THE GOLF'S BIG RIVALS
Any mention of the Volkswagen Golf GTI usually means a line-up of familiar names – the Peugeot 205 GTI, Ford Escort XR3i, Renault 5GT Turbo and so on. But the Golf was much bigger than any of those perceived rivals during its 1980s peak. And those capable hot hatches simply weren’t in the same social class as the Golf.
VW’s biggest success was convincing the young middle classes that a hatchback could compete on prestige terms with traditional saloons in the car park bragging wars.
What could be viewed as a big rival was launched the same year – the Mercedes-Benz W123. It was an expensive, in-demand car that brought the Three-Pointed Star’s prestige to many, but while it was well engineered and utterly dependable, the technology was old and the driving experience was hardly sporting. Against the Golf GTI, the W123 felt and looked very much the duller option, even if though was the more expensive one. The Volkswagen just seemed sexier.
The BMW 5-series, in both E12 and E28 flavours, plus the E30 3-series, should have been strong rivals. These had the badge prestige and rear-wheel drive chuckability, but they too were much more expensive. And despite the sharp lines of the sharknose 5-series models, it was only until the release of the M535i that BMW started to tap into the youthful executive market. That was a faster, more costly car, but the message was clear that thanks to the Golf GTI performance saloons had to look the part, too.