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Volkswagen's hot Golf history in pics

  1. This week the Volkswagen Golf turns 40 years old, during which period it has sold more than 30 million. Let that number sink in for a moment, because it’s huge.

    VW claims it to be the most successful European car of all time, basing its definition of ‘success’ probably on such insignificant metrics as ‘sales’ and ‘build quality’ and ‘driving enjoyment’, largely forgetting gems like the Talbot Sunbeam and Alfa Romeo Arna.

    Regardless, this year it celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Golf, and as such, Top Gear has decided to have a peek back through the hot production Golfs that have graced the streets, from the original, classic GTI through to this year’s 300bhp 4WD ‘R’ version.

    Have a wander through the pics and let us know your favourite in the non-shouty place below.

  2. MkI GTI

    Despite being unveiled at the 1975 Frankfurt Motor Show, Brits had to wait two years to get their hands on VW’s 110bhp 1,588cc four-pot. The minuscule MkI only weighed 810kg, which meant it could hit 60mph in nine seconds and reach 100mph. In ‘82 a 1781cc model joined the lineup.

  3. MkII GTI

    Nine years after the inaugural hot Golf, the GTI’s second coming was ready. It got a new chassis, 110bhp 1781cc four-pot engine and swollen, slipperier styling. 

  4. MkII G60

    As well the normally aspirated GTI, VW threw a supercharged G60 model into the lineup. It produced a then-blistering 160bhp. 

  5. MkII Rallye Golf

    Built as a homologation special, the Rallye got a supercharged four-pot engine, four-wheel drive, flared arches and rectangular headlights. Around 5,000 were built and they cost twice as much as a standard Golf when new.

  6. MkII Golf Limited

    The Limited counts itself among the most rare hopped-up factory Golfs. It’s got 210bhp goes to 142mph and it’s stuffed with top-spec options - all are four-door models (save for two three-doors) and have 15-inch BBS RM wheels, a twin-headlight grill, tinted taillights and special badges.

    Pic courtesy of


  7. MkIII GTI

    Now sinking into comfortable middle age, the third generation GTI got a 2.0-litre engine when it landed on the forecourt in 1992. Thanks to 188 extra kilos of heft, it wasn’t as agile as the MkII. Even the 148bhp 16-valve engine, which appeared in 1993, couldn’t help matters.

  8. MkIII VR6

    Fitted with snazzy semi-v 2.8 and 2.9-litre VR6 engines (they’ve got one cylinder head but offset pistons) the Golf VR6 got to 60 in 7.1 seconds.

  9. MkIII 20th Anniversary GTI

    To commemorate 20 years of GTIness, VW gave us this – it got chequered Recaro seats, lots of red detailing and 16-inch BBS split rims. 

  10. MkIV GTI

    When VW launched the fourth generation GTI in 1998 it offered a model for all performance tastes. Two engines were available in four different states of tune.

  11. MkIV R32

    In 2003, VW fitted a Golf with a 237bhp 3.2-litre VR6 engine. It also stuffed in every conceivable option available to the MkIV’s platform before sticking an R32 badge on the front. You can watch Jeremy racing it against an Alfa 147 and Focus RS here. 

  12. MkIV V6 4Motion

    As well as a 201bhp 2.8-litre V6 engine, the 4Motion got super-grippy four-wheel drive.

  13. MkIV GTI 25th Anniversary

    Built to celebrate the GTI’s release, the limited 25th Anniversary models were made up of 900 petrol-powered cars and 900 diesels.  

  14. MkIV GTI 20th Anniversary

    No, we’ve not got ourselves in a muddle - the 20th Anniversary was actually released after the 25th. It was built to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the GTI in America. 4000 were shipped to the United States and 200 to Canada.

  15. MkV GT Sport

    Effectively the Lamb Bhuna of the Golf world, the slightly spicy sub-GTI came with a 1.4-litre twin-charged petrol engine or a 2.0-litre diesel lump when it launched in 2009. It got the GTI’s brakes and its suspension was lowered by 15mm.

  16. MkV GTI

    The success of the fruity 25th Anniversary Edition inspired the faster-still MkV. It got a 2.0-ltre T-FSI engine with a six-speed gearbox and 15mm lowering springs. You can spot a few nods to MkI GTI, too - there are tartan chairs and a traditional red grill surround. 

  17. MkV Pirelli

    Built in collaboration with rubbersmiths, Pirelli, the hot MkV GTI came fitted with a warmed over 2.0-litre TFSI engine, which made 30bhp more than the standard GTI, getting it to 60mph in 7.0 seconds. Unsurprisingly, it also had Pirelli tyres.

  18. MkV R32

    With 10bhp more than its predecessor thanks to a tinkered inlet manifold, the 3.2-litre VR6 engine makes 247bhp and 236lb ft of torque. 0-62mph takes 6.5 seconds or 6.2 seconds if you ticked the DSG gearbox option. It also got four-wheel drive and enormous 345mm brakes.

  19. MkV GTI Edition 30

    Another five years, another anniversary edition. On sale at the end of 2006, the Edition 30 had 30 extra horses than the standard GTI, a front spoiler and tinted rear lights, a la Golf R32. Colour coding, 18-inch wheels and exclusive trim materials were also standard, and you got a fancy little Edition 30 plaque. Which is pleasant.

  20. GTI W12

    Fitted with a mid-mounted twin-turbo W12 from a Bentley Continental, Audi R8 rear subframe and a Lamborghini Gallardo’s rear axle and brakes it stands out as the most preposterous Golf ever. It was built for the Worthersee GTI Festival in just eight weeks. And you can see Jeremy having a drive of it here.

  21. MkVI GTI

    Essentially a thoroughly facelifted MkV, the VI GTI got the Scirocco’s direct-injection EA888 2.0-litre turbo four-pot, which upped power from 197bhp to 207bhp on the previous generation. 

  22. MkVI Golf R

    Launched in 2010, the R’s got 59bhp more than the MkVI GTI, 18-inch wheels and four-wheel drive. 62mph comes in 5.7 seconds and it’ll carry on till 155mph.

  23. Golf R Cabriolet

    OK, so this one’s just a concept, but it still deserves a mention. It’s a scalped Golf R, so it gets four-wheel drive and a 266bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-pot engine.

  24. MkVII Golf GTI

    Sat on the VW Group’s new MQB platform comes this, the seventh generation of the GTI. Now available as a 217bhp/258lb ft 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot, or a 227bhp ‘Performance Pack’ version. Go for the latter, and prepare to be amazed.

  25. MkVII Golf R

    What’s this? Only the fastest, most powerful production Golf ever built. It’s got a 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder engine, just like the GTI, but quite unlike the GTI, the ‘R’ produces 296bhp; 29bhp more than the last Golf R.

    It’s also got 4WD and will crack 62mph - in DSG form - in just 4.9s.

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