Launched in 1976, Volkswagen planned to produce only 5 000 units of the Golf GTI. “We planned 5 000 of these cars that you could use to go shopping or drive on the racetrack,” said then Volkswagen head of press Anton Konrad. However, the Wolfsburg manufacturer’s hot hatch soon gained immense popularity and by mid-2020 more than 2,3 million were produced. These are the generations of GTIs…

1976 – Golf I GTI

Volkswagen Golf I GTI
A total of 461 690 Golf I GTIs were produced.

The concept was simple yet ingenious, Volkswagen says: a lightweight compact car boasting a powerful engine and a sporty chassis. The first Golf to don the venerable GTI badge, the Golf I was powered by a free-revving 1,6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine which, in 1982, was upgraded to a 1,8-litre unit. Over its lifespan, the first-generation GTI’s engines were endowed with 81 kW and 82 kW, allowing for a zero to 100 km/h acceleration time of 9,2 seconds and top speed of 182 km/h and 187 km/h. A total of 461 690 Golf I GTIs were produced.

1984 – Golf II GTI

Volkswagen Golf II GTI
Equipped with the 16-valve engine, the GTI MkII produced 102 kW.

The successor to the first-generation GTI, the MkII model was available with five engine options, which delivered between 79 kW and 118 kW. In 1986, a new 16-valve engine, which produced 102 kW, made its debut. Equipped with the new motor, the MkII could travel up to 208 km/h. 1990 saw the debut of the G60 model, which featured a 118 kW engine.

1991 – Golf III GTI

Volkswagen Golf III GTI
The MkIII boasted an improved chassis.

The Golf III GTI made its debut with 85 kW. However, one year later, with the introduction of a new 2,0-litre four-valve engine, the output climbed to 110 kW. The MkII now boasted not only improved performance, but also an improved chassis. A first for a GTI, the third-generation version was also available with a torquey yet economical TDI engine. In 1996, a 20 Years Edition was launched.

1998 – Golf IV GTI

Volkswagen Golf IV GTI
The MkIV was the first and only GTI not featuring the iconic red stripe on the grille.

With the new millennium fast approaching, the German manufacturer revealed the fourth iteration of its popular hot hatch. Engine options included a TDI, four-cylinder petrol and a powerful, 125 kW 2,3-litre five-cylinder. The turbocharged petrol powerplant was also popular. The fourth-generation model was the first and only GTI to not feature the familiar red stripe on the radiator grille. However, this model featured, as standard, Recaro sports seats, BBS aluminium wheels and darkened taillamps. In 2001, the Wolfsburg manufacturer unveiled the Edition 25 model. Known to GTI afficionados as the “Jubi-GTI”, this special model, which produced 132 kW, was limited to only 3 000 units.

2004 – Golf V GTI

Golf V GTI
The fifth GTI featured an engine “exclusively intended” for the GTI.

Presented under the slogan “For boys who were already men back then”, the fifth generation boasted an engine “exclusively intended” for the GTI. The 2,0-litre turbocharged petrol engine produced 147 kW and, together with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, allowed for a claimed zero to 100 km/h acceleration time of “just” 6,9 seconds and maximum speed of 235 km/h. On the 30th anniversary of Wolfsburg hot hatch, the manufacturer revealed the Edition 30. The special-edition model boasted 169 kW.

2009 – Golf VI GTI

Golf VI GTI
The Golf VI GTI was fine-tuned with the assistance of racing driver Hans-Joachim Stuck.

The sixth incarnation of the GTI, the MkVI “has even more GTI feeling to offer than its predecessor”. The Golf VI GTI was fine-tuned with the assistance of racing driver Hans-Joachim Stuck. Linked to a manual transmission, the 154 kW 2,0-litre engine allowed for a maximum speed of 240 km/h, while the DSG option allowed for 238 km/h. A first for the GTI, the sixth-generation model could be had in soft-top convertible guise. In 2011, the Edition 35 is launched, featuring an uprated engine, which produced 173 kW for a zero to 100 km/h time of 6,6 seconds and a maximum speed of up to 247 km/h.

2013 – Golf VII GTI

Golf VII GTI
The seventh-generation model featured a differential lock on the front axle.

The seventh GTI generation was launched in two performance levels, 162 kW and 169 kW. A first for a GTI, the seventh-generation model featured a differential lock on the front axle. Based on the manufacturer’s MQB platform, the Golf VII GTI was “up to” 42 kg lighter than its forebear. The 169 kW, meanwhile, was the first GTI to achieve a maximum speed of 250 km/h. In 2015, the Clubsport derivative was presented to the public and launched a year later. The Clubsport boasted 213 kW and a claimed zero to 100 km/h acceleration time of 5,9 seconds. A year later, the Clubsport S is introduced. The S-badged version produced 228 kW. The last hurrah to the seventh-generation GTI, the TCR derivative was introduced as a road-going version of Wolfsburg’s successful TCR racing car.

2020 – Golf VIII GTI

Golf 8 GTI
The new GTI, VW says, is “more networked, has a sharper cut and more attractive to drive” than ever before.

The legend lives on. The new Golf GTI is “more networked, has a sharper cut and more attractive to drive” than ever before. Thanks to the addition of newly networked Driving Dynamics Manager, the Golf VIII GTI offers even greater agility and sportiness. The eighth-generation version is powered by a 2,0-litre four-cylinder TFSI engine, which produces 180 kW and 370 N.m. Equipped with the seven-speed DSG gearbox, the new model sprints to 100 km/h from standstill in a claimed 6,3 seconds. Maximum speed, meanwhile, is rated at 250 km/h. The new Clubsport, meanwhile, provides an even more exhilarating experience, thanks to its 213 kW/400 N.m engine and zero to 100 km/h acceleration time of 5,6 seconds.