Later today, I’m reviewing the new Volkswagen Golf R, which is one of my all-time favorite Volkswagen hot hatchbacks. In fact, it’s one of my all-time favorite hot hatchbacks from any brand. But Volkswagen has a history of building fun, sporty cars with a hatchback, so today I’m going to show you my five other favorite Volkswagen hot hatches.
MkI Volkswagen GTI (1970s)
The original Volkswagen GTI is famous in the car world for helping to launch the “hot hatchback” segment in the first place. Originally on sale in the late 1970s, the first GTI had just over 100 horsepower — and was hardly the muscle car it’s become — but it was still a thrilling drive and a hugely important car for the automotive industry. It was the second-generation model, however, where the GTI’s performance really started to take off, and the second-generation GTI inspired one of my all-time favorite car commercials.
1990-1994 Volkswagen Corrado
The Volkswagen Corrado was one of the most exciting Volkswagen models offered in the early 1990s, and unlike some other sporty VWs that came before and after, it was available in the United States. Offered from 1990 to 1994 — first with a supercharged 4-cylinder, then with a V6 — the Corrado was more of a “coupe” than a traditional hatchback. But however you classified it, it was certainly a thrill to drive.
2004 Volkswagen R32
The fourth-generation Volkswagen Golf was a disappointment to enthusiasts, as the GTI version wasn’t particularly powerful or exciting to drive. Volkswagen remedied that in 2004 with a limited-production R32 model, featuring all-wheel drive, a 6-speed manual transmission and a 3.2-liter V6 that made a whopping 237 hp, a huge boost over the GTI’s mediocre 180-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder. The R32 was short-lived, lasting for just one model year, but it started the “even hotter hatchback” lineup that became today’s Golf R.
2006-2009 Volkswagen GTI
The fifth-generation GTI is my favorite version of the car, and not just because I owned a 2007 model. No, the fifth-generation is the best GTI because it was a return to form: a fun, exciting hot hatchback aimed at enthusiasts, rather than a top-of-the-line trim level of the Golf, as the third- and fourth-generation models seemed to be. The 2006 GTI proved Volkswagen hadn’t lost the plot in the hot hatchback world it had created so many years earlier, and it brought Volkswagen back to the forefront of the hot hatchback segment.
2008-Present Volkswagen Scirocco
The original Volkswagen Scirocco was offered in the 1970s and 1980s and served as a predecessor to the Corrado. But it’s the later one — the current model — that I especially loved, with its practical hatchback design and proportions that are sportier and more attractive than a Golf or GTI. Sadly, Volkswagen never brought the Scirocco to the United States, reserving it for the rest of the world instead, so we never got to try out one of the coolest modern Volkswagen hot hatchbacks. But I’ve always admired it from afar.
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