Over its 41 years of production and 7 generations, VW has sold an impressive 30 million Golfs. The first Golf ever made rolled off the assembly line in Wolfsburg, Germany on March 29th, 1971. It all started with the MK I, a front-wheel drive hatchback, featuring the new transversely mounted front engine. It was designed as the updated, modern successor to the Beetle and by 1976, over 1 million had been produced.
’76 also saw the release of the GTI, taking the practical and economical Golf and turing into a sporty hot-hatch by giving it 1588 cc and 1780 cc four-cylinder, fuel injected engine.
In 1983, the roomier MK II was released with new safety features like ABS brakes and a few years later, the syncro was introduced for an AWD option.
Following the safety advancements of the MK II, the MK III had front airbags and a redesigned front end to improve collision safety. Other notable advancements were the development of the fuel injected diesel, cruise control, oxidation cat converter, and the VR6, Golf’s first 6 cylinder engine.
The MK IV was introduced in 1997 with some new body styling, ushering it into the modern age. A few years later, the high performance 3.2L, VR6, 4 wheel-drive Golf R32. With a new dual-clutch gearbox and top speed of 155mph, the R32 put the Golf on the map in terms of performance.
The MK V was launched in 2003 in the US under the name Rabbit and was powered by 2.5L five-cylinder engine. It now came with 6 standard airbags, four-link rear suspension, seven speed dual-clutch gearbox, and the world’s first commercially produced combined turbo and supercharger- the twincharger in the 2006 TSI.
The popularity of the Golf continued to grow and the MK VI had sold a total of 2.5 million cars between 2008 and 2012. The MK VI once again had safety in mind and it easily passed the EuroNCAP crash test with 5 stars. It was also designed to be more aerodynamic, improving fuel economy and the TDI’s shifted to common rail system also improving MPG.
The latest in the Golf lineup, the MK VII was debuted in 2012. Refining the aerodynamic design of the MK VI, weight was also reduced by 200lbs, thus improving fuel economy by 23%. The GTI continues to impress with a 217hp turbocharged 2 liter four-cylinder engine, with the upgraded performance pack the brake horse power is increased to 227.
So thinking about picking up a Golf? Here’s what you need to know. Like all cars, Golfs are not without their faults and some model years are worse than others, particularly 2001 model year which received the most NHTSA complaints. The NHTSA keeps a log of car owner complaints and according to their database, a large proportion of complaints are dedicated to engine faults. One problem to look out for is high oil consumption. For certain models, like the GTI MK5, it’s normal for to burn up to a quart every 600miles, but if you’ve got a Golf that seems to be excessively burning oil, first check which oil your using. Because these engines have wrist-pin oilers, it’s essential that you use the recommended oil. Many brands will even say “suitable for VW/Audi specification 502/505.” Even things like a too rich fuel mixture from aftermarket modifications will thin out the oil and cause it to burn.
The Golf is, spacious, affordable and fun to drive but unfortunately it isn’t the most reliable car out there and Fixers need to be aware of common fail points. Some of these problems are easily remedied by simply replacing the part, like the diverter valve, PCV valve, cam lobe, fuel pump, thrust sensor and AC compressor. Others become a bit more complex, like when the intake duct gets sheared off by the fan, the engine is misfiring or the engine wont start when it’s cold.
For many Fixers, these issues aren’t insurmountable and the benefits of outweigh the negatives. Those looking to pick up a used one should go over it with a fine tooth comb as well as take it for a test drive. The Golf can be an extremely fun car, but it’s best in the hands of someone who has a bit of automotive experience.
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