Volkswagen Golf GTI & VR6 MkIII
The Golf GTI had already achieved legendary status among hot hatch fans by 1992 so the MkIII had big shoes to fill. And it struggled. While the passing of time has meant that it’s now viewed more kindly, it simply lacked the verve that eager buyers expected, and sales of 39,766 were notably less than its illustrious MkII predecessor achieved. That certainly explains its affordability compared with the sparkling MkII, with good ones available for around £3000. But what was wrong with it? Well, it might have been larger and more spacious than before, but it was also heavier and that blunted performance. Launched with a 115bhp 2.0-litre engine, it was slower from rest to 60mph than the MkII, and it was also less adept dynamically, with softer, less precise handling.
It wasn’t until January 1993, when Volkswagen slotted a 150bhp 16-valve motor beneath the bonnet, that some public faith in the GTI badge was restored.
Another answer came in the shape of the VR6. Featuring a creamysmooth, narrow-angle 2.8-litre V6, it managed a more impressive 174bhp, endowing the chubby MkIII with a 140mph top speed and a 0-60 sprint in 7.4 seconds.
This was much more like it, and the later Highline model boasted a rich specification that included leather seats and air-conditioning.
What the new variant never really managed to do was to address another complaint of the MkIII, which was a cabin that lacked the hewn-from-solid-rock feel that GTI buyers had come to expect. It was a retrograde step by VW and while the company made numerous attempts at improvements during the car’s lifetime, it would take the arrival of the expensive-to-build Golf MkIV to restore the marque’s reputation for quality.
It’s not all bad news, though – make your peace with the MkIII’s deficiencies and you’ll be able to bag that all-important GTI badge without breaking the bank.
Cabin lacks style, but VW improved quality throughout the MkIII’s life.