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Golf GTI – A Potted History – Pullen Power

As I wave farewell to my Mk 7 Golf GTi, here’s a potted history of the archetypal hot-hatch.

The idea behind the Mk1 GTi was simple; take a standard (albeit Guigiaro-designed) hatchback, add some fuel-injected power, and combine it with a build quality and reliability that was light years ahead of the competition. Available as a right-hand drive for the first time in 1979, the GTI paved the way for a number of pretenders to the UK “Hot Hatch” throne, most notably the Essex boys’ favourite, the Ford Escort XR3.

1983 saw the introduction of the Mk2 version, initially available with an 8v (110ps), this was superseded by a 16v (129 ps) unit. This continued the success of the Mk 1, and was, for many, THE car of the 80’s, helped by this iconic ad, featuring model Paula Hamilton as a woman who can let go of everything but her Golf.

The Mk3 version was introduced in 1992, available with a 2.0 150ps 16v unit. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the GTI, a limited edition Anniversary model was launched, with GTi Logoed Recaro seats, red seat belts, red stitched leather steering wheel and handbrake. It was shod with 16″ split rim BBS alloys.

An attempt to take the Golf upmarket in 1997 for the Mk4 meant that, due to the increased weight, it was seen by many as not being worthy of the GTI badge. Combined with stodgy handling and underpowered engines, the GTI had lost its mojo.

For the 2004 Mk5, Volkswagen needed to get it right, and they did. The introduction of a new chassis, mated to a 200hp, turbocharged 2.0 engine (available with an optional DSG transmission) and pin-sharp handling meant that once again, the GTI was big in the game. The Edition 30 and Pirelli models, with power boosted to 230ps are still very much sought after.

The Mk6 was effectively a re-engineered facelift, which addressed some concerns over the MK5’s interior quality and less than generous equipment levels.

It was the Mk7 that truly marked a return to form for the GTI brand. Bristling with safety systems, and a larger cabin than its predecessor, the standard 220ps model was capable of catapulting the car to 62mph, while still managing to reduce the insurance group by 5 bands when compared to its predecessor. Fuel economy was also improved, in some part due to an improved stop start system. The £980 performance pack adds an extra 10ps and a magic limited slip diff, meaning that the already startling, corners-like-its-on-spikes handling of the standard model is elevated to corners like-it-is-defying-the-laws-of-gravity status.

2018 sees the launch of the Mk8 Golf. Full details aren’t yet known, although the entire range is sure to be lighter, cleaner and more technology-laden than the current series, with the next GTI rumoured to have an increased power output availability of up to 320ps.

As for me, my daily commute is an altogether less exciting affair these days, in my capable-but-uninspiring Audi A4 Avant 150 S-Line. I miss the GTI like one might miss a crazy ex-girlfriend. It was fun while it lasted.