The evolution of the Volkswagen Golf GTI


Ben Cihlar

Volkswagen’s most iconic vehicle the Golf GTI

The Volkswagen Golf GTI has such an interesting history and has evolved so much over the course of 40 years. Originally built in Germany in 1976 for its  front-wheel drive replacement for the Beetle, the Golf’s crisp lines were made by famous designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. The GTI quickly became a popular choice and revolutionized over the years.



Mk1 GTI stance car (Photo via under the creative commons license)

The vehicle was to celebrate its world premiere at the International Motor Show  in Frankfurt, and so the project took off. The car took a big step forward once  finally used with the correct power unit,  an injection engine. However the Golf didn’t  have an offical name yet. The name GTI came from its direct fuel system also known as Grand Touring Injection. The interior designer Herbert Schafer reinvented the gear knob by simply attaching a golf ball to the GTI’s shift rod. This was the birth of the Volkswagen Golf GTI.


1982 MK2 GTI Iconic build (Photo via Flicker under the creative commons license)

In early 1984 the second generation of the GTI was introduced, this time  in particular the red strip in the radiator  and the tartan sports seats quickly became  a classic design for the car. Ultimately this vehicle became an icon. In 1984 the vehicle was introduced to the catalytic converter when Volkswagen was caught cheating in emission tests by making their cars appear far less polluting than they really are. The Environmental Protection Agency soon discovered that around 482,000 Volkswagen diesel cars on American roads were emitting up to 42% more toxic fumes than permitted


1991 Mk3 GTI iconic 90’s VW meet (Photo by Flicker under the creative commons license)

Volkswagen transferred the GTI to the third generation in 1991. The Mk3 GTI was arguably too grown up in its day to be a real entertainer. Not only was the Mk3 unique, it also was the kick of the whole hot hatch revolution.  It was a fun car to drive, it was and still is infinitely tuneable, looks good and most important of all, the Mk3 gave car enthusiasts so much potential for modificatons.


GTI Mk4  

Photo By Ben Cihlar


The Mk4 GTI was and arguably still is the best generation of the GTI. The Mk4 was designed in an attempt to take the Volkswagen Golf series further upmarket, with higher quality interior, and better engine specifications. The 1.8t (motor) that debuted in the Mk4 was a real revelation for Volkswagen enthusiasts.  tuning products could easily produce gains that were unimaginable in the fully naturally aspirated days. A software tune alone could get you 30hp or more. This car, being built after 2002, has the iconic 1.8T motor which was rated at 180 hp from the factory and used a K03 Sport Turbo. This allowed for greater tuning potential. The Mk4 became so popular they continued to make several versions of the car such as the Mk4 R32 GTI, and the Mk4 20th anniversary GTI.

I personally own a Mk4 GTI and owning the car has only made me love it more and more! The car has its flaws but has never failed me. Not only does the car have an iconic history, but it always puts a smile on my face.