Volkswagen Golf Mk1

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For an overview of all generations of the Golf, see Volkswagen Golf.
Volkswagen Golf Mk1 (17)
VW Golf I Facelift front 20081209.jpg
Manufacturer Volkswagen
Also called Volkswagen Rabbit
Volkswagen Caribe
Volkswagen CitiGolf
Volkswagen Cabriolet
Production 6.8 million units[1]
1976-1985 (Yugoslavia)
1979-1993 (Cabriolet)
Assembly Melbourne, Australia [2]
Brussels, Belgium
Wolfsburg, Germany
New Stanton, Pennsylvania, United States
Uitenhage, South Africa
Shah Alam, Malaysia[3]
Puebla, Puebla, Mexico
TAS Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
Vogošća, Yugoslavia
Designer Giorgetto Giugiaro
Body and chassis
Class Small family car (C)
Body style 2-door convertible
3-door hatchback
5-door hatchback
2-door coupe utility (pickup)
Layout FF layout
Platform Volkswagen Group A1 platform
Related Volkswagen Jetta,
Volkswagen Caddy,
Volkswagen Scirocco,
Volkswagen Citi Golf
Engine All markets except USA/CDN/Japan
Gasoline engines:[4][5]
1.1L 50 PS (37 kW) I4
1.3L 60 PS (44 kW; 59 hp) I4
1.5L 70 PS (51 kW; 69 hp) I4
1.6L 75 PS (55 kW; 74 hp) I4
1.6L 110 PS (81 kW; 108 hp) I4 (GTI, engine code: EG)
1.8L 112 PS (82 kW; 110 hp) I4 (GTI/GLI, engine code: DX
Diesel engines:
1.5L 50 PS (37 kW; 49 hp) I4
1.6L 54 PS (40 kW; 53 hp) I4
1.6L 70 PS (51 kW; 69 hp) I4 TD
1.6L 60 hp (45 kW) I4 (Pickup)
1.5L 70 hp (52 kW) I4 (MY 1975)
1.6L 71 hp (53 kW) I4 (MY 1976)
1.6L 78 hp (58 kW) I4 (MY 1977)
1.5L 71 hp (53 kW) I4 (MY 1978/79)
1.5L 62 hp (46 kW) I4 (MY 1980)
1.6L 76 hp (57 kW) I4 (MY 1980)
1.7L 74 hp (55 kW) I4 (MY 1981/82)
1.7L 65 hp (48 kW) I4 (MY 1983/84)
1.8L 90 hp (67 kW) I4 (GTI MY 1983/84)
Diesel engines:
1.5L 48 hp (36 kW) I4 (MY 1978-80)
1.6L 52 hp (39 kW) I4 (MY 1981-84)
1.6L 68 hp (51 kW) I4 (MY 1983-84)
Transmission 4-speed/5-speed manual,
3-speed automatic
Wheelbase 2,400 mm (94.5 in),
Pickup: 2,625 mm (103.3 in)
Length 3,705 mm (145.9 in),
later 3,815 mm (150.2 in),
USA 155.3 in (3,945 mm),
Pickup: 4,380 mm (172.4 in)
Width 1,610 mm (63.4 in),
later 1,630 mm (64.2 in),
Pickup: 1,640 mm (64.6 in)
Height saloon: 1,395 mm (54.9 in),
Cabrio: 1,412 mm (55.6 in),
Pickup: 1,490 mm (58.7 in)
Curb weight 790 kg (1,741.7 lb)
−970 kg (2,138.5 lb),
USA 1,750 lb (790 kg)
−2,145 lb (973 kg)
Predecessor Volkswagen Beetle
Successor Volkswagen Golf Mk2

The Volkswagen Golf Mk1 is a small family car, the first generation of the Volkswagen Golf and the successor to the Volkswagen Beetle. Presented in May 1974,[4] it was intended by Volkswagen as a modern front-wheel-drive, hatchback replacement for the aging Beetle.


A post-facelift VW Golf rear.

Like its predecessor (the Volkswagen Beetle) the Volkswagen Golf Mk1 has proven to be influential. The Golf was one of the first widely successful front-wheel drive hatchbacks. In the USA, the Morris Mini, Honda N360 and Fiat 128 saw only limited success. It was the Rabbit, along with the Honda Civic, that sparked American interest in front-wheel drive compacts. The Golf was introduced to Japan in 1975, and was imported by Yanase dealerships in Japan. Its exterior dimensions and engine displacement were in compliance with Japanese Government dimension regulations, which helped sales.

A pre-facelift VW Golf Mk1.
A pre-facelift VW Golf Mk1 rear.

Replacing the Beetle was a vital goal for Volkswagen's continued survival. By the early 1970s, the company had fallen into financial difficulties and Beetle sales began to decline sharply. Water-cooled, front-engine, front or rear-wheel drive small cars began enjoying customer loyalty, notable examples being the Citroen GS, Ford Escort and Fiat 128, as well as the Renault 6 hatchback.

The solution had arrived with Auto Union. They had attracted a small following with their technologically advanced Audi front-wheel drive medium sedans. Volkswagen had acquired the Ingolstadt-based company in 1964 from Daimler-Benz. Audi's expertise in water-cooled engines and front-wheel drive would be essential in developing a new generation of Volkswagens. The Audi technology in the Golf would regain for Volkswagen the engineering lead over rear-drive cars that Ferdinand Porsche had bestowed on the original Beetle over its large conventional peers. The small Golf had to succeed in replacing the high-volume Volkswagen coupe. The upmarket Dasher/Passat would be VW's first front-wheel-drive car, and it was relatively well received for its lower volume market, where it competed mostly alongside the rear-wheel drive saloons like the Ford Cortina, although there are already some front-wheel drive cars and even hatchbacks like the Austin Maxi and Renault 16 in this market sector. The Golf would adopt an efficient "two-box" layout with a steep hatch rather than a formal trunk, which would be later added in the Jetta. The water-cooled engine would be mounted transversely in the front. Work on the Golf began in 1969, shortly after Kurt Lotz became head of Volkswagen.

Model history[edit]

The first Golf (VW internal designation Typ 17) began production early in 1974, although it was marketed in the United States and Canada from 1975 to 1984 as the Volkswagen Rabbit and in Mexico as the Volkswagen Caribe. British sales began towards the end of 1974, where it competed against established British-built smaller family cars including the Austin Allegro, Ford Escort and Vauxhall Viva.

It was a water-cooled, front wheel drive design in a hatchback body style. It featured firmly sprung and damped, independent MacPherson strut front suspension and semi-independent twist-beam rear suspension, that gave crisp handling and good roadholding, without being too uncomfortable. A very important model was the Golf Diesel, which appeared in late 1976. This was remarkable in how unremarkable it was, with performance very similar to that of a petrol 1100. The 1.5-litre engine used the petrol engine's crankshaft, bearings, and connecting rods, combined with the recently discontinued 1471 cc cast-iron engine block.[6] As with the Golf GTi, the Golf Diesel more or less created a new class of car.

The Golf was designed by Italian automobile architect / designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, of the ItalDesign design studio. Giugiaro had also designed the Alfasud and the Lotus Esprit Mk1.

There was a minor facelift in 1980 which saw the adoption of larger rear lamp clusters (more in line with Giugiaro's original concepts), moulded black plastic bumpers, a new dashboard with a more modern-looking instrument display featuring LED warning lights, and for US versions rectangular headlights, this was the last major update before it was replaced by the MK2 Golf in September 1983. It was not replaced on the right-hand drive British market until March 1984.

However, air conditioning became available as an option on the domestic market in August 1975.[7] The possibility to retrofit the installation, together with a larger battery, was offered to existing owners.[7]

Volkswagen Golf GTI[edit]

Golf GTI Mark 1 Front

In 1975 a sports-oriented variant of the Volkswagen Golf, called the Golf GTI was introduced in March of that year at the Frankfurt Motor Show[8]

The idea behind was rather straightforward - take a basic-transportation economy car and give it a high-performance package, making it practical and sporty. It was one of the first small cars to adopt mechanical fuel injection. In 2004, Sports Car International declared the Golf Mk1 GTI to be the 3rd best car of the 1980s.

This special model was powered by 1588 cc and 1780 cc four-cylinder engines fed by a Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, which helped them develop a respectable 110 & 115PS (80 kW) @ 6,100 rpm and 140 Nm (103 lb-ft) of torque @ 5,000 rpm. Aided with a curb weight of just 810 kg (1,785 lb), it allowed the GTI to accelerate 0-60 mph in 9 seconds. The top speed was of 180 km/h (some 110 mph). The term hot hatch was retroactively applied to the Mk1 Golf GTI some years later.[9]

Golf GTI Mark 1 Rear

Many regard the Golf GTI Mk1 as the first "hot hatch" on the market, it was in fact preceded by the Autobianchi A112 Abarth in 1971, although it would prove to be far more popular than the earlier car. It also competed with a number of quick small saloons including the Ford Escort RS2000. When the Escort switched to front-wheel drive and a hatchback for the third generation model in 1980, Ford launched a quick XR3 model which was comparable to the Golf GTI in design and performance.

Volkswagen initially built the GTI only for the home market of West Germany, but launched it onto the British market in 1977 in left-hand drive form, with a right-hand drive version finally becoming available in 1979 as demand and competition increased. The standard Golf had been on sale in Britain in right-hand drive form since late 1974.[10] The Rabbit GTI didn't arrive in the United States until the 1983 model year.

The Golf GTI was perhaps the first "hot hatch" with mass market appeal, and many other manufacturers since have created special sports models of their regular volume-selling small hatchbacks. Within a few years of its launch, it was faced with competition from cars including the Fiat Ritmo, Ford Escort XR3/XR3i, Renault 5 GT Turbo and Vauxhall Astra/Opel Kadett GTE.[11]

It proved popular on the British market, where it went on sale towards the end of 1974, where it appealed to buyers who were looking for a modern, smaller and practical family car. It gained a reputation for build quality and reliability, which came at a time when British products like the Austin Allegro were gaining a reputation for dismal build quality and reliability, and at the same time the British car industry was being plagued by frequent strikes.[12]In 1975, its first full year on sale, it was the 14th best selling car in Britain with more than 19,000 sales.[13]In 1981, the facelifted version of the Golf was voted Car of the Year by What Car? magazine, ahead of all-new cars including the Austin Metro and MK3 Ford Escort.[14]In 1983, its final full year on sale (the MK2 Golf was not launched there until March 1984), it achieved more than 25,000 sales and was Britain's 14th best selling car despite being almost 10 years old.[15]The GTI was first imported to Britain in left-hand drive form in 1977, and became available with right-hand drive in 1979, when more than 1,500 examples were sold. Although the subsequent recession saw new car sales fall considerably during 1980 and 1981, sales of the Golf GTI reached nearly 5,000 in 1981. This also came in spite of the arrival of a popular new British-built competitor - the Ford Escort XR3. By 1983, the GTI accounted for more than 25% of total Golf sales (some 7,000 cars).[16]

Golf Cabriolet[edit]

Mark 1 Golf Cabriolet

The convertible version, named the Golf Cabriolet (or Typ 155) in Europe and Canada ("Rabbit Convertible" in America originally and renamed in 1985 to "Cabriolet"), was sold from 1980 to 1993. It had a reinforced body, transverse roll bar, and a high level of trim, and kept the pre-1980 style of rear lamp clusters. The Mk1 Cabriolet is of unibody construction built entirely at the factory of Karmann, from stamping to final assembly; Volkswagen supplied the engine, suspension, interior, etc. for Karmann to install. The vinyl or cloth tops were heavily insulated and manually - or beginning in 1991, electrically - operated, with a heated glass rear window.

The body of the Cabriolet did not change through the entire production run except for a larger fuel tank. The space saver wheel was fitted from the outset in 1978, when pre production models were built, unlike the saloon which adopted this in 1984. In an attempt by Volkswagen to keep the car's styling current, all Cabriolets from 1988 on were fitted with a "Clipper" kit out of the factory, featuring smooth body-coloured bumpers, wheelarch extensions, and side skirts.

There were a few special editions of the Cabriolet including the Etienne Aigner, Carat, CC, Wolfsburg, and Best Seller editions. One of them was produced in Italy using Golf II Country engine and transmission by ACM, called "Golf Country Cabrio" and sold as "Biagini Passo".

South Africa (Citi Golf)[edit]

Volkswagen Citi Golf
Main article: Volkswagen Citi Golf

From 1984 to 2009, Volkswagen of South Africa manufactured two variants of the Mk1 Golf, the five-door Citi Golf and the Volkswagen Caddy pickup. Earlier, the original Golf Mk1 had been manufactured with petrol or diesel engines.[17]

On September 22, 2006 in order to celebrate the continued success of the Mk1 based Citi Golf in South Africa, Volkswagen SA announced the limited edition Citi R which is powered by a 90 kW (120 hp/123 PS) 1.8L fuel injected engine with a five-speed manual transmission as well as a GTI trademark red outlined front grill.

There was a special version, named LX with 1.1L engine, which produced more power than the 1.3L engine. This version had a tuned GTI-like front grill, four front headlights, spoiler, alloy wheels and Recaro seats.

The 2007 VW South Africa Citi Golf range starts with a standard Citi Golf, in either 1.4 or 1.6 litre fuel injected models. Many variants of the standard version are/were available with different extras packages, which included the Citi Rhythm, and so on. The range topper is the CitiRox, also available in 1.4i and 1.6i, made as sportier versions of the standard Citi to replace the previous sports version, Velociti and Citi Life. The later Citi Golfs produced feature modern features, such as a new dashboard adapted from a Škoda Fabia, and minor body "facelifts" such as revised tail-light clusters.

The 2009 VW South Africa Citi Golf range consisted of four new models:

  • CitiRox 1.4i and 1.6i
  • CitiSport 1.4i and 1.6i
  • TenaCiti 1.4i
  • CitiStorm 1.4i

Production of the Citi Golf ended on 2 November 2009, after 377,484 cars.The final edition was a citi mk1 where 1000 vehicles where manufactured and only available in a 1.6i engine. The colors available for the citi mk1 was shadow blue and black magic pearl.[18]

North America[edit]

Slightly modified US-made Mark 1 Golf/Rabbit, facelift model.

In 1978, Volkswagen began producing the North American "Rabbit" version of the Mk1 Golf at its Westmoreland plant. Former Chevrolet engineer James McLernon was chosen to run the factory, which was built to lower the cost of the Rabbit in North America by producing it locally. Unfortunately, McLernon tried to "Americanize" the Golf/Rabbit (Volkswagen executive Werner Schmidt referred to the act as "Malibuing" the car) by softening the suspension and using cheaper materials for the interior.[citation needed] VW purists in America and company executives in Germany were displeased,[citation needed] and for the 1983 model year the Pennsylvania plant went back to using stiffer shocks and suspension with higher-quality interior trim.[citation needed] The plant also began producing the GTI for the North American market in the fall of 1982, for the 1983 model year.[19] 'Rabbits' were built in Pennsylvania until 1984. The first Volkswagen Caddy pick-up, based on the Mk1 Golf, was also created at the Pennsylvania plant.

Canada continued to import the more desirable German made Rabbit until the 1981 model year when Volkswagen Canada began to import the US made version.

The original U.S.-spec Golf saw use in a taxi fleet. The Yellow Cab Company of Lexington, Kentucky, bought eleven Rabbits in the late seventies as part of an effort to save money on fuel, estimating an annual savings of $135,000 in gasoline costs.[20]

By 1982 the gasoline powered Rabbit had a 1715 cc engine, an iteration used only in North America, which offered 74 hp (55 kW).[19]

The Volkswagen Rabbit GTI, the North American version of the high-performance Golf GTI, debuted in Canada in 1979 and the United States for 1983. Assembled from parts made in Mexico, Canada, Germany and the U.S. in Volkswagen's Westmoreland assembly plant, it had the same Mk1 chassis, and the same A1 body type as the Mk1 Golf GTI that had been on sale in Europe since 1976, with a few exceptions. Key distinct features of the Rabbit GTI were its squared front end styling, and its alloy "snowflake" wheels. The interior came in red or blue felt and leatherette trim. The squared styling of the front end, particularly the wraparound direction indicator lights, gave it added safety and slight improvement in performance. Under the hood, the engine was a JH 1.8 litre four-cylinder gasoline engine that ran on unleaded fuel; in addition to being marginally larger than the regular engine it also had lightened pistons, bigger valves, a higher compression, and a free-flow exhaust as well as other minor improvements.[19] The JH 1.8 litre was transversely mounted, and it would peak in stock condition at 90 hp (67 kW), delivered through a close-ratio five-speed manual transmission. For 1984 the Rabbit GTi was back, now with an updated engine offering 100 hp (75 kW). In total, 30,000 of these 1.8 litre Rabbit GTis were built in Pennsylvania.[19]

1976-1978 Volkswagen Rabbit 5-door

When the Rabbit GTI first appeared in Canada, it featured the 78 hp 1.6L K-Jetronic engine and wide ratio five-speed transmission. It was initially available in red, white, and black. These Canadian cars were German-built and were nearly identical in bodyshell and interior appearance to the 81 kW (110 PS; 109 hp) Golfs built in Europe. Unfortunately for enthusiasts, the entire driveline and running gear was identical to the other Canadian versions. Five-MPH bumpers were fitted as well as anti-intrusion bars within the doors. The towing eye integral to the front of the European car was deleted as the crashworthy bumper's shock absorbers had towing facilities as part of their design and the car had been crash-tested for Canada with the North American front apron. The car was very attractive but drove no better or worse than a Rabbit of the same era. Only with the arrival of the American GTI was a faster Golf available in Canada, and it was down 22 hp (16 kW) compared to the 1.8 litre Golf GTI Mk1. A small number of European specification GTIs made it to Canada under an agreement with the government that allowed foreign soldiers training at Canadian military facilities to bring their personal vehicles with them. As a result of this, VW made available (for many years) all unique European model parts required through VW of Canada. It was possible then, although expensive, to build a "real" GTI. Some enthusiasts did so based on the reputation of the European car.

Caribe (Mexico) (1977-1987)[edit]

A Mexican spec 1982 Volkswagen Caribe L in original condition.

The 1970s[edit]

The Golf MkI was introduced in Mexico as the Volkswagen Caribe in May 1977 as a 5-door hatchback. It came standard with a 4-speed manual gearbox and 1.6 liter 66 HP engine. The car was an instant success. As the 1978 model year lineup expanded with the 3-door vehicle, it was divided into two different trims: Normal and L. Both trims had a manual, 4-speed, 1.6 liter engine. In 1979 the GL trim was added.[citation needed]

The 1980s[edit]

In 1980 the Caribe received rectangular headlamps as well as some new colours. In 1981 the Caribe changed to include many features from the American 1981 Rabbit (an alternate name for the Golf). In 1983 and 1984, due to the financial crisis in Mexico, the Normal version was renamed 'C' and the L was discontinued, leaving the C and GL as the only trims offered. Both versions received a new dashboard from the 1980 European Golf. In 1984 the slow-selling diesel Caribe C was officially dropped, but the Caribe GT appeared, derived from the Golf and Rabbit GTI. This souped-up version featured a 1.8 litre engine with 85 hp (63 kW) and included a carburettor.[citation needed]

Limited editions[edit]

In 1986 the limited edition Caribe City emerged, based on the Caribe C, but painted only in Pearl Grey and Turquiose Blue. In 1987 new colors and two other limited editions emerged: The Caribe Plus, and the Caribe Pro. The Caribe Plus was based on the Caribe GL, and was painted only in Alpine White. The Caribe Pro was based on the Caribe GT, but was painted in Black and Tornado Red. In March 1987 the Caribe was replaced by the Golf MkII after 10 years of success.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Christian Bangemann u. Beate Jeske (2008). Auto Motor und Sport Heft 18 Seite 24. Stuttgart. 
  2. ^ Australian Volkswagens Retrieved from on 7 August 2012
  3. ^ Chips Yap (3 January 2007). "History of Volkswagen in Malaysia". PROTO Malaysia. Archived from the original on 2 December 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Oswald, Werner (2001). Deutsche Autos 1945-1990, vol.3. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. pp. 72–85. ISBN 3-613-02116-1. 
  5. ^ Mike Covello: Standard Catalog of Imported Cars 1946-2002. Krause Publications, Iola 2002, ISBN 0-87341-605-8, p.825-829.
  6. ^ Armstrong, Douglas (December 1976). "International Exchange". SA Motor. Cape Town, South Africa: Scott Publications: 12–13. 
  7. ^ a b "Nachrichten aus der Tecknik: Klimaanlage fuer VW Golf und Scirocco (Technical news: air conditioning for VW Golf and Scirocco)". Auto Motor u. Sport. Heft 18 1975: Seite 36. 30 August 1975. 
  8. ^ 1975 – 2008: THE HISTORY OF THE GOLF GTI
  9. ^ "Evo November 2010". 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ "Evo November 2010". 2010-11-22. Retrieved 2011-03-18. 
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ [3]
  14. ^ [4]
  15. ^ [5]
  16. ^ [6]
  17. ^ Wright, Cedric, ed. (August 1978). "Highlights of this issue". CAR (South Africa). Vol. 22 no. 7. Ramsay, Son & Parker (Pty) ltd. p. 5. 
  18. ^ "Goodbye Citi Golf". topCar. Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  19. ^ a b c d Koch, Jeff (November 2014). "Legendary". Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car. Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News. 10 (3): 23. ISSN 1555-6867. 
  20. ^ Flammang, James, Volkswagen: Beetles, Buses and Beyond, Karus Publications, 1996

External links[edit]