The Volkswagen brand has, in its history, played host to a number of cultural icons, cars that made such a big splash in their heyday that they still command a following now. The Beetle and Microbus are two such examples, with the latter set to (finally) return as an all-electric vehicle in 2022. In addition to those two, there’s also the Golf GTI, the quintessential hot hatchback that played a not-insignificant role in putting small open-top sports cars of the 70s and 80s out the pasture.
The sun has set on the Beetle already and today, the same fate has befallen the Golf GTI, in Europe at least.
Okay, we’re being a bit melodramatic. While the Beetle’s been put on ice indefinitely (or at least until they can justify an electric reincarnation of it), the Golf GTI’s been axed due to tightening emissions regulations, though it’s set to reappear once the next-generation of Golf hatchbacks take to the streets. The new WLTP emissions standards in Europe are to blame, with VW simply removing the base Golf GTI from the range as retuning it to fit the new regulations would just cost too much.
Only the Golf GTI’s been given the boot though, as the GTI Performance remains on sale (there) with its more powerful 180kW four-cylinder engine and 6.2-second 0-100km/h time. Later this year, Volkswagen will also introduce the Golf GTI TCR with an even more powerful 213kW/370Nm engine, replete with a standard front diff and a 7-speed DSG automatic.
With VW hard at work on the Mk8 Golf, we’ve little concern that the GTI will go the way of the dodo. Not only are hot hatchbacks still selling healthily around the world, the GTI nameplate carries significant value for Volkswagen, and retiring the badge is likely not an option they’re willing to consider.