have been more different, the public accepted the Golf wholeheartedly.
The following year, Volkswagen launched a performance version of the Golf. Emphasizing agility over outright power, the Volkswagen Golf GTI proved good fuel economy and driving fun could indeed be had in the same package. With the imminent arrival of the 2015 Mk7 Golf GTI, we thought it good to look back at the evolution of one of the most famous enthusiast cars of all time.