Ben Parker
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History of the Volkswagen Golf

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Front angles view of a coral 1975 Volkswagen Golf in front of a white background
1975 Volkswagen Golf
Photo: Volkswagen AG via CC

Volkswagen first introduced the Golf in 1974 as a modern alternative for the Beetle with a funky hatchback style that gave consumers a more conservative option for a compact car. While it’s been known by a variety of names, the popularity of this hatchback has stuck.

Awards News: Golf GTI and Jetta GLI named in Car and Driver 10Best list

The Golf was first introduced in May 1974, though it was called the Volkswagen Rabbit in North America, and was based on the Jetta platform. After its introduction and subsequent popularity, many automakers followed Volkswagen’s path by introducing hatchbacks to the U.S. market. The Golf name arrived in the second generation and was thought to originate from the Volkswagen tradition of naming their cars after prominent winds or currents.

When the Golf was first introduced, it was offered in a single trim level with front-wheel drive. As the popular hatchback made its way through the years, its style evolved and it gained a variety of new features. By the third generation in 1991, the Golf started to look closer to how it does today, with somewhat rounded edges. The fifth-generation was introduced in 2006 in the U.S. and was powered by a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that generated 150 horsepower. An electric version of the Golf debuted in 2013, although the model is not currently available in the U.S.

Front view of the 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI parked at sunset
The 2022 Golf debuted at the Chicago Auto Show this year
Photo: Volkswagen

Now in its eighth generation, which it entered in 2019, the VW Golf rides on an updated version of the MQB platform that was created in 2012. The current 2021 Golf TSI has a 1.4-liter turbo engine under its hood and a host of advanced technology in its cabin. The latest Golf also has helpful driver-assist tech available, such as Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, and Front Assist.

An assortment of awards won by the Volkswagen Golf:

  • 1992, 2013 European Car of the Year
  • 2010 Kelley Blue Book “Top 10 Green Cars”
  • 2012 Top Gear Magazine “The All The Car You’ll Ever Need Car of the Year”
  • 2013 World Car of the Year
  • 2013-2014 Car of the Year Japan (first imported car to win the award since its creation in 1980)