Top Gear Capsule Review: VW GTI MK1

Richard Hammond has been running a series on Top Gear’s website about his favorite cars from the past. This week was on the original Golf GTI, the first hot hatch. What makes the original GTI legendary is its simplicity: low power, low weight, Guigario design, and all fun. It was supposed to be a brief fling for VW, but turned into something much more.

Hammond sums up the GTI as:

It was pioneered by a young engineer: Alfons Löwenberg. In 1974, he got his workmates together in their spare time at Wolfsburg to work on what they called the ‘Sport Golf’. They had no idea that their creation would go on to become one of the stone-cold, rock-solid, gold-standard, class-A motoring icons. It was just a sporty version of a small car.

But it went on to have a following of a breadth and level of intensity that eclipses pop stars. Proof that they had no idea about the future comes when you learn that they planned to make 5,000 cars, and it wasn’t going to be available in right-hand drive. Just a bit of fun then, a little special. Several million later, and it’s a legend.

What the GTI proves ahead of all else is that you don’t need much to make a great car. Its modern progeny may have exponentially more power, features, and sophistication, but no one has gotten the original recipe of the GTI right. A bit of simplicity would go a long way in bringing back the feeling of the original GTI in any car trying to make an impression.

It is with this in mind that it is exciting to see hot hatch variants come out from the B segment cars, such as the Ford Fiesta and Fiat 500 Abarth since traditional C-segment hatchbacks are too big and expensive. These smaller, lighter descendants are sure to bring the fun back to a segment that takes itself too seriously.

The full article of Richard Hammond’s thoughts on the MK1 GTI can be read here.


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