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The First Years of the Golf (Or Rabbit)

This car has always been known as the Golf in Europe, but for many years it was known as the Rabbit in the US, where it debuted for the 1975 model year. Before that, in the early ‘70s, Volkswagen was suffering from financial difficulties, many of which stemmed from falling sales of the Beetle, once America's most beloved little compact car.  Competitors found effective ways to counter Volkswagen's only solid offering, so it was no surprise when the company turned to the German government for financial assistance around 1974. Not long after receiving the new funding, the VW factory at Wolfsburg pumped out the Golf.

The first Golf had a water-cooled four-cylinder engine that produced 70 horsepower. To make the Golf, Volkswagen flipped the Beetle's layout around, for a front-engine and front-wheel drive layout. This allowed Italian automotive designer Giorgetto Giugiaro to create an angular body that made the Golf one of the first FWD hatchbacks. It also allowed VW to increase the interior's size by mounting the engine sideways.

Unique for the time, the Golf distinguished itself by offering Diesel and GTI variants in 1976.  The latter popularized the "hot hatch" category and changing the market by offering a sportier variant of a standard economic and family vehicle; it could hit up to 110 mph at a time when many models struggled to touch 100 mph. 

Volkswagen began building the Golf in the US (where it sold under the Rabbit name) in 1978 for the 1979 model year.  Purported fuel economy was about 45 mpg for city driving and 57 mph for highway driving. These numbers continued to increase into the ‘80s, and helped the brand during the 1979 Fuel Crisis.

The Golf in the US

US customers saw their first variants in 1980 with the Rabbit Convertible and the Rabbit Pickup. The next variant came in 1983 with the GTI, whose output topped off at 90 horsepower and later 100 horsepower for 1984. The Rabbit Convertible was renamed the Cabrio with the second generation in 1985, with the Rabbit moniker changed to the Golf. A bit larger in size than the old Rabbit, the Golf dropped in sales in its first year, despite the GTI winning Motor Trend‘s Car of the Year in 1985. It fell behind the Jetta as Volkswagen's bestselling model in the US, and has never caught up since.

The third generation debuted across the US for the 1994 model year with a remodeled exterior.  Gone were the stiff angular lines, replaced by a rounder and more streamlined body. The base 2.0L's engine output increased to 115 horsepower, and the updated GTI's 2.8L V6 increased to 172 horsepower. Not much changed throughout this short generation, but the next generation, beginning with the 1999 model, saw a few more changes, like discontinuing the Cabrio in 2002 and adding the all-wheel drive R32 with a 3.2L V6 that boasted 237 horsepower, which was over 50 more horsepower than the GTI.

The fifth generation brought Golfs with a 2.5L five-cylinder engine that could make 150 horsepower. This later increased to 170 horsepower around 2008. The GTI ran on a 2.0L engine that produced 200 horsepower, and increased to 211 horsepower with the turbocharged inline-four TSI engine for the sixth generation. The sixth generation also brought diesel options, an aerodynamic design, and the same 2.5L five-cylinder with 170 horsepower. The R32 was replaced by the Golf R, which ran on a turbocharged inline-four that could make 256 horsepower.

Today the Golf has retained much of its original hatchback shape with smoother edges and lines. Buyers can also pick between the GTI, R, and electric and diesel versions. It's obvious the Golf is one of Volkswagen's premier and most versatile cars, and we may see it in VW's lineup for many years to come.   

Need Golf Parts?  

The Volkswagen Golf is a very reliable vehicle, but with time parts get worn and broken. 1A Auto Parts provides high quality aftermarket parts backed by over 8,000 hours of research each year by our product development team. We're the first of our competition to offer services online. Since the beginning, we've shipped over 1,000,000 packages, with thousands more sent every week. We supply new aftermarket Volkswagen Golf door handles, Volkswagen Golf headlights, Volkswagen Golf radiators, Volkswagen Golf taillights, and more. Give 1A Auto Parts new aftermarket Volkswagen Golf parts a try today. We know you'll be more than pleased with our industry leading customer support and high quality Volkswagen Golf parts.

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