The Volkswagen Golf is a hatchback / small family car manufactured by Volkswagen since 1974 and marketed worldwide across six generations, in various body configurations and under various nameplates -- prominently as the Volkswagen Rabbit in the United States and Canada (Mk1 and Mk5), and as the Volkswagen Caribe in Mexico (Mk1).
The front-wheel drive Golf was Volkswagen's first successful replacement for the air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle. Historically, it is Volkswagen's best-selling model and the world's third best-selling model, with more than 25 million built by 2007.
Most production of the Golf was initially in the 3-door hatchback style. Other variants include a 5-door hatchback, estate/wagon (Variant, from 1993), convertible (Cabriolet and Cabrio, 1979-2002), and a Golf-derived notchback saloon/sedan, variously called Volkswagen Jetta, Volkswagen Vento or Volkswagen Bora (from 1979). The cars have filled many market segments, from basic personal cars, to high-performance hot hatches.
The nameplate Golf derives from the German word for Gulf Stream - and the period in its history when VW named vehicles after prominent winds, including also Passat (after the German word for Trade wind, Jetta (after Jet stream), Bora (after Bora) and Scirocco (after Sirocco)
Golf Mk1/Rabbit (A1/Typ 17, 1974-1984)
In May, 1974 Volkswagen presented the first-generation Golf as a modern front wheel drive long-range replacement of the Beetle. Early versions included a now-sought-after 'swallowtail' rear end and 'smoothie' hood. Later Golf variations included the Golf GTI (introduced in June, 1976), a Diesel-powered version (from September, 1976), a notchback saloon version called Jetta (from October, 1979), the Cabriolet (from January, 1980) and a Golf-based pickup, the Volkswagen Caddy. All variants proved instantly popular with the only notable technical flaw being the poor braking in RHD models, due to the master cylinder for the brakes being placed on the left for LHD cars, as Volkswagen never intended the Golf to be sold abroad.
In North America, the Golf Mk1 was sold as the Volkswagen Rabbit. In Mexico, the Golf Mk1 was sold as the Volkswagen Caribe.
As of 2008, the Golf Mk1 is still being produced in South Africa as the Volkswagen Citi Golf.
Golf Mk2 (A2/Typ 19E, 1984-1992)
August, 1984 saw the introduction of the second-generation Mk2 that slightly grew in terms of wheelbase, exterior and interior dimensions while retaining in somewhat more rounded form the Mk1's overall look. In 1985, the first Golfs with four-wheel drive (Golf Country) went on sale with the same Synchro four-wheel drive system being employed on the supercharged G60 models, exclusively released on the continent in 1989 with 160bhp and ABS braking.
A Mk2-based second generation Jetta was unveiled in January, 1984. There was no Mk2-based Cabriolet model; instead, the Mk1 Cabriolet was continued over the Mk2's entire production run.