3. Volkswagen Golf Mk1 GTI
In the mid-70’s, Volkswagen was getting ready to introduce a whole line of new models including the Polo, Golf and Passat. It was desperately trying to shed the dull, economic image of the VW Beetle. Their new cars all featured modern designs and engineering. But, they knew the best way to gain some attention from the motoring world was to produce a performance model.
So, in 1975, along with the regular Golf lineup, VW presented the GTI version. The Golf GTI featured a three-door hatchback body style with sporty exterior details. It also has a 1.6-liter fuel-injected four-cylinder engine and 110 to 115 HP power output. With the 0 to 60 time of nine seconds, improved handling and cool looks, the GTI was an immediate hit with the buyers.
This was especially true in the late 1970s when performance levels were low due to tightening regulations. In America, the VW Golf GTI could outrun those mid-spec Camaros and Mustangs, making it one of the best performance cars people could buy. The popularity of the GTI influenced other manufacturers, even coining the term “hot hatch.”
Interestingly, Volkswagen wasn’t the first to produce such a car. They were not even the first company to use “GTI” as their model designation. But they were the first to market it globally. They made it so popular, they started a trend still relevant today. The Golf GTI MK1 also started a breed of fast Golfs that sold in millions during its 42 years on the market.