The quintessence of Golf.
Editor’s note: Today’s article is a revised version of a piece first published on DTW in 2017.
In 1974, a faltering Volkswagen crossed its metaphorical fingers and took a risky punt into the unknown. The Golf was by no means an avant garde product by early seventies standards, but nonetheless arrived slightly left of market-centricity. And while it would be ludicrous now to suggest that it was to prove anything but a commercial success, there was no certainty at the time that this would be the case. In fact, it really wasn’t until its second permutation that the Golf truly began to dominate the sector it would later define.
Like most overnight successes the Golf’s rise to prominence masks innumerable false avenues and bitter reversals along the way, but today, its ubiquity makes for a slightly nebulous subject to pin and mount. After all, the Golf is a such an entity in itself, what is left to say? But over an over-forty year lifespan, seven distinct series’ and in excess of 30 million examples built, not all Golf generations have necessarily been created equal. Most commentators and critics would rightly agree that ItalDesign’s original remains the most significant in the pantheon, but the generation which did most to cement its status as an object of desire was its fourth, first introduced in the Autumn of 1997.
From a stylistic perspective, 1974’s Ur-Golf design was all about defined surfaces, an athletic stance, superb proportions and the marrying of Italian rationalism with cool, Germanic precision. Its 1983 successor applied quantities of compressed air to Giugiaro’s original theme, resulting in a somewhat bloated parody, albeit one which proved enormously successful both commercially and reputationally. The difficult third generation adopted the softer form language of the early nineties, lending the now familiar silhouette a rather melted aesthetic — one it seems that was replicated by the model’s reputation both for driving dynamics and perceived quality. VW doesn’t much like to talk about Golf III.
With VW’s rivals nipping the sector leader’s heels, Golf IV had to offer more than just another iterative step. Having succeeded Herbert Schäfer as Design Director at Wolfsburg, and faced with one of the toughest briefs in the business, Hartmut Warkuß was presented with a dilemma. Where now? VW Group Chairman, Ferdinand Piëch is said to have offered Warkuß the benefit of his ‘advice’ to the effect that the design team had a (relative) free hand with the styling other VW models, but the Golf was to remain sacrosanct. Radical therefore was out.
In 2010, Warkuß outlined the basis of his inspiration for Golf IV to imprint, Car Body Design, saying, “I asked myself at the time how Giorgio Giugiaro would design it… and so we created a timeless form again and intensified the character of the Golf through the distinctive C-pillars, among other things.” Indeed, Peter Schreyer’s chosen styling scheme could almost be described as a homage, so much did it honour the Giugiaro original.
But while ur-Golf was dainty, angular and upright, Schreyer’s Golf IV was all gently radiused surfaces, scalpel thin, painstakingly disciplined shutlines, the removal of visual fat and the minimum of decoration. Larger in most dimensions than its predecessors, with carefully managed overhangs, a foursquare stance and pared back surfaces, Golf IV was and remains a masterclass of its genre. Because despite being perhaps the Golfiest Golf yet, it signified total reinvention: Golf as design object.
But wasn’t simply the exterior styling that stood out, the Mark IV’s interior set an entirely new standard for the segment, one that utterly floored VW’s rivals. From the soft touch plastics, the upmarket fabrics, the cool blue instrument backlighting to the damped everything, Golf IV presented a new interior quality benchmark, one that sent VW’s rivals scrabbling back to first principles.
Reaction to the car was unequivocal. Even maestro Giugiaro was wheeled out to pronounce upon it. He nodded his approval — what else could he say? Meanwhile, Millennial style arbiter Tyler Brûlé, in his design for living monthly bible, pronounced Golf IV as the quintessential Wallpaper* car. It was official — the Golf had fully transcended.
Technically, it was all very much the usual VW fare. Struts and a twist beam, a range of four cylinder petrol engines spanning from 1.4 through to 2-litres. Of more technical interest were the two narrow-angle vee formation units in the upper reaches of the range — a 2.3 litre VR5 and a 2.8 litre V6. Golf IV also saw the wholesale adoption of the (later infamous) TDI acronym — the 150 bhp Pumpe-Düse turbodiesel version offering an unbeatable combination of economy and for the time, staggering performance — a combination that perhaps did as much to advance the cause of DERV as any single model. Top of the range Golfs were also offered with the option of four-wheel-drive and priced accordingly.
Never the most dynamic of the C-segment, the Mark IV was eclipsed in this area by Peugeot’s less well-wrought but fine handling and riding 306 model and from 1998 by Ford’s kaleidoscope-shaking Focus. The latter would become perhaps the Golf IV’s sternest rival, offering as it did, a superior chassis, less perceived quality (and rustproofing, sadly), but a more radically styled cabin and exterior style in addition to the sense that one was driving the future.
Golf IV enjoyed a relatively short production run, replaced in 2003 by the chintzier Murat Günak-inspired Golf V, a car which returned to the less defined aesthetics of the third generation and remains another one of the nameplate’s more forgettable iterations. Its lifespan was to prove even shorter, with a well-judged Walter de Silva-led facelift arriving in 2008 — one which really ought to have been dubbed Golf V.2.0 —which saw a lot of the Günak-era excesses stripped away.
Overseeing the model’s seventh generation, de Silva was under few illusions as to what bushel to look under for guidance, revealing to Car Body Design, “Basically, Giorgio Giugiaro and Hartmut Warkuß have written the score, a beautiful piece of music. And with my team, with Klaus Bischoff and naturally all the others, we try to give a proper interpretation of this music. The basic score has been written. What we’re carrying forward here is a further development.” The seventh generation would hark back unashamedly to Golf IV (and by consequence to the original), reconfirming its stature in the marque pantheon.
For decades the unassailable sector leader, today’s Golf is under siege like never before. However, when the history books are written, the Mark IV is likely to be the variant that best encapsulates its reign. A totem for a car that transcended brand identity and troubled gestation to become a marque in itself. Global in appeal, fashionable, yet anti-fashion; anonymous, ubiquitous yet acceptable everywhere, it was probably as much car as anyone could possibly need. Known the world over by a single four letter word: GOLF.
 In 1974, hatchbacks were still a relative rarity, especially in what would become the Golf segment.
 It was reported at the time that this model was in receipt of a late-in-the-day styling revision (which delayed its introduction), owing to boardroom jitters over its appearance.
 One could (at a pinch) regard Golf IV as being an almost retro-inspired reboot of the original, apart from the fact that Schreyer’s design was resolutely modernist in execution.
 The interior quality of the Golf IV came as a genuine shock to VW’s rivals, eliciting a good deal of soul-searching and number crunching.
 The Mark IV Golf appears to have been deliberately pitched as a softer, more upmarket product to its predecessors, as evidenced by its less adept dynamic behaviour and lack of overt sporting models. Even the GTi badged models were notably subdued.
 The original Focus was the result of one of Ford of Europe’s periodic brave design periods. As ever, it was to prove short-lived.
 As indeed was Günak’s.
54 thoughts on “CAR is a Four Letter Word.”
Bad pun alert: reading CAR certainly seems to evoke four letter words…
It has been debated multiple times on these pages how much credit Walter de Silva really deserves for the designs attributed to him, although it is hard to argue against the fact that under his reign some seminal designs were wrought. I wonder how that debate stands with the Golf.
Fully agree that the IV and VII are the best of the bunch, with the VIII falling prey to a sort of ennui-induced “where do we go from here” sentiment, coupled with the overall (and by the looks of it – literally – existential) uncertainty that has gripped the car industry over the last decade.
Just as the IV might stand as the seminal Golf, the VII might stand as just about the last self-assured, mass market ICE car. The last one to have a relatively stable set of standards to meet, and meeting them pretty darn well. At some point, surely, the car market will have such a set of standards again, for a completely new power source and socio-economic – and ecological – reality, but it will be markedly different to what the Golf VII adhered to. Maybe it will be electric, maybe something else. Maybe it’ll be something you own, or lease, or just reserve and hire for short periods. One can hope, however, that whatever icon it produces will stand for the same kind of excellence.
..”the VII might stand as just about the last self-assured, mass market ICE car. ”
I know you are a deep thinker, Tom, but you brought me up with a jerk there. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms.
Truly the automotive world has always been in a state of flux, constant only in that there is always technological change on the horizon; doomed are the companies that fail to realise that and address it in a timely fashion. While it may be comforting to take refuge in the way things have always been done, and production managers and finance departments seem all too ready to encourage such inaction, history shows us that disaster all too often awaits those who fail to adapt to changing circumstances. But we have seen such radical changes over the past ten years, who knows where the path to the future will lie? We may think we know the way: turbo-diesels seemed to be the way to go, now it seems electric. But is there a better way yet?
Meanwhile here I am down in Australia trying to envisage a part of the world where VAG is actually a mainstream car producer, not just a car nut’s choice.
Thanks, Peter. It probably should have read “last European (…) ICE car”. VAG is astonishingly ubiquitous around here. International variations are fascinating: for Europeans Corona (the beer) is quite exclusive and expensive while in other markets it is much more common. Likewise Heineken beer seems to have something of an upmarket reputation overseas whereas in the Netherlands, its quality is regularly compared to that of drainage ditch water. Brand reputations are quite variable around the world. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure SUVs are by now as popular globally (excluding perhaps parts of East and Southeast Asia) as they are in Australia.
Of course, in Europe VAG have quite deftly managed the equilibrium between being ubiquitous and being (semi-) premium. Much to the despair of its competitors, especially when the actual quality of the cars couldn’t match that reputation.
Thanks Tom. VAG is in a funny position here. When the Golf 1 came out they were still doing local assembly, and the switch from Beetle to Golf didn’t go well. Massive understatement. Quality was dreadful (I looked at getting one), and they folded. My uncle bought one of the first imported Golfs, a metallic brown GLS with a lovely velour interior, and the difference was night and day. But Australia had very high import taxes then, and Uncle Jack’s Golf was very much a luxury item, priced about 25% above a Japanese small car. There was a bizarre system of import licences and quotas too – you had to buy a permit to import only so many cars. Of course this drove the price up too. Leyland had imploded here by then, and a limited range of Fiats were theoretically available but rarely seen, so the Golf had no technically-similar competition. If you could afford it.
Through the eighties and nineties VW was quite weak. I don’t think we got every generation of Golf; I’d love to be contradicted, but despite living in the state capital back then I only saw one Golf 2 and one 4.
Although the tax barriers have long been swept away, along with every last vestige of local car manufacture, VW has never regained the market standing they had in the glory days of the Beetle. The Japanese and Korean brands having largely closed the roadability gap, and offer known quality and reliability, so although VWs are more competitively priced now, buying a VAG product can be something of a gamble. I think they’re more popular in the big cities where parts and service are never far away. Out here where I live though…..
Tom, I’ve been thinking about your comment of the Golf VII being the last self-assured mass-market ICE car. My vote is the current Mazda 3, even though this car has split opinions here before.
Thanks Peter, I was only vaguely aware of the market circumstances over there, so I appreciate what you wrote.
Freerk: good choice as well and kudos to Mazda for giving us such great design, but by the self-assuredness of the Golf VII I also meant its market position: a well-engineered ICE car from a brand like VW was virtually assured enviable sales in a way that the Mazda 3 (or the Gold – sorry: Golf VIII) never was.
Great article. I’ve suddenly got a new found respect for the IV, a car which I didn’t like the look of when I was younger but has grown on me over the years.
This car, along with the Alfa Romeo 156, are both examples of a retro theme done right. They clearly display the themes of past models in their designs, but unlike Minis or Jags, they don’t just outright ape them, creating an awkward looking parody of them.
Regarding the Mini, I would argue that the first one (I mean the first “retro” one) was also an example of retro done right. All the others have become increasingly sad parodies of that first one.
With the 500, Fiat, having it right on the first try, didn’t mess with the design for what ? 10-12 years ? and they were still going reasonably strong after all those years. Although, that could also be due to a lack of funds 🙂
It’s commonly accepted that both Mini (the R50) and 500 were penned by Frank Stephenson. Is it true ?
pjrebordao: It’s rightfully said that success has many parents, but failure is always an orphan. Hence, successful car designs are always hotly contested with many laying claim where little or no credit is due. The Trepiùno concept, which the production 500 followed almost to the letter was reliably credited to centro stile FIAT designer, Roberto Giolito (also credited with the Multipla and now oversees the Heritage Hub at Mirafiori). I’m sure Stephenson had some input to the production design, but to cite him with creative attribution is inaccurate.
Stephenson is on surer ground with the MINI, although again, the essential concept was developed through proposals from both Rover group and BMW (Designworks) stylists, which amongst them, included Adrian van Hooydonk. But it was Stephenson’s model which won through.
Staying on the subject of attribution, Tom V: while it can be said that Mr de Silva has been more than a little keen to wrap himself in the glory of his design teams at Alfa Romeo, Audi and VW, what can be said with equal certainty is that as a design overseer, he has steered some excellent work through to production. Also to his credit, his influence brought forth a period of stability, and a restrained and very correct body work from Wolfsburg’s studio.
Now that we are witnessing the twilight of the Golf (as we know it at least), I think the excellence of the Mark IV design becomes ever more apparent. It truly was a gamechanger, which is a little ironic, given how much a homage it was to Giugiaro’s original. I would not be at all surprised if VW do not carry out a Mark VIII.2 restyle, given the flaccid and overworked appearance of the current model – a car which does not seem to have gone down well with Golf buyers at all.
To Stephenson’s credit, I can’t recall him taking credit for the 500 in his YT channel, but I knew there was a link somewhere.
There will be a rework of the Golf MkVII similar to the one of the ID.3.
It will be focussed mainly on the interior that puts many potential buyers off with its shocking lack of quality (which will be addressed) and its silly user interface with touch panels pads of proper switches (that will not be addressed).
It’s interesting that over its generations the Golf has changed between crap quality (Mk1, Mk3, Mk5, Mk8) and excellent (Mk4, Mk6) or at least good quality (Mk2, Mk7).
Golf Mk3 (and Passat B3) were the all time low points in Volkswagen quality and surely were responsible for VW’s loss of market share at that time. It was a certain Mr. Piech who made sure that the Mk3.2 was of much better quality because there was nothing he hated more than warranty costs (maybe automatic gearboxes).
Customers also reacted very negatively to the loss of quality in the Mk5 against the Mk4.
Agreed, Eóin: under de Silva’s lead, some excellent designs made it to market. I still like the first A5 and its quiet “rightness”. Not as actively retro as the 156, but quite classical in its proportions, I think.
Frank Stephenson said he arrived at the R50 MINI design by sketching how the original Mini would have looked had it had an update every ten years.
I know Daniel disagrees, preferring the R56 2nd gen MINI, but to my eyes every subsequent version and offshoot is less attractive than the R50.
While the Golf IV and VII were undoubtedly great designs and worthy reinventions of the original, I have a great deal of respect with what de Silva and his team achieved in turning the bloated MkV into the handsome Mk6 with just a new nose and tail, successfully restoring its ‘golfness’. Hence, I think it fully deserves its own mark number.
The most expensive parts of the facelift from V to VI surely were the doors which not only look subtly different but are of a completely different construction – one piece vs. box with bolt-on lid.
Two hours ago one of the roofers working on my neighbour’s house rang at my door and wanted to buy my wife’s Golf IV. He would have paid 6,000 EUR for a 22 year old car and was very disappointed to hear that it was not for sale.
That’s a reasonable price for a MK4 in very good condition (R32 apart, of course).
The VAG dealer in the next village had a Mk4 with the V5 engine and just 20,000 kms for 14,000.
I was seriously tempted because I’d have liked a car without the nerve-wrecking nannying electronics of my current Audi, a proper handbrake and real instruments in the dashboard (instead of the watch sized sick jokes of the Audi).
It was gone within two days.
DaveAR, that roofer must be part of the DTW community…
I posted this video, below, recently. Here it is again, in case anyone missed it. It features previously unseen footage from the Porsche archive.
It looks at what could’ve been; I have to say that they definitely made the right decision to ditch EA266. It also shows that although we (or I, at least) sometimes take the development of the water-cooled, front-engined, front wheel drive range as almost inevitable, it was far from being that.
When Ferdinand Piëch was asked at the IAA 1997 for the main difference between the Golf 3 and 4, he said :
My wife says the Golf 3 has eyes like gems now the Golf 4 has eyes like diamonds.
My neighbour had several Golf 4 as a commuter car. Then he switched for a more modern Golf 5 and now – end of crazy experiments- he came back to the Golf 4, a nice green one in the colour above.
The only car that might be better for him would be the Audi A3, first generation….
The transition from EA266 to EA337 (Golf) was symptomatic for the change in relationship between VW and Porsche.
During the Nordhoff/Lotz years they had a xenobiosis where Porsche was the de facto R&D of VW and in turn VW financed Porsche’s racing activities to demonstrate to the world the superiority or air cooling.
The EA266 is the typical result of such relationships. It was completely madcap and trapped in a self reflective Porsche tunnel. No wonder Rudolf Leiding stopped it as one of his first decisions as VW boss.
absolutely love the mini bus proposal. Is the Toyota Previa the only mid-engined family car to actually reach production?
The Previa was a forward control van, which was hardly unique. However, consider Twingo 3/ForFour 2.
The received wisdom that VW came to their senses just in time would seem to also imply that Mercedes/Renault were a bit out of their minds.
I don’t know the engineering and packaging logic behind the latter pair, but perhaps it’s worth investigating how and why it actually came to pass.
Thanks Gooddog, I keep forgetting that the Twingo III/Forfour is mid-engined instead of fully rear-engined like a Beetle (of 4CV and quite a few other Renaults). It would be interesting to know more about the reasoning for their layout, since the packaging turned out not to be all that good compared to more tradionally laid-out rivals, I think.
Tom V – good question about the mid-engined family car. The pedant would say most pre-war cars, quite a few later Renaults, Citroëns, and BMWs, and even the Peugeot 204 and 304. But that’s an ecumenical matter.
The Previa is as literally mid-engined as can be imagined, and they even managed 4WD.
Also horizontal in-line. Did they look at the Honda T360/T500? Horizontal non-opposed engines are rare except for buses and trucks. Even the original Hi-Ace has a vertical engine, much like old BMC J2s, J4s, and their Commer rivals. The Previa must have been an accessibilty nightmare – just as well Toyota engines never beak down…
Here’s the Twingo laid bare – enjoy that De Dion axle!:
The main reason that the engine is just forward of the rear axle line is that it’s a straight lift from a front wheel drive drivetrain. Making the Twingo and SmartForFour truly rear-engined would have meant reworking the transaxle to no worthwhile benefit. Toyota, being Toyota, did exactly that at the other end of their car when they adapted the Yaris powertrain for the iQ, making it front mid-engined.
The benefit for the Twingo was an unusually long – but rather high – loadspace by sub-B class standards. Good for the IKEA run, but not quite enough for “camping” unless you get up to some trickery with the front seats:
Horizontal non-opposed engines remind me of Fiat 500 Giardinetta and late water cooled 126.
Thanks Robertas, unique accessibility indeed:
And I seem to recall that the Previa engine was specially designed for the Previa, not merely another Toyota engine adapted to be turned on its side. Amazing what they could afford to do back them.
You didn’t have to access the Previa’s engine too often.
There were separate reservoirs for oil and coolant behind a flap in the front which were connected to the engine via electrically controlled valve mechanisms to top up the necessary fluids.
There are still some nice MK4s around.
Very nice alloy wheels.
VW did very rarely offer nice alloy wheels for their cars. Especially the GTI often came with ugly shoes.
The colour is great, if I had bought a Mk4 it would have been this shade of blue.
From my experience with the Mk4 this particular car has far more than 34,000 miles. Its shiny steering wheel and gear lever and the wrinkled seat covers don’t correlate with such a low mileage.
Golf is a four letter word. So is Jazz. Both things I don’t like, but the cars are ok.
A well-preserved Gold Mk4 gets parked near my home sometimes. It’s remarkable what a calm, clean design it is; something that is now even more apparent than when it was new.
That should, of course, read ‘Golf Mk4’. That will teach me not to try to post comments from my smartphone…
We knew what you meant Chris. A gold Mk4 would look rather fetching.
The Golf IV is a near perfect design in my book. Externally I would relocate the side indicator to the the rubbing strip. Internally I would ditch the cupholders and move the radio and climate controls up. For everyday use these are too low.
My mom had a Golf IV in highline trim. Most notable items of that trim level were the sport seats (whatever that means in a car that clearly isn’t sporty at all) a three spoke steering wheel (which looks much better than the four spoke item shown in the article) and the five spoke alloy rims. For an extra 200 guilders we had the sunroof delete and the air-conditioning instead.
Our (early) example had some quality issues: electric mirror control broke off, the hood wouldn’t close anymore and there was a rattle of some kind. The VW-Audi dealer network was terrible, expensive and inapt to solve any issues. Maintenance was done by a local garage which was better in every single way imaginative. There was some interest in the family to replace the 5 series with an Audi A6 (C5), but given the dealer experience it never materialized.
Other negatives are the lack of driving pleasure (not on issue for my mom) and the air-conditioning was pretty weak. With 4 people in the car and a sunny 30 degrees outside it really struggled.
However overall it was a great car and my mom loved it. She had it for 17 years. My parents didn’t have the need for two cars anymore and the Golf IV was traded in for a Golf VII together with my dad’s BMW.
Early Mk4s had a problem with the electric window winders where a plastic part snapped and let the window fall into the door. Later mechanisns had this part made from metal and were trouble free. We had it replaced on all four doors at no cost for us but we were lucky with the dealer who holds the service contract for all VW buses at FRA airport so it’s professional service or no money.
Not just early IVs. This was a common problem in many 2- and 3-door cars that had this particular part from Bosch. It was designed to take the weight of a smaller pane. I think they intended it mostly for 4- or 5-door cars.
Our Golf didn’t have that particular problem. I’m delighted your dealer was better than ours.
Ah, we had the 5 door. Thanks for the explanation, Konstantinos.
With the perception both the mk4 Golf’s and mk4 Polo’s platforms embodied a decline in form compared to their predecessors if not complacency (rather like Ford and GM during the 1990s), what would it have taken to significantly improve the mk4 Golf and Polo’s dynamics?
The Golf Mk4 might have been many things, a decline in form compared to the Mk3 it was not.
My impression is that complaints about the supposed dynamic ineptitude of the Mk4 mainly come from people who got that wisdom from newspapers.
The Mk4 just behaves like a grown up car and was meant to do so.
I prefer our Golf over my Audi any time of the day. Precise steering with exactly the right amount of feedback (instead of an Arcade game video controller), conficence inspiring roadholding.
The combination of its relaxed road manners and the ox like pulling power of the pump jet diesel is real fun in its own way.
I would concur with Dave on the Golf IV’s dynamic setup. I believe it was a determined pivot by VW towards a more upmarket ‘feeling’ car, with an emphasis on comfort and ease, rather than outright dynamism. More akin to the ‘faithful butler’ approach which characterised Mercedes-Benzes of yore. What probably prompted Wolfsburg to change course was the critical approbation Ford received for the dynamic package of the Focus – another kaleidoscope-shaking design, albeit in a very different manner to that of the Golf.
Golf IVs are everywhere here in Southern Spain. They have that eternal quality that is shared with the Sacco-era Mercedes’. Cars for the ages.
With 80-profile tires, the Golf IV felt flabby. Larger wheels and 60- or 55-profile tires make it much better, although it’s still no match for an Alfa 147.
The aforementioned qualities is something that can appreciate with the mk1 Skoda Octavia, although to be fair unlike the mk4 Golf that was because Skoda could really only go up after being bought by Volkswagen.
The Octavia having no weight of great expectations placed upon it or status to uphold, beyond going on to establish a reputation for the revitalised marque as correctly priced Volkswagens without the badge.
I think a car’s weight and size make as much difference as anything.
Having driven (owned) MK1, 3, 4 and 5 Golfs, I can say that the MK1 and 3 felt the lightest and nimblest. The MK4 and 5 felt bigger, heavier and softer, although I don’t think I could detect any difference between the MK4 and 5. All of them use some version of VWG’s ‘A’ platform. I wouldn’t have wanted to drive my (automatic) MK4 sportily – it just wasn’t that sort of car, although I guess it would have coped okay.
The best-handling car I’ve ever been in was a race-modified MK2 Golf, which had bigger tyres, stiffer everything (springs, dampers, bushes, etc), strut braces and an interior roll cage. Some of all of those features would be the recipe to enable a car to corner faster.
Really, a lot of perception is psychological. I never go remotely fast enough to be able to discovers cars’ finer handling points, as don’t 99% of the population.
That said, I’ve briefly driven my MK5 Polo enthusiastically, just to see what it could do and it reminded me of the MK1 Golf. It’s generally pleasant (light and confidence-inspiring) in everyday driving, which I’m sure is a result of having a fundamentally good set-up to start with.
I would agree a Golf IV is better to drive than most Audi’s, at least the Audi’s I’ve driven. However from my own personal experience I still think the Golf IV lacks steering feel. It’s my gripe with a lot of cars and I think it’s particularly annoying because you hold the wheel all the time when you drive. Nissan, for instance did much better with the Primera P10. It’s not a direct competitor for the Golf I know, but this is how I think the steering feel for a car for the general public should be.
The Golf Mk5 had a rear axle of the same design as the Focus Mk1 done by the same man responsible for that of the Ford – Ulrich Eichhorn.
Something for our discussion from a short time ago about single people influencing the industry.
Ah, the Golf IV… The car to which we owe the extinction of much better rear suspension layouts in the C-segment in favor of the twist-beam rear axle.
The MK8 Golf comes with both multi-link and more conventional rear suspension and I think the Kia Ceed and Nissan Qashqai, among others, are available with multi-link rear suspension, too.
To be honest, I’m perfectly happy with the mixture of coil springs and connecting beam of the semi-independent layout. I know the multi-link is meant to provide better ride and handling, but I’ve never noticed it. I would think that’s true of most customers, too. The more basic layout is cheaper and more compact, too, so it’s understandable that it’s popular.
I Generally liked the Mk4 Golf when it came out. Here’s my veredict:
1. Solid stance with big wheels that fill the arches.
2. I prefer the versions with black rubbing strips and rear bumper valance. I like the more functional and honest look they give to the Golf.
3. Last but not least, the way the rear door shutline follows the rear light edge and rear bumper joint is sublime and a big factor in that solid look mentioned above. They never were able to follow up on that on the subsequent Golfs. The MkVII came close, though.
1. The dashboard looks boring, even if it’s beautifully finished in fine materials.
2. The wheelbase looks slightly too short, especially the rear doors, which look short on their lower edges. Side effect: barely adequate rear legroom.
3. The mid range petrol engines were underwhelming. This is the Golf that set the TDi era.
Your like #3: the way the rear door’s trailing shutline runs parallel to the shutline of the hatch, rear light and bumper is one of the greatest features of the Mk4. This is an example for German industrial design (by the way: did German industrial design also suffer a kind of Banglification? Do companies like Schuler, Kabelschlepp or Kuka deliberately use silly design gimmicks?).
Your dislike #1: Golf is the most common rental car in our country. The dashboard is deliberately designed so that first-time or accidental users can use the car without having to refer to the manual.
What’s really infuriating and one of the few real design glitches of the Mk4 is the blue light for the instruments.