Iconic hatchback celebrates 40 years
The first series production Golf rolled off the assembly line in Wolfsburg on 29 March 1974 and four years later in Uitenhage, South Africs. As the successor to the legendary Beetle, of which over 21.5 million units were built, the Golf I, designed by Giorgio Giugiaro and Volkswagen Design, had to live up to the immense expectations that it would carry on the success story of what until then was the world’s most successful car.
The first Golf GTI was launched in 1976 and in 1982 in South Africa and Volkswagen heralded the introduction of greater dynamism in this class. The Golf Cabriolet was launched in 1979 and 532,588 1st generation Golf units were sold between 1978 and 2009 by the factory in Uitenhage.
With the Golf Cabriolet, introduced in 1979, Volkswagen launched an open car on the market that was at times the best-selling open car in the world. Volkswagen South Africa produced 532,588 first generation Golf units between 1978 and 2009 at its manufacturing plant in Uitenhage. Over 377,000 of these units were the venerable and legendary Citi Golf which was only manufactured for the local market from 1985 until 2009.
The introduction of the 2nd generation Golf meant that passengers no longer had to sit close to each other since spatial utilisation had been improved once more. Volkswagen South Africa produced 57,013 units of the second generation Golf between 1984 and 1992.
The third generation Golf was launched in 1992 and was the first of the series to have front airbags and major advances in the area of car body construction also resulted in significantly improved crash safety. Numerous technological milestones of the model range are linked to the 3rd Golf. The Golf 3 was the first of the model to sport a six cylinder engine, and cruise control and ABS became a standard feature on all Golf models in 1996. Over 38,200 3rd generation Golf units were sold between 1992 and 1998.
The 4th generation Golf was launched in 1999. This generation of Golf sported a direct-injection engine and featured a standard head airbag. Volkswagen launched the R32, and notched a top speed of 250 km/h. The R32 featured a revolutionary dual-clutch gearbox. The Golf 4 was in production from 1999 to 2004 and 33,516 units were sold in southern Africa.
The fifth generation Golf was launched in 2004 and was a class leader from the start. The model featured 6 standard airbags. The Golf 5 scored in numerous areas, including its new four-link rear suspension, DSG transmission, bi-xenon headlights, panoramic sliding sunroof, plus the world’s first twin charger TSI engine that combined turbo- and supercharger. More than 152,000 units were sold out of the Uitenhage factory and 11, 250 of these units were exported.
The Golf 6 was launched in 2009 and was so rugged, that it had a passed the EuroNCAP crash test with flying colours, gaining 5 stars. New assistance systems such as Park Assist, and a rear view camera made the sixth generation the most advanced Golf at that time. The sixth generation Golf was fully imported from Germany. The Golf 7 was introduced in southern Africa in 2013. The weight of the new Golf was reduced by up to 100 kg, thereby reversing the often cited upward weight spiral. Fuel economy was improved by a maximum of 23% depending on engine selection. In addition, Volkswagen has equipped the current generation Golf with an entire range of new assistance systems, some as options and others as standard.