THE GOLF'S BIG RI­VALS

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Auction News -

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.

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