The Golf GTi Revolution

Back in 1976 just a few years after the standard VW Gold replaced the “Beetle”, the first GTi was let loose on the people of Europe after its debut at the Frankfurt Motor show the year before. This boxy shaped hatchback has a faster engine, sportier wheels a racing looking interior and suspension that hugged the road, revolutionary for the time. Little did we know how popular these “hot hatches” would become and how the other manufacturers would try to follow and copy.

A customised black VW Golf GTi Mk 1

The principle was simple; Produce something that was fun and fast to drive but keep the practicality of a normal hatchback. Create a hatchback that would look good but not be outrageous. The low weight and fuel injected engines, made these pretty fast on acceleration, although top speed would be seen as low by today’s standard.

The Hot Hatches Of The 80's

By the time the 1980s had arrived many other manufacturers were copying the concept, Ford has the XR Series such as the Xr2, Xr3 and Xr4, Peugeot also had the GTi and Vauxhall had the Sri range. It was now cool for the then so called Yuppies to be driving around in a hatchback that appeared boring but was in fact pretty exciting to drive. We can’t ignore the popularity of the GTi was spawned from the VW Golf itself, now seen as maybe a bit boring but safe and reliable. A phase of copy what sells, started to appear. Many took a normal Golf Hatchback, and then added a new interior, wheels and the GTi badge so to look at least “cool”, if not missing the speed and excitement.

Joy Riders Raised Insurance Premiums

But security on pretty much all hot hatches was poor and it wasn’t long before car thieves and “Joy Riders”, singled out the hot hatches and the public roads started to become a race track with illegal racing and stunts. The result was rocketing insurance premiums deliberately kept high to force many out of the “Hot Hatch” market. This move also meant many models of all makes found themselves unsold on garage forecourts and values dropped. It was sometimes costing more for the insurance that it was actually worth, such was the problems to the insurance industry.

After some time, certain makes moved out of the “Hot Hatch” market altogether or just hid the performance of the engine under a more subtle model name. The XR, Sri Range all stopped. But the VW GTi survived and today in its 7th generation is still a force to be beaten. Although different factors such as C02 emissions and comfort are more in demand now, so some of the excitement of the MK1, has been lost. No-one though about how much gas came from the exhaust back in the 1970’s.

Red VW Golf GTi Paris Motor Show 2012

More Than A Hatchback

Other models of the GTi from Cabriolets to R series and various engine choices, keeps its appeal in a demanding market, that now competes with a whole new level of performance vehicles, including roadsters, SUV’s and even diesels.

Although history shows this was not the first ever “Hot Hatchback”, but it certainly was the one that appealed to the masses and has survived whatever has been thrown at it. Certainly a mini revolution and holds a place in history as one of the most favourite of all time.