South Africa’s favourite hatchback, the VW Golf, celebrates its 40th year of being on sale in the local market.

Local production

The little hatchback’s SA story began when production kicked off in May of 1978. The very first Golf 1, or Mk1 Golf if you prefer, was powered by a 1,5-litre four-cylinder transverse front-mounted, engine that produced just 50 kW. Prices for the range started from, a scarcely believable, R3 985 and went up to a whopping R4 940.

Incidentally, that transverse-mounted front-engine layout has been retained as one of the defining characteristics of the Golfs DNA.

In the first year 20 000 Golfs were produced in Uitenhage. That number grew to 50 000 by February 1980. By 1981, the 100 000 Golf units had rolled off the production line.


Four years after the Golf debuted locally, the Golf 1 GTI was launched. That introduction would set the stage for a performance benchmark in the segment that continues until today. GTI is a badge synonymous with VW performance motoring, despite other brands trying to borrow it.

The Golf 1 was replaced by the, aptly named, Golf 2, aka the Jumbo, though the first-generation would live on as the Citi Golf. Production continued for 25 years during which time over 370 000 units were sold before production ended in 2009.

Click here to read about an SA-built VW Citi Golf that starred on an international stage.

A long history

Successive generations of Golf continued to be built in South Africa up to and including the Golf 5. In 2005, a 2,0-litre Golf 5 became the 750 000th Golf to be produced in Uitenhage. Between 1978 and 2008, when local production stopped, 813 000 cars were produced locally.

Since that time VWSA has moved its focus to Polo production, and all subsequent Golf models have been imported.

This must be one of the most iconic Golf TV adverts: