Debunking the most common old wives’ tales
NO 1: VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI MkI
1 THE GTI WAS THE FIRST HOT HATCHBACK
Not on your nelly. The title of the very first ‘hot hatchback’ is steeped in controversy. Before the Golf GTIs reached their impatient customers, Renault had the 96bhp 5 Alpine in 1975 and Simca, the 85bhp 1100-based 1204TI in 1974. But even before these hot Frenchies had hit the market, we had the pioneering Autobianchi A112 Abarth. This 70bhp version of the advanced supermini weighed 700kg and packed 70bhp for some seriously giant-killing performance. They’re in demand in mainland Europe, but practically unknown in the UK – shame, because they’re great to drive.
2 IT WAS THE FIRST COMPACT PERFORMANCE CAR WITH FUEL INJECTION
It certainly was among hatchbacks, but the injected 1588cc four-cylinder power unit used in the Golf actually came from the shortlived and littleknown Audi 80 GTE – a 110bhp car that, for its time, was more powerful than many 2.0-litre models. The main difference was that the engine was mounted transversely in the Golf and longitudinally in the Audi.
3 IT WAS A TRENDSETTER
Yes, in terms of bringing together a package of winning features that created a car with unrivalled capability – performance, handling, practicality and quality. Yet because of the GTI’s immense impact, it’s easy to forget the car that blazed a trail for it – the Alfa Romeo Alfasud Ti. For two years before the iconic VW arrived, this brilliant car set world standards for handling and responsiveness in a compact, front-wheel drive family car (there was a two-box shape but no hatchback until 1980) with Giugiaro styling, a fivespeed gearbox, and racy-looking livery.
What the MkI GTI does have in its favour is beautifully clean styling.