The Volkswagen Golf is a quintessential hatchback model that's produced in Germany and available worldwide. While the body style has evolved over the car's seven generations, it has still retained the original offering's classic character. The Golf is Volkswagen's best-selling vehicle, as of 2018, and it's also one of the top three best-selling vehicles in the world, alongside the Ford F-Series and Toyota Corolla.
Volkswagen Golfs are unofficially titled by generation using the European acronym 'Mk,' which means 'mark.' For example, the seventh generation is often referred to as the Golf MkVII, Mk7, or simply the Golf 7 or VII.
2012 - Present Volkswagen Golf (7th Generation)
Although the Gulf Mk7 was originally released in 2012, it wasn't made available in the United States until 2015. While the body size was larger than the Mk6, it weighed approximately 200 pounds less, give or take, depending on the buyer's engine choice.
The Mk7 is especially noted for its excellent safety rating as well as many updated features such as an upgraded steering system that delivers sharper handling, an automatic post-collision braking system, and an integrated touchscreen.
In the U.S., the seventh-generation Golf was initially offered with a 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower, but eventually it was replaced by a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder.
Golf enthusiasts seeking a more powerful engine may want to opt for the Golf GTI, as it features a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that delivers 210 horsepower and can accelerate from 0 - 60 mph in just 6.1 seconds. While the GTI does sacrifice gas mileage, the difference in miles per gallon compared to the base model is negligible. The GTI also has a sportier exterior thanks to its modern side skirts and red-accented honeycomb mesh grille, and the GTI's interior is updated with sporty plaid seats. GTI buyers can choose between a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission.
Those who crave even more performance than the GTI delivers can turn to the Golf R. Available as a three or five-door hatchback, the Golf R is the most powerful Golf available and comes in all-wheel-drive. It features a newly developed version of the same engine that comes with the GTI, however, in this application it can produce a staggering 292 horsepower and it can travel 0 - 62 mph in just 5.1 seconds.
The Volkswagen e-Golf is another exciting addition to the lineup, combining a comfortable, spacious interior with a cutting-edge electric engine. The e-Golf's electric engine can deliver up to 115 horsepower with no gas required. The engine can run for 83 miles on a single charge, which is comparable to 105 miles per gallon on the highway or 126 miles per gallon in the city.
2008 - 2012 Volkswagen Golf (6th Generation)
The sixth generation Golf was produced in Europe from 2008 - 2012, and in the United States from 2010 - 2014. The Golf Mk6 was heavier and lower than previous models.
The sixth generation took a design cue from the first-generation Golf, adopting the original model's classic horizontal radiator grille. The hatchback's shoulder design was more contoured for a more modern aesthetic.
Buyers could choose from three powertrains: a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder engine, a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine, and a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine (in the GTI model).
2003 - 2008 Volkswagen Golf (5th Generation)
The fifth generation Golf was produced in Europe from 2003 - 2008 and in the United States from 2006 - 2009. The Mk5 was designed to be more comfortable than previous iterations of the vehicle, and it also had features to boost performance.
Updated features include four-link rear suspension, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a 7-speed DSG transmission, and bi-xenon headlights.
The GTI model marks the first turbocharged direct-injection gas engine, and the GT Twincharger model boasted the first turbocharged/supercharged engine. The body design was slightly larger than previous models, providing more cargo space and interior room.
VW called this generation of Golf 'the Rabbit' in an homage to the model's name from several generations earlier though it eventually dropped the 'Rabbit' name on the next-gen model and resumed calling the hatchback the Golf.
1997 - 2003 Volkswagen Golf (4th Generation)
Although the fourth generation Golf was produced in Europe in 1997, it wasn't available in the United States until 1999.
The Mk4 offered the first all-wheel-drive Golf, as well as electronic stability control. Updated technology included an integrated navigation system and xenon headlights.
The fourth-generation Golf also came with a Haldex clutch, which eventually became the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system used today.
The vehicle offered a range of engine options, and in 2004 the high-performance all-wheel-drive R32 model was viewed as the sportiest Golf model to date, and it boasted a 3.2-liter VR6 engine that delivered up to 240 horsepower.
1991 - 1997 Volkswagen Golf (3rd Generation)
Although the Mk3 was available in Europe in 1991, it wasn't made available in the United States until 1994.
The third generation Golf is known for its updated safety features, including front passenger and eventually side airbags.
Other third-generation updates include the first 6-cylinder VR6 engine, the Ecomatic transmission, and cruise control.
The Mk3 came standard with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that delivered 115 horsepower.
Buyers who wanted more power could also select the high-performance GTI model that featured a 2.9-liter VR6 engine that could produce up to 172 horsepower.
1983 - 1991 Volkswagen Golf (2nd Generation)
While the second-generation Golf was produced in Europe in 1983, it wasn't available in the United States until 1985. Fans of the original Golf wanted more leg room and more interior space in general, and Volkswagen delivered with an additional 2.2 inches in body width and 6.7 inches in length.
Improvements on the first generation Golf include anti-lock brakes, power steering, and a catalytic converter.
The Mk2 came stock with a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine that produced 85 horsepower, or those who craved more power could opt for the GTI model that delivered 102 horsepower (or 131 horsepower, as of 1988).
1974 - 1984 Volkswagen Golf (1st Generation)
The original Golf was produced in Europe in 1974 to replace the Beetle. It wasn't until 1975 that U.S. buyers were able to buy the vehicle, which was sold under the name 'Rabbit.'
The first generation Golf was noted for its excellent handling and practical size -- a perfect family car.
The Golf Mk1 marks Volkswagen's switch from using rear-wheel-drive and rear-mounted, air-cooled engines in the Beetle to designing cars with front-wheel drive and front-mounted, water-cooled engines.
The original MK1's engine was a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder that delivered 70 horsepower, and Volkswagen released a slightly lower-powered diesel engine option soon after.