When Volkswagen launched the Mk 1 Golf in 1974 it started a small car revolution. With its iconoclastic Giugiaro-penned origami styling, front-transverse engine, and front-wheel-drive layout, the Golf was VW‘s first successful attempt at replacing the Beetle. Though the Beetle would stick around for another 44 years, the Golf became an icon in its own right.
Volkswagen has sold more than 35 million Golfs—about one every 41 seconds—over the last four and a half decades, making it one of the best-selling nameplates of all time, and VW’s best-selling car ever. Not only that, but the Mk 1 Golf GTI is credited with creating the hot hatch genre that so many car enthusiasts have come to love since its inception in 1975.
The Golf has spawned a number of different variants since that original car. Models like the Golf SportWagen and Golf Alltrack have focused on extending the Golf’s capabilities by giving it more cargo room or AWD for go-anywhere, do-anything utility. For more hardcore car enthusiasts, the GTI name carries on to this day, and VW added an even more potent Golf R for the fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-generation cars.
Now, 45 years and seven generations later, Volkswagen has just unveiled the eighth-generation Golf. And while the new car is bigger and heavier than the Mk 1, it remains a handsome hatchback with a design that places equal emphasis on practicality and style. Unlike its predecessors, the Mk 8 will feature a mostly-electrified powertrain lineup, including plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid variants. The 2020 Volkswagen Golf will also have LED headlights as standard, come in three trim levels at launch (base, Life, and Style), and have VW’s first-ever car-to-car communication system called Car2X. Additionally, Volkswagen promises the new model will be the most efficient, advanced, and safest Golf to date. Let’s hope it’s the most fun to drive, too.
As important as it is to look forward, it’s just as important to remember where you come from. To add a little perspective to the new Golf, we’re taking a look back at the last seven generations of Volkswagen’s iconic hatchback.